As we approach Christmas day I’m reminded of that very special Christmas over 2000 years ago. I wonder of all the people that could hear the good news of the birth of the Messiah why was it that God chose to reveal Himself first and foremost to humble shepherds, tending their flocks in the night? We read in Luke’s Gospel these words; “And in the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields, and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them; and they were terribly frightened. And the angel said to them, “do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born to you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths, and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is well pleased”, (Luke 2:8-14 NASB). So why were shepherds the first to hear this great news? Well first of all the shepherds represent working class people. Shepherding in the first century was not considered an honorable profession. But toilers and laborers make up a greater part of our world. Shepherds were considered unclean because they were constantly dealing with animals that were dying and sick. One would not normally aspire to be a shepherd any more than one might aspire today to be a garbage man. But the Lord honors those who are of lowly and humble service. It’s also important for us to realize that God can speak to us at our place of employment and the best place to be is always to be were God has placed us. The shepherds were a tenderly caring for the business that God had set before them. The shepherds were blessed because they were exactly where they were supposed to be on that first Christmas night.
Secondly, it was important that Jesus, who is the true lamb of God, should be greeted first by shepherds. In the Old Testament lambs were used as sin offerings for the people of Israel. In John chapter 1 we read the story of Jesus being presented as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. But in Luke chapter 2 we read this story of the birth of the Lamb of God and it is shepherds who should be the first to greet the Lamb of God. Some have even suggested that these shepherds had the responsibility of the care for the temple sheep. That would’ve been the lambs and sheep that were offered as part of the ritual sacrifices in the first century. The Angel’s word “behold” call to their attention that they need to give deep consideration to the birth of the Lamb of God. In fact Jesus Christ is the central truth on which all of human history hangs. Lambs were symbols of sweetness and of innocence, of harmlessness and patience, and they were had a long history is being used in sacrifice. The comments by the angel hint at Jesus future ministry when the angel says that Jesus is a Savior. God has provided the Lamb of God to take away the sins of the world and it’s good that shepherds were the first to greet him.
Thirdly, these shepherds set a positive example for Him who was to become the good Shepherd. Jesus would later say in John’s Gospel, “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep”, (10:11 NASB). Do you know that as the good shepherd the Lord Jesus Christ has been at the birth of every little lamb who has ever been born into His family? That it is the good shepherd who has called us into a relationship with Himself and if your a child of God today it’s because you heard the voice of the good shepherd calling you into His fold. The primary role of a shepherd is the care of the sheep. That care involves protecting and defending them when they are under attack. These shepherds would come and be a good example of practicing presence. In ministry I know one of the most important things that I can do as an under shepherd of the good Shepherd is to be present for people during critical moments of life change. There are a few more powerful life-changing moments than the birth of a child. Finally, I believe that Jesus revealed Himself first to shepherds because this reminds of the personal nature of the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ. In the 23rd Psalm we read these famous words, “the Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want”, (v.1). This Psalm is told from the viewpoint of the sheep. David was the shepherd watching his sheep at night and yet he was reflecting on the quality of life and safety that the sheep had that are entirely dependent on the type of shepherd that they had. Shepherding requires endless attention and meticulous care. To have the Lord as our shepherd means He has a personal involvement in each of our lives. Jesus as the good Shepherd is interested in each and every one of us just as these shepherds cared about the revelation that God had given them in the Lord Jesus Christ. David speaks of having a personal relationship with the shepherd. We need a good shepherd because there is danger all around us. Our good Shepherd has chosen to be personally involved in our lives. Jesus Christ is indeed interested in a personal relationship with each and every one of us and that’s great reason for rejoicing this Christmas season. But David said, “The Lord is my shepherd”. My question is to you this Christmas season, “is the good shepherd your shepherd?” And if He is indeed your shepherd then you have great reason for rejoicing knowing that He has made a way for you into God’s eternal presence. There’s no greater hope or no greater blessing. The Scripture tells us that these shepherds went away changed men. No one is still changing hearts like the Lord Jesus Christ and that’s the most important message that we can share this Christmas season. All praise to our great Shepherd.
Pastor Rich Sivo