Shepherds: Watching in the Fields
“And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night” (Luke 2:8).
You never know when God will show up.
It happened one night in the fields outside the little village of Bethlehem. Shepherds were near the bottom of the social order of ancient Israel. They were often poor and uneducated, and some were quite young. Not very many people would put “shepherd” on their Career Preference Form. There were easier ways to make a living in ancient Israel. When the angel says, “A Savior has been born to you” (Luke 2:11), he means, “Christ came for lowly shepherds.” But what about those theologians in Jerusalem who knew but didn’t care? He came for them too, but they missed it altogether.
God ordained that shepherds would be the first ones to hear the good news of Christmas. There is a great lesson in this for all of us. Our Lord came for the forgotten people of the earth, and most of the time they are the ones who receive him with the greatest joy. Rich people often have no time for Christ, but the poor welcome him as an honored guest.
The first Noel the angels did say
Was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay;
In fields where they lay, keeping their sheep,
On a cold winter's night that was so deep.
Certainly those shepherds were poor in terms of worldly goods. If they had been rich, they would have hired someone else to watch the sheep. God is not embarrassed to announce the birth of his Son to those the world takes for granted. While the rich slept in Jerusalem, the shepherds saw the angel and heard the good news a Savior had been born.
Upon hearing the news, they set out immediately for Bethlehem. And after they saw the baby, they couldn’t stop talking about him. God chose lowly shepherds as the first evangelists.
We need a good dose of that “shepherd spirit” today. We need their openness and their eagerness and their gladness to share the good news Christ has come to the world.
Soon enough they would go back to their flocks. Probably they were back in the same field the next night. I wonder if they didn’t sneak a peek at the sky and wonder if the angels would show up again.
Christmas is full of surprises. For the shepherds, the great surprise came while they were tending their sheep. That’s what I meant when I said you never know when God will show up.
That’s still true today.
Lord, keep us watching and waiting for you. Give us that “shepherd spirit” to go quickly to Bethlehem and then to tell the world Christ has come. Amen.
Musical bonus: Today’s song challenges us to do what the shepherds did when Christ was born. Here’s a lovely performance of Rise Up, Shepherd, and Follow by the King’s Singers.