One of the most amazing parts of the Christmas story is the appearance of angels to the shepherds. What has become a kind of mystical romantic scene on many Christmas paintings and postcards, has a much deeper meaning.
Why shepherds? From my western mindset, it seems much more strategic to announce “good tidings” to earthly leaders. Why not Herod? After all, he was the earthly “king of the Jews.” Why not Caesar? After all, he was the ruler of the known world.
By the time of Christ, shepherds were no longer esteemed as they had been in the time of David, one thousand years before. Shepherds had fallen on reputational hard times. For various reasons, they were classified in the lower blue-collar class of Jewish and Roman society. No visionary kid grew up dreaming of being a shepherd.
Yet the angels were sent by God to the hills of Bethlehem to inform shepherds of the coming King. Not unlike Joseph and Mary, these ordinary, poor people had the privilege of the being the first to hear about the birth of Christ. A King being announced to peasants is a strange and inauspicious launching of what would become the greatest revolution of all time.
Yet this was God’s strategy: the announcement of the birth of the King of kings not to other kings but to poor, peasant, blue-collar types.
I want to propose that this has always been God’s way in announcing His plan. From the original twelve disciples to a Samaritan woman at a well outside Jerusalem, throughout history, God chooses the lowly, the ordinary, the less fortunate to announce and proclaim the extraordinary, the supernatural, and the amazing.
Let me give three characteristics of the shepherds that I think we can learn from, that might even make us more available and usable for God’s purposes on earth.
First, the shepherds were humble enough to believe what God told them. In Luke 2:8-20, we read the story, and there is not one hint of disbelief in the response of the angel’s proclamation. May we be like the shepherds in humility.
Second, the shepherds obeyed exactly what the angels said to do. They didn’t dillydally around; they booked it straight to Bethlehem to see this amazing event. May we be quick to obey what God is telling us to do.
Third, the shepherds were so pumped and excited about what they had experienced, that they went all over the countryside telling anyone who would listen. May we “go tell it on the mountain” as the old Christmas song echoes, to everyone we know. “The King of kings is born! The Kingdom of God has come!”