The first thing that comes to my mind is they are the ones sometimes overlooked or forgotten in this story. I look at our Sunday School kids practicing for the program and shepherds are not typically the part kids ask for - they long to be Mary or Joseph, the wise men or the angels. Of the cast of characters, shepherds are the ones we probably best relate to, yet it's not a role many strive for.
That last line is key in the lesson I've been learning...shepherds were poor, overlooked and even looked down upon during Jesus' time. They lived in tents and did their work. They were the ones who raised and supplied the lamb for the sacrifice and now they were invited to see the Lamb God sent as the ultimate sacrifice.
Friend, the shepherds are not the ones the world would expect to be visited by angels and some of the first to see the Christ child, but God favored them. Those who had innocent employment and an honest calling just like the patriarchs Moses and David. Ones who were awake and aware. I study them and wonder, "Am I like the shepherds?"
Before you or I answer that question, let's learn a bit more about them. We find their story in Luke 2:8-20. In verse 9 we read, "And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terribly frightened."
Recently my eyes have been opened to a fear I'm struggling with and as I read this verse I had peace, which was quickly followed by encouragement. Did you see the shepherds initial reaction? They were frightened. I'll admit I've never been in their shoes with an angel standing before me, but I've been a bit scared of what God has said and the directions He's given. This story reminds me I'm not alone in that reaction, but it also encourages me not to stay there.
The shepherds listened to the angels and some commentators suggest they joined the angels in praising God. (Verse 14) Following this, they responded rightly - "When the angles had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, 'Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.'"
Friend, the shepherds were willing to go. They eagerly obeyed. Can you and I say the same? The Lord had made something known to them and they wanted to see. Let me ask, "What has He made known to you?" Do you have a desire to see this or doing something because of it?
The story continues - "So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger." (16) God rewarded their seeking, blessed their obedience and was faithful to His promises. Friend, the next time He speaks to and calls you and me, ordinary women the world may overlook, let us remember His response to the shepherds.
The end of the story is just as important as the beginning..."When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child. And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart. The shepherds went back glorifying and praising God for all that they heard and seen, just as had been told them." (18-20)
Though you may have never volunteered to be a shepherd in the Christmas program, I pray you will consider following their example as you walk through life. May we be individuals who hear, go, see and tell.
If you'd like insight into other members of the Christmas story, click on the following links -
Jesus - A Baby Born to Die
A Look at the Wise Men