8Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. 10Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.
In every Christmas pageant and every nativity scene there are always shepherds with staffs and lambs because of this part of the Bible. Shepherds and sheep show us about God’s leaders and God’s people and even God Himself. If we were to visit that hillside on the first Christmas Eve we would see that shepherds are ordinary folks with dirt under their fingernails and mud on their sandals. That night they were probably sitting around a campfire telling stories watching for dogs or wolves. Maybe they were talking about a very famous shepherd that lived in the same area, King David. Then suddenly they were very surprised and afraid because of the glory and light of the angel’s presence. Wouldn’t you be afraid if a bright cloud appeared from nowhere on a dark night outside? The angel probably looked like a bright-shining man in a cloud of light. Maybe the glory of God made the sound of rushing wind or water as it sometimes does (Acts 2). That would have been scary. But the angel speaks words they can understand and tells them not to be afraid. The angel is not there to hurt them or judge them because of their sin. Angels are messengers. He is there to tell them wonderful news that the one who is King David’s heir, who will save them from their sin, has been born. The angel explains that this is a message of joy for all kinds of people. This angel does not come to King Herod in his palace or to the High Priest in the temple or to Caesar Augustus in Rome. The messages that come to these men will not be joyful. He does not announce this to the powerful people of the world, but to the ordinary and common people in the fields. The good news of Jesus’ birth was announced with great glory, but not to glorious people, just to regular farmers caring for smelly animals like sheep and goats. It is amazing that God chooses these ordinary shepherds to be the first people to tell the good news to others (Luke 2:17).
—Pastor Gregg Strawbridge, All Saints Presbyterian Church, Lancaster, Pennsylvania
Our Father in heaven, you are our Shepherd and we are your sheep who always need your care. We thank you that for using ordinary people to tell your good news, even as you used those first shepherds to seek out the baby Jesus and tell of His birth. Help us follow their example of listening to the announcement of Jesus and then to telling others about Him. AMEN.
Discuss these questions: Why do you think God used ordinary people, like shepherds, instead of Herod or Caesar? Does God still use people like farmers? What kinds of people is God using in your life to help you learn about Jesus?