If you know the Christmas story at all, you know it is not complete without the inclusion of the faithful shepherds who tended their flock late at night until they heard of the baby Jesus’ birth and went to see him.
My son recently received a children’s plastic nativity. Sure enough it came with Mary, Joseph, Baby Jesus who he affectionately calls “baby Jeeze”, and, or course, a shepherd with his sheep.
You just can’t have Christmas without Shepherds.
Why the shepherds?
I have never invited Shepherds to any of my birthday parties.
Shepherds are sort of conspicuous guests at the new baby’s birth.
In the first century shepherds were regarded as the lowest of the low. They were unclean and lived in the fields with their flocks. In some Jewish circles they were considered untouchables and subjected to segregation and prejudice from the community.
When Luke tells us that angels came and proclaimed to a group of shepherds that a baby wrapped in a manger was to be the savior of the world, the shepherds response would have likely been like:
Yeah, but not for us.
We are shepherds.
We aren’t who you want.
The religious leaders are just down the hill over there. They are going to be psyched!
The king is in his palace. He would like to know about this I am sure.
But God came to shepherds.
If he had gone to the priests, people would have thought: Of course! They are priests, God wants to meet with them.
If he had gone to the king, the rich, and the rulers, people would have thought: Of course! They are prosperous, they are rich, they are the elite! God wants to meet with them.
But when people heard that the shepherds were on the guest list, they would have been like, shepherds? Is that a typo? Did God make a mistake? What could he possibly do with them?
We miss this because our yard decorations all include plastic people with plastic sheep alongside the plastic baby Jesus. Most of us don’t know that back then you wouldn’t have wanted to be associated with a shepherd.
But you can’t have Christmas without shepherds.
After the shepherds heard about the news of Jesus, they wanted to go see for themselves.
They left running. Running was very undignified in the first century. People just didn’t run. But these shepherds did. This was finally the opportunity they had to be part of something.
No one talked to them. No one included them. But God was letting them into the circle.
They found Mary and Joseph and Jesus just as they had been told they would. Then they left and told everyone they met about the angels and about the child and everyone was impressed.
These guys who were to never had a role about shepherds because the pioneer evangelists. They were the ones who God used to begin spreading the word. And instead of being turned off or disgusted, people were impressed.
They had never impressed anyone. They were the least likely people to impress people.
They let the world know about Christmas.
You can’t have Christmas without Shepherds.
Luke finishes this portion of his retelling by saying that it turned out exactly as they had been told.
It takes a big risk to believe what God says.
It takes a big risk to go and see for yourself if this Jesus is really who he says he is.
It takes a big risk to overcome the disappointment that it could all be false.
It takes a big risk to step out and tell people, especially when you are the last person that God would ever want to talk to.
You are the last person God would ever want to use.
You are the last person he would want to include because you are the last person anyone else would include.
But you can’t have Christmas without Shepherds.
God went to the least of the people because he wanted to send a message:
THIS IS FOR EVERYONE.
No matter where you are from, what you have done, what people say about you, what you do for a living, or how far away form God you are, God starts with you.
So what did God want with the lowest of the low? What did God want with Shepherds in the field?
He wanted to change the world. He wanted to send a message that his baby was to be for all people. It wouldn’t be such good news if it was only for some people. It wouldn’t be good news if it was only good news to the right people. But it was, and is, and always will be good news for all people.
If you are willing to risk it, God wants to use you in remarkable ways too.
We are all shepherds.
And you can’t have Christmas without shepherds.