I love Christmas. I love the lights, the trees, the songs, the food, the family (but not necessarily in that order…). I love traditions that pass from one generation to another. I love the music, especially the hymns. My favorite hymn is “It Came Upon A Midnight Clear.” But of all the reasons there are to love Christmas my favorite thing to see or hear is the Nativity. I collect nativities and I have several displayed on my piano at home. And my favorite member of the nativity story? Well, it’s actually a group of people. I love the shepherds and their part in the birth of Christ.
The shepherds that the angels announced Jesus’ birth to weren’t just any old run-of-the-mill shepherds. These shepherds were sleeping in the fields overnight with the sheep. Why would they be keeping watch during the midnight hours? It is believed by many Bible scholars that these shepherds were guarding the perfect lambs that would be used as sacrifices in the temple. These lambs were kept separate from the rest of the herd so as to protect them from harm and blemish. These shepherds guarded these lambs with their lives, but they were considered unclean and couldn’t enter the temple. They were basically lepers but without the leprosy. They raised these lambs and had great emotional attachment to them, even knowing that these lambs were meant for slaughter. So upon the birth of the Ultimate Sacrificial Lamb, God sent His angels to the shepherds to make the grandest announcement to the lowliest of people.
Luke 2 is one of the accounts of Jesus’ birth and it shares the story of the shepherds:
“And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.””
Luke 2:8-15 ESV
Let me be honest with you: I know if a multitude of angels lit up the night sky in front of me, I don’t think I would handle it calmly, no matter how many times they told me not to be afraid. I probably wouldn’t be able to comprehend any type of message they were trying to give me! But these shepherds, they got excited. They didn’t wait a week, a day, or even until the sun came up. They left their precious lambs to go find God’s lamb that would take away the sins of the world. What an honor to be the first recipients of God’s birth announcement of His Son, Jesus! And what an honor it is for believers to be able to serve the God that sent His only Son to save us.