Advent 21: While shepherds watched their flocks by night

Shepherds and shepherding turn up a lot in the Bible. From literal shepherds (like David) to spiritual shepherds like the church leaders in the New Testament. The Lord himself is the Supreme Shepherd.

Despite all this, there is evidence to suggest that first century shepherds were not exactly at the top of the tree when it came to most-wished-for professions. Kenneth Bailey points out that they were poor and that many rabbis regarded them as unclean: ‘lowly, uneducated types’, he says.

And it was lowly shepherds who first heard the news of the birth, news announced to them with an initially terrifying appearance from an angel of the Lord. Imagine: it was shepherds who were the first to hear that a Saviour, Christ the Lord had been born for them.

Luke doesn’t tell us if there was snow on the ground (though last week has demonstrated that snow can indeed fall in the Holy Land) or if the severe weather had so frozen the ground that it was like iron. But he does tell us that the shepherds hurried off to find the baby.

In a manger.

Just the kind of surroundings with which they, shepherds, would be familiar.

Their kind of Saviour. The Son of the Most High had not come to rub shoulders with the high and mighty, the movers and the shakers.

As Bailey reminds us, the shepherds belonged to just the kind of people that God was interested in, as Mary describes his grace in her song (1:52):

He has exalted those of humble estate.

Not only do those simple shepherds get to be the first to hear the news and the among the first to visit the child, but they also get to be the first evangelists, telling everyone they met about the powerful significance of this humble birth.

You don’t need to be a Somebody for God to choose you and use you!

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