What do you think you would have felt like if you had seen the shepherds that first day-after-Christmas morning, ranting and raving about angels and babies and miraculous happenings? You might have felt some awe, maybe some curiosity, maybe even a little bit of doubt at their story (ok, more realistically, a lot of doubt at their story), but I bet a lot of people also felt a whole lot of shock. The King and Messiah has been born and God told shepherds?
As you would imagine, shepherds of the time weren’t exactly very high on the social ladder. They were not wealthy, they were not very educated, and more often than not they reeked of sheep stink.
“…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.”
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:
“Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”
The shepherds, the Bible tells us, immediately took off to Bethlehem to see this newborn King and they worshipped Him there.
This was just one in a long line of unexpected events at the birth of Jesus. His arrival had been looked for ardently for hundreds of years, but people kind of imagined it happening differently. I know that if I were to design the coming of God in human form, the Ruler of the Universe, the Savior of the World, there would be fanfare and dignitaries and everyone on the planet would know of it and be in awe of it.
But God designed it this way: Jesus was born to poor parents in a stable, was worshipped first by some of the lowest members of society, and was otherwise generally unnoticed.
Why? Well, we know two important things about the birth of Christ that maybe shed a bit of light on some of this seemingly upside down planning.
One is that God sent Jesus to come in absolute humility to the world He ruled and created. For us and for our sin, Jesus was absolutely abased. He “made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:7). He didn’t come for fanfare and trumpets and royal robes. He came as a sacrifice.
The second thing we know comes from one of the most commonly memorized and quoted verses of Scripture. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). God loved the world, the whole world. He came that whoever believes in Him can accept His gift. Anyone. Even the shepherds.
1 Samuel 16:7 says, “For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
God doesn’t judge by social status or any of the other shallow methods we use for judging one another as human beings. God really just doesn’t see people the way we do. Instead, He looks each and every person with an overwhelming ration of love, wanting every person to come to know, worship, and be saved by the sacrifice that that baby Jesus would someday make on the Cross. 2 Peter 3:9 says that He “is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”
People may have been shocked by God’s choice of birth announcement recipients, but really, no one was good enough to stand before the Holy Lord. No one then and no one now has any reason we should be heard by God, because we are riddled with sin. But that’s the point. That’s why He was there in the first place- for sinners, all sinners. Those shepherds that saw the baby Jesus were just as much recipients of God’s love and grace and were just as important to Him as kings were, as the Apostle Paul was, as the disciples were, as you are.
Amazing, amazing grace.