Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior–yes, the Messiah, the Lord–has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!” – Luke 2:9-11 NLT
I love decorating for Christmas. Every year I set up the nativity set. In the stable are Mary and Joseph with Jesus in the manger. Among scattered sheep and other animals are shepherds. They’re dressed ruggedly in wool. One shepherd stands, gazing at Jesus in wonder. Another shepherd kneels before the newborn Savior.
Imagine how the shepherds felt that first Christmas. It probably seemed like an ordinary night watching the sheep. Suddenly an angel appeared, terrifying them! The angel tells them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior–yes, the Messiah, the Lord–has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!”
How amazed the shepherds must have been that they were the ones told the news of Messiah’s birth. They were workers of the pasture, caretakers of sheep. They weren’t the religious leaders, the rulers of society, or even considered popular or important. They were ordinary people. Why would God choose to announce the birth of His Son, the Savior and Messiah to them? God’s choice reveals His love for everyone. God accepted the shepherds – and He accepts us, too!
God’s good news was of joy! The long awaited Savior was born. The news was for all people. The angel was joined by a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, good will toward men.”
The shepherds heard the news. Did the shepherds understand what that peace would mean? Did they know that their Savior would save them from the penalty of sin? Or did they think He was a political Savior? Many people expected that the Messiah, or Christ, would come in power and free them from the Roman occupation. Regardless of how much they understood, they heard the angels praise God.
The shepherds investigated. They didn’t sit back on the ground and count it as an interesting event. They acted on what they heard. The shepherds hurried into Bethlehem to find the Messiah. They found the Baby wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in a manger, just as the angel told them.
The shepherds told people about Jesus. “They made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning the Child.” (Luke 2:17). God uses ordinary people for His purposes. He used shepherds to share the joyful news to share the news that Jesus, the Savior, was born. God still uses ordinary people today.
Who will you tell about Jesus? Think of someone, and commit to sharing the Good news with them this week.
Dear God, thank you for the Good News that brings joy to all who will listen. Thank you for Jesus, my Savior. Please help me to be bold in sharing about you like the shepherds were after they heard and investigated. Amen.
Top photo of Tunisia sheep and shepherdess by Olga Ozik from Pixabay
Did You Know?
How were shepherds viewed in Jesus’ day?
Some scholars claim that in Christ’s day, shepherds were at the bottom of the Palestinian social ladder. Randy Alcorn writes “Smug religious leaders maintained a strict caste system at the expense of shepherds and other common folk. Shepherds were officially labeled “sinners”—a technical term for a class of despised people.”
Other scholars disagree that shepherds were the downcast. David Croteau reviews some of the claims of shepherds as outcasts in Christmas Urban Legends: Shepherds as Outcasts. Finding the claims from outside of Jesus’ time on earth or from other cultures, Croteau states he “was unable to find even one source from first-century Israel used to support the view that shepherds were societal outcasts. Therefore, this viewpoint is dated after the events being studied in Luke 2. It is unreliable information and should be discarded when interpreting the Gospels.” Croteau continues with examples of shepherds throughout the Old and New Testaments, including Jesus as the Good Shepherd. “There is better evidence for the idea that shepherds were not viewed as societal outcasts: the overarching biblical portrayal of shepherds. The description of shepherds in the Old and New Testaments would be formative for the minds of first-century Jews and Christians.”
 Shepherd’s Status by Randy Alcorn May 11, 2008. https://www.epm.org/resources/2008/Mar/11/shepherds-status/
 Christmas Urban Legends: Shepherds as Outcasts by David Croteau, Lifeway Research Dec 17, 2015. https://lifewayresearch.com/2015/12/17/christmas-urban-legends-shepherds-as-outcasts/
Thank you for joining me and for reading my devotional blogs. Blogs post every other Thursday. Past devotionals are archived for your convenience.