Shepherds First?

“Shepherds were in the fields near Bethlehem.

They were taking turns watching their flock during the night.

An angel from the Lord suddenly appeared to them.

The glory of the Lord filled the area with light, and they were terrified.

The angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid! I have good news for you,

a message that will fill everyone with joy.

Today your Savior, Christ the Lord, was born in David’s city.”Luke 2:8-11

In the West, we don’t really “get” the shepherd concept.  Shepherds are not in our frame of reference or experience.  But in the Middle East and North Africa, “shepherding” is

the ancient foundational occupation, and woven within the fiber of much of the Bible.

So, what is it about shepherdsthat God would bring them into the Story of Christmas as the first ones to be told by the angels that Jesus, the Messiah, the Promised One, had been born?  In human logic, it is confounding.  But it wasn’t the first time, nor the last, that God chose shepherds to be part of His Plan.  (Abraham, Moses, David,…)

Shepherding is a 24-hour, thankless job, dealing with truly “dumb” sheep that need a lot of care and attention.  Shepherds know the sky…using the stars to keep their sense of direction when far from home in open fields with their flocks for months at a time.  Sleeping with “one eye open” for any preying animal or thief.  It’s a lonely life.  They were some of “the least of these” in society.  They were not people of influence.

But they knew what it meant to “lay down one’s life for the sheep.”

So that night, as the world slept in their houses under sheltering roofs, something was going on in the Heavens that had never happened before nor since.  A Plan that had been in the making since (and before) Creation was dramatically unfolding, as the world slept.

The stars were pinpointing it.  The angels were announcing it.  God had put Himself into the smallest, most vulnerable human form to come to the earth so that mankind could have a glimpse of Him in a way we could begin to understand and know Him.

Perhaps the shepherds were the only ones attuned enough to hear.  Paying attention enough to see.  Humble enough to listen.  The Shepherd of all shepherds had come to a stable used to shelter sheep and other animals.  Perhaps shepherds were the only ones courageous enough to walk through the night and step into a dirty, smelly stable.  Whatever the reason, on that night of all nights, the shepherds were first to come and see….to come and worship the Good Shepherd when He arrived on this dark earth.

And I wonder . . . what would I have done?

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