I wish I were a shepherd, truly yes I do! Unloved by many and camped up in the hills. In today’s generation the shepherd has a well respected Job. Shepherds today ride horses, fly in airplanes and cruise around in four wheel drive machines, taking care of their flocks. But shepherds of yesteryear were considered lowly, in fact to some they were nothing short of ‘scum’. YES that is the kind of shepherd I would choose to be.
In the year AD 6/7, when the Roman Emperor Augustus was in power, a great census was called in the land (for tax purposes), and all people were required by law to return to the town of their birth, to be enrolled. That is why a man named Joseph and his betrothed Mary, made the long, hazardous and definitely uncomfortable journey for the pregnant Mary, to the little town of Bethlehem, where the Child Jesus, who is to be known as Savior, Messiah, Emmanuel, was born.
Sure when they arrived, along with everyone else, they found all the accommodation places to be fully booked out! Perhaps taking pity on Mary’s obvious condition, one of the innkeepers offered them temporary undercover shelter with the animals, in what we call a stable, but was more likely to have been a cave in the hillside, just outside of town. Just in time too by all accounts.
Perfect timing indeed, as Mary went into labor and gave birth to her child. He was to be named Jesus as had been foretold by the Angel Gabriel.
There was no bed for them, no cot or cradle for Jesus either, but there was a feeding bay, probably with fresh hay in it for the animals (we call it a manger), where Mary laid her new born baby Son.
I suppose then Mary and Joseph took the opportunity to keep warm and maybe even grab a little sleep. That fact is nowhere recorded.
But out on the hillside, where the ‘scum’ were tending their flocks – a wonderful event was unfolding……
Why you may ask would something wonderful be occurring out on the hillside? And why do you keep calling these shepherds ‘scum’?
Shepherds at this time were regarded as among the lowest of the low. They were mistrusted rogues. No shepherd was allowed to give evidence in court at this time. They were not trusted by anyone.
They didn’t wash correctly according to the Jews therefore they were despised and considered unclean. They were considered both physically unclean and spiritually/ritually unclean. Shepherds were banned from the temple and synagogue. They were the lowest of the low in that society.
A person in right standing with God was not to touch a shepherd, lest they too become unclean. They were not allowed to go into the temple. When they did show their faces at the temple, they got ‘those looks.’
You know those looks. “You don’t belong here. What are you doing here? What is your kind doing at our Church? God doesn’t have a place for you. Clean yourself up. When you gonna make something out of yourself?”
And Shepherds were backward people. They weren’t up with all the new trends, or savvy in the city talk. They were country people, rural folk who didn’t have the latest gadgets or the newest toys, no PDAs, no laptops, no email addresses, no personal web pages. They carried the rod and the staff. We might even call them ‘street people’ today. Yes very much akin to the homeless ones.
Yet to these very people, a wonderful event was unfolding……
An Angel of The Lord Most High had appeared to them with a glorious announcement. You can well imagine the fear of these poor blighted shepherds! Unloved by the town people, ignored and rejected by practising Jews in the towns and villages, and here was an angel of God talking directly to them. They must have trembled in their boots!
And the angel said to them, “Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; 11 for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!” Lk 2:10-14
Yet, God the Father said to the angels – “Go to these shepherds and announce the birth of My Son.” God wanted people to know, just as today we place an announcement in the newspaper. God sent this Good News from the highest heaven to the lowliest of people.
He did not announce it to Kings and Princes; he did not announce it to Scribes and Pharisees. He did not announce it to astronomers (although some wise men from the East did discern it in the stars). Map drawers were not told, and neither were war lords or any other person of standing in society (but it had been foretold by numerous prophets). Just a few lowly shepherds on the hillside in Judea were honoured with the Good News direct from Heaven; this Child fulfilled all their prophecies. The Son of God has been born. Emmanuel – God with us. It is important to remember though – this news was for ALL PEOPLE…. not only the lowly shepherds.
I wish I had been one of those shepherds, hearing the ‘clarion call’ of the Angel of the Most High God. Hearing from their lips the words every Jew was longing to hear. “Messiah has come”. Would I have understood? Perhaps not, but I would have told everyone I met, and I would have never forgotten the experience. My entire life would have been forever changed.
Even to this day the Jews are still waiting for the arrival of their Messiah. I wish they had heard the Heavenly Messenger – but would they have believed it – they did not believe Jesus himself when he was preaching in the synagogue! The message told to them by the Prophets, the Shepherds and even Jesus himself, seems to have fallen on many deaf ears. You and I are more fortunate. We know and accept Jesus as our Lord and Saviour. We are blessed, but we have a duty to keep this message alive, so that everyone on Earth can hear it and choose everlasting life.
I am not a Prophet. I am not a Shepherd. I am not an Angel. But, I give you this message – Jesus Christ is coming again, be prepared. The King Of Kings shall reign forever.
Biblical Reference and commentary