His People: Shepherds
His People: Shepherds
Pinpricks of light pierce the inky black. The soft bay of sheep carries on the wind. The night air stirs; a desert chill. Cloaked shepherds abide with their flock, tending them, rod and staff close at hand. Some nod, chins falling into the crook of their neck. Others softly run fingers in silky wool accounting for every sheep in their fold. Outcasts of society, making a meager living, resigned to live among smelly animals. The care they provide these weakly needy creatures is profound. Could this be the reason Our Father sent His herald to them first - these quiet solitary men? Was hope always on the fringe? Did it whisper in the souls of these shepherds? A source of mystery they could never touch until the manifest unfolded, radically changing their lives in one moment.
Nearby, in the fields outside of Bethlehem, a group of shepherds were guarding their flocks from predators in the darkness of night. Suddenly a messenger of the Lord stood in front of them, and the darkness was replaced by a glorious light – the shining light of God’s glory. They were terrified!
Messenger: Don’t be afraid! Listen! I bring good news, news of great joy, news that will affect all people everywhere. Today, in the city of David, a Liberator has been born for you! He is the promised Anointed One, the Supreme Authority! You will know you have found Him when you see a baby, wrapped in a blanket, lying in a feeding trough.
At that moment, the first heavenly messenger was joined by thousands of other messengers – a vast heavenly choir. They praise God.
Heavenly Choir: To the highest heights of the universe, glory to God! And on earth, peace among all people who bring pleasure to God!
As soon as the heavenly messengers disappeared into heaven, the shepherds were buzzing with conversation.
Shepherds: Let’s rush down to Bethlehem right now! Let’s see what’s happening! Let’s experience what the Lord has told us about!
So they ran into town, and eventually, they found Mary and Joseph and the baby lying in the feeding trough. After they saw the baby, they spread the story of what they had experienced and what had been said to them about this child. Everyone who heard their story couldn’t stop thinking about its meaning. Mary, too, pondered all of these events, treasuring each memory in her heart.
The shepherds returned to their flocks, praising God for all they had seen and heard, and they glorified God for the way the experience unfolded just as the heavenly messenger had predicted. – Luke 2: 8-20 (The Voice)
Here again is Luke’s fascination with disadvantaged people. Jesus’ first visitors are not ambassadors, dignitaries, or wealthy landowners. The first to pay Him homage are simple shepherds, minimum wage workers in the ancient agrarian economy. They have little to no status in the world. They are the humble and the poor whom God is now raising up to receive heavenly messages and an audience with the great King. This theme recurs as the story continues. – footnote; p.1239 (The Voice)
In the movie, The Nativity, Mary and Joseph stop on their way to Bethlehem to warm themselves by a shepherd’s fire. He is the first shepherd in the film to reach Mary. She looks at him, holds Jesus up to him, and says, “He is for all mankind!”
Jesus coming to earth created a gateway with no kingly adornment - a space that all people could pass through.
This time of year – advent – is sheer magic. It captivates and stirs in me the brilliant miracle of our Christian faith. We are turning tide with the world right now, wanting our dog in the fight – a heartbreaking striving. There is something wondrous about the shepherds. The way God makes a big deal in displaying His majesty and gracious love to them. It is both miraculous and uncomplicated. It pours wonder into weathered and beaten down. It is not pretentious or self-righteous. It isn’t about right or wrong, but unbounding love. A love that transforms!
Can you imagine seeing thousands of angels in the night sky singing, “glory to God in the highest”? What a site this must have been? What I wouldn’t have given to be in the field on that night!
These shepherds experienced Jesus. He wasn’t an idea or good measure to them. As you read the passage in Luke you feel their excitement. The rush of their hearts as their frosted breath bloomed in a cloud above them. Frantic with hope they ran, without hesitation, to see the Christ child. In that moment, did they even remember their sheep? They were desperate to get to Jesus, to be in His presence.
The joy of that moment changed them forever. It not only changed them, but it changed those around them. They saw, believed, and boldly preached the gospel. These men who always lived on the outside were invading the space of those they would have otherwise avoided. These men, who were set apart, solitary, were speaking in such a way that others were affected. The change was evident, unmistakable.
I pray that my life can reflect the unmistakable change God has made in me. I don't want to act a certain way that is expected. I want to overflow with His goodness.
Think of a time you were in awe of God? A time when you were overflowing with excitement to be in His presence. This is advent - full!!