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I do so enjoy reading, thinking about and telling the account of Jesus’ birth found in the bible. There is such wonder in it all; from a virgin getting pregnant to angelic visitations to a star in the heavens marking the place where the baby Jesus was to be found. And all this fulfills the prophecies God had given all those centuries before any of this happened, and just as He said it would.
Of all the marvelous things contained in what we know as the Christmas Story, one thing stands out to me each year, with this year being no exception: the shepherds! When this season rolls around, I find myself considering these lonely figures, tending their flocks in what was the most menial of jobs. Yet here we are 2000 years later, still talking about what would otherwise be the most anonymous of people.
This year, I decided to dig a little deeper in the lives of shepherds from the time of Jesus’ birth. What I’ve discovered makes me marvel all the more at God’s choice: these fellows were the first people, outside of Mary and Joseph, to hear of the monumental birth.
On the surface, it appears to be a bit of a head-scratcher. The single most important birth ever, and the Almighty deemed poor shepherds to be the initial recipients of the awesome news that mankind’s Savior has been born. To my 21st century way of thinking, I wonder why this choice? Wouldn’t God want to go to the royalty and powerful people of influence of that time to make this announcement? Going to these people would give the message more credibility and allow it to be shared with the other movers and shakers of the time, would it not? It only seems logical to me that the news of the birth of the King of the kings should be shared with those who have the most influence on the world.
And like always, I am ever so glad that God doesn’t come to me for advice on kingdom business! Shepherds certainly would not have been my first choice. In fact, they wouldn’t even have shown up on my list of possible first responders.
What I’ve discovered in my research about shepherds from 2000 plus years ago would only serve to ratify my ignoring them. Shepherds from that day were officially labeled ‘sinners’ by the religious leaders. This classification was reserved for the most despised people on the social ladder then. According to Randy Alcorn, the founder/director of Eternal Perspective Ministries, shepherds shared the unenviable status of tax collectors and dung sweepers.
Alcorn goes on the say, Into this social context of religious snobbery and class prejudice, God’s Son stepped forth. How surprising and significant that Father God handpicked lowly, unpretentious shepherds to first hear the joyous news: “It’s a boy, and He’s the Messiah!”
Here’s a couple of things I conclude about these shepherds this year. First, everyone, that includes you Dear Reader, is equally important in God’s eyes. Please be greatly encouraged by this. Don’t allow what others may see or say about you and your place in our world, because the Almighty takes no stock in their opinion of you. I say with all confidence that each of us is precious to Him, simply because we’re His kids. Shepherds weren’t lowly in God’s eyes, and neither are you!
If these wonderful thoughts strike something within you, then please consider what the shepherds did after they had heard of the birth of the Savior.
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was laying in a manger. (Luke 2:15-16)NIV
The shepherds heard the most incredible news ever, delivered to them by an angel of God. Once things returned to ‘normal’ after hearing these things, they decided to go check out what the angel had said. The bible goes on the say that once the shepherds saw things as they had been told they would be, they left rejoicing and telling everyone they met about the miracle arrival of the Son of God. He had indeed come to save us all.
“Let’s Go” was their excited cry! May it be yours and mine as well!
May the joy of Christmas be yours,