* Affiliate links included.
With a dozen sheep in my backyard, I appreciate the shepherds. These lowly young men with little education and spiritual knowledge ate simple foods, endured harsh weather in primitive wild lodgings, and defended themselves against animals, lions, bears, wolves, and thieves, while protecting animals they didn’t own. Clothed in heavy cloaks, carrying staffs and rods, their familiar presence and voices were a reassurance to their flock. They cared for expectant ewes, newborn lambs, and sick animals needing special attention. They also calmed the flock with a reed flute. At night, as the sheep entered the enclosure, the shepherd counted them with his rod and then slept at the entrance to protect them.
Philip Yancey, one of my favorite authors, explains the significance of the shepherds in The Jesus I Never Knew:
For just an instant the sky grew luminous with angels, yet who saw that spectacle? Illiterate hirelings who watched the flocks of others, “nobodies” who failed to leave their names. Shepherds had such a randy reputation that proper Jews lumped them together with the “godless,” restricting them to the outer courtyards of the temple. Fittingly, it was they whom God selected to help celebrate the birth of one who would be known as the friend of sinners.
The hills around Bethlehem were known for providing sacrificial lambs for the Temple and Passover. But that night in Bethlehem was like no other. The shepherds were invited by a heavenly host to be privileged guests for the first glance at the true Passover Lamb. In all of crowded Bethlehem, these shepherds were the guests of honor at the most important birth on earth.
God had come to earth: Immanuel.
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.
So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told (Luke 2:15-20)
Three things stand out to me:
• The shepherds hurried off. They left everything to go to see the newborn King. But it didn’t stop there.
• They spread the word and all were amazed at what the shepherds said. They didn’t keep their mouths shut.
• Then they returned to their flock, and they glorified and praised God for what they had seen and heard. They gave God the glory.
Are we like the shepherds? Are we so inspired by the Word and is our faith so on fire that we run to share the Good news? When we see God’s handiwork, do we glorify and praise Him?
Hurrying may not always be a good thing in the Christmas season. But today can we set everything else aside and hurry to seek Jesus? Then after we’ve spent time with Him, let’s hurry to tell others why His birth is such an amazing reason to celebrate. And finally, like the shepherds, let’s praise God and give Him the glory for all that we see and hear!
*As in much of this series, portions taken from Stewart’s Bible Study: Preparing My Heart for Advent.