The greatest news in history came first to a group of shepherds.
It’s in Luke’s account of the birth of Jesus where we read that God sent a multitude of the heavenly host to a Judean hillside to announce that the Messiah had come. And the audience was a band of shepherds.
A shepherd, obviously, was someone who tended flocks of sheep. There may have been goats in the herd as well, but it was the sheep that were the more prized animals. Sheep were the most important domestic animals in Palestine, providing wool for clothing, meat and animals for sacrifice.
It was the job of the shepherd to lead the sheep out in the morning to the pasture where they would find water and grass. He would watch them as they ate and drank, making sure none wandered, protecting them from attack, and ultimately leading them back at night to the sheep fold, where he would count them before they were penned up for the night.
If the flock was large, a team of shepherds would take the sheep from pasture to pasture as they grew, always searching for green pastures with plenty of grass.
And finally, it was the job of the shepherd to take the mature sheep to market for sale and slaughter.
Shephderding was a lowly profession. Not necessarily shameful in any way. But definatley blue collar. Shepherds worked for meager wages. There were among the lowest paid workers in the Middle East. They were uneducated and unskilled, Their job didn’t require much learning or ability. And they lived apart from society, almost always unmarried. Wanderers.
Good shepherds were strong, alert, responsible, and able to live in harsh weather conditions. They were dedicated to the sheep. Abel was a shepherd, as were Abraham and Moses and David
Because they worked seven days a week, they were Sabbath breakers, and as such, looked down upon by the religious leaders of the day/
And they had a reputation in the society of their day John Macarther says “from the time of the New Testament on, shepherds began to be more and more and more despised. In fact, it wasn't long after the birth of Jesus that Shepherds began to be seen as unreliable, untrustworthy, unsavory characters who were largely suspected of stealing sheep and doing all kinds of illegal things. Shepherds were not allowed to testify in court in that society because they were not trusted (because they weren’t part of the church going group), and they weren't thought to be intelligent enough to put things together.”
In His infinite wisdom, when the God of the universe sent His Son to us to be our Savior, this is who He broke the news to first.
The coming of Jesus was in a humble, lowly setting. The first announcement was made to humble, lowly men. And Jesus, who emptied Himself in coming to earth would later say that He was Himself the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for His sheep.
So why did God send the birth announcement to shepherds?
Maybe to reinforce that He is our Shepherd, and that He was sending to us the Good Shepherd.
Maybe because these men spent their lives protecting animals from attack and caring for them so that in the end, they could be taken to the temple to become the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the Jews.
Maybe because it is the humble and lowly of heart who are the very people Jesus came to save.
Remember Isaiah’s words that Jesus read in the synagogue in Capernaum? “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound.”
That the first good news came to shepherds is a reminder to all of us that the gospel is for all who are humble and lowly of heart.
The dawning of joy. Of hope. Of peace.
Good news indeed.
Candlelight and Carols on Christmas Eve at Redeemer Starts at 5:00 pm and lasts one hour. Better than a Hallmark movie. Invite your friends and be there.
The Spring 2018 Perspectives on the World Christian Movement class will take place at The Summit Church in North Little Rock, beginning in January.
Classes are on Tuesday nights, beginning on January 9 and continuing into early May. Find out more here, or contact Don Parish with any questions. Donparish47@comcast.net
Thanks to those of you who have already made year end contributions to our church.
And thanks especially to those who have responded to the $10,000 matching gift opportunity we have this year. So far, we’ve received $6,000 in building fund donations. Just $4,000 left to be able to take full advantage of the matching gift. Every donation – large or small – will help.
Can you separate the history of Christmas from the mythology? Especially when it comes to the surprise visitors from the east who came to see the baby King?
Exactly who were these Magi?
We’ll talk about it on Sunday.
See you in church!
Soli Deo Gloria!