Somewhere out in the cold countryside, shepherds were tending their flocks by night. For these simple men, their job at night was to protect the sheep from predators that would use the darkness as a cloak for their desire to steal, kill and destroy their prey. For a shepherd to properly do his job, he had to let the predators know that the only way to the sheep was through him.
On this particular night, these shepherd ended up being a part of a spectacle no one would have thought possible or believed would involve simple shepherds. What took place that night was something every king on earth would have died to be a part of (and presumed they should have been a part of). No one on earth would have picked some shepherds living out in the fields to be the first eyewitnesses to the birth of the Son of God.
Please look at the familiar Christmas record found in Luke 2:8-14:
"And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.
And this shall be a sign unto you; ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, 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, good will toward men."
No words in any vocabulary of any language on earth could adequately describe what these shepherds must have seen and felt that night. It is nearly impossible for our finite minds to comprehend what transpired. For these simple men perhaps the last thing any of them expected was to be visited by Gabriel himself and given the message their people had been waiting thousands of years to here.
Oh to have been a shepherd for just that one night. Oh to have been there when Gabriel delivered the message that Christ the Lord was born that night and they were to go see him.
Once the Gabriel and the heavenly host left, the shepherds looked at each other and made the only logical choice; to leave the sheep and hightail it to Bethlehem to see for themselves what the Lord had done. They did not take time to freshen up or grab a new robe. They ran as fast as they could to where Gabriel had instructed them to go.
Amazingly, there is no record of what the shepherds did or said when they found Mary, Joseph and the Babe lying in the manger and this is because it was not important. The shepherds role in the Nativity was to represent the common man to whom Jesus came as Savior and Lord.
Everything that took place the night Jesus was born personifies humility and humanity. Being born in a stable, lain in a manger, born of two teenagers and the only known witnesses that night being simple shepherds in the fields watching their sheep.
There were no fireworks display, no trumpet from heaven the whole world heard, palaces of grandeur or servants a waiting. No, when Jesus Christ entered this world, there were Mary and Joseph and some farm animals soon joined by some shepherds. That is it.
It is interesting to note that the ones God originally chose to announce the coming of the Messiah were shepherds. God certainly calls the base things of this world to confound the wise and mighty.
I have often wondered what the significance of the shepherds was and I think first and foremost they personify humility and secondly that just might have been there to watch over the baby Jesus and protect Him from forces unseen and unheard. After all, that is a huge part of a shepherds job.
When the shepherds returned to their flocks, this is what Luke 2:20 says about them:
"And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them."
Would this not be the best way to look at the upcoming week leading up to the time we celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ? I urge all of us to spend some time this week glorifying and praising God for all the things we have heard and seen and everything God has chosen to share with us in His glorious Word.
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