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October 24, 2021 | Doug Sauder
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“There were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields . . .”—Luke 2:8 (NKJV)
If you’ve been reading along with us through the story of Christmas, you’ve probably noticed how differently God does things. He chooses some of the most sinful people imaginable to be the ancestors of the Holy One. He brings the King of kings and Lord of lords into the world as a helpless baby. He entrusts the Savior of the world to an under-privileged couple as first-time parents.
Do you see a pattern developing? God opts for the unconventional. He does things that don’t seem to make sense to the natural order of things. We would do it “this” way, and He does it “that” way! There’s a profound purpose behind Him doing this, and we get a glimpse of it as we come to the next group of unlikely characters to play a role in Christ’s birth: the shepherds.
The story unfolds in Luke 2:8–12 (NKJV): “There were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then 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. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.’”
Think back to a time when you had an incredibly important piece of news to share. A pregnancy, a promotion, a proposal . . . you get the idea, something so momentous it would change the course of your life. Now, think about what your first reaction to that was. I’m sure you probably wanted to tell someone, and that someone wasn’t going to be a stranger, but someone uniquely significant to you. The point is this: We share special news with special people.
Now, there has never been, nor ever will be, news more spectacular than the Son of God becoming the Son of Man in order to deliver humanity from its fallen state. Nothing compares or comes close! Special news, indeed; and look who God shared it with first! Of all the people He could have chosen to be the first to receive the news of Christ’s birth, He chose shepherds!
You may be asking, “What’s wrong with shepherds? They seem like a tender bunch of well-bearded, animal-loving guys.” To put it mildly, shepherds weren’t at the top of anyone’s list in biblical times. They were constantly around filthy animals and spent more of their lives outdoors than indoors. It doesn’t take much imagination to envision how soiled, stained, and smelly these men were.
Beyond these outward issues, shepherds had a reputation of being unsocial, unreliable, and untrustworthy. Many regarded them as closer to the animals they lived alongside then men made in the image and likeness of God. We even have ancient evidence that shepherds weren’t allowed to testify in court! To say they were outcasts would be putting it nicely.
So, marvel at what God did by choosing these men to be the first to receive the greatest news of all time. These men probably never imagined that anyone would share anything important with them, much less God telling them the Savior of the world had arrived!
What does this reveal to us? It shows us that God does things so differently than we do. When you think about it, this aspect of His character is why there even is a Christmas in the first place! If God did things the way we would, He wouldn’t have given His most precious Son to suffer and die on our behalf, and His mercy wouldn’t have triumphed over judgment.
Praise God that He is so different from us, and may our remembrance of this reality make this Christmas very merry!