After the birth of Jesus comes a third angelic announcement. It is perhaps surprising that this most important of birth announcements was not made to the rulers and dignitaries of the time, but to a bunch of shepherds working out on the hills.
At the time, this would have been even more surprising than it appears to us today. Shepherds were looked down on in Jesus’ day. Their work made them ceremonially unclean according to Jewish Law, so becoming a shepherd wasn’t exactly something the best and brightest would dream of. In fact, shepherds had a reputation for being a bit dodgy, on the fringes of decent society.
And yet shepherds appear regularly in Scripture. King David was once a shepherd, and God often used shepherds as symbols of those who cared for his people, and even as a symbol for himself in Psalm 23. We see again and again that even those who are poor and humble, those who are looked down on by smart society, are important to God.
Tomorrow, we will read in Matthew’s gospel about the response of some very important people to the news of Christ’s birth. When you read it, think back to the spontaneous joy of the shepherds. They “hurried off” to see the child, and once they had seen him, they spread the news, and glorified and praised God.
With the shepherds, we see the first reaction from the rest of the world to the birth of the Messiah, and it’s a good one. The Bethlehem shepherds are like all those from humble backgrounds who receive the good news and joyfully pass it on! Whoever you are, if you are willing to hear God and obey him, he can transform your whole life!