11. Shepherds

Christmas Threads Meditations: Thread 11: Shepherds

Lk 2:11  Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.

(Additional Reading: Lk 2:8-18)

Low Life: Jesus once commented, “You will always have the poor with you,” (Mt 26:11) and poor can have different meanings and different causes. Jesus spoke of the ‘poor in spirit’ (Mt 5:3) and simply, ‘the poor’ (Lk 6:20). You can be poor materially and very often that is linked with being poor socially. Shepherds who lived and worked out on the hillsides in the vicinity of Bethlehem, would, at the very least, be considered poor socially. They were virtually outcasts; it was the nature of the job. Their life was with their sheep and so they were unlikely to be synagogue goers each Saturday and for that, no doubt, earned the negative reputation from the pious, of what I have tended to summarize as ‘the low life of society’. If a banquet to welcome the king of kings was put on by the local town elders, it is unlikely that they would have been invited. I mean they are likely to be dirty, scruffy, unkempt, ill-behaved socially, and anyway, they wouldn’t be interested, would they!  But God likes the low life!

Shepherds: The Story of the angel(s) coming to the shepherds is usually set in the memory with the immortal words, “behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.” (Lk 2:10 AV) For us today, “good tidings of great joy” tend to be something like, “You’ve just won the lottery,” or, “No, the tumor is not malignant,” and even sometimes, “The twins have been born safely Nan.” Whether it was the ‘sore afraid’ of the AV or simply the ‘terrified’ of the NIV or ‘great fear’ of the ESV or ‘terribly afraid’ of the  GNT, the message is the same, the shepherds were scared out of their lives by the arrival of the first angel (v.9) These guys didn’t do ‘religious’ and they certainly didn’t do the supernatural! And a guy who shines so brightly that he even lights up them is seriously scary and I’m not sure if there are any of us who wouldn’t have felt the same in the middle of the night.

Pounded Senses: Now if that wasn’t bad enough when, after he has spoken, ‘a great company’ i.e. lots and lots and lots, of more angels appear in the sky and sing(?) – or at least praise God –  the shepherds could be forgiven if they had forgotten what the angel had said. Their senses were being pounded by one unbelievable thing after another and so, later on perhaps, when they talked among themselves about this message, it only made sense – or at least warranted them to think about it – in the light of being told about the baby, and then finding him down in Bethlehem. (How? What there a light in the stable, the only light in a dark town in the middle of the night?).

Think about it: You are a shepherd, a non-religious low-life outcast of society, and God’s messengers turn up for YOU. Why me? And says he’s bringing me good news. Do I need good news? What sort of good news? What’s the catch? Then comes, “the Messiah has arrived in the form of a baby.” Yes, right. So what? We’re shepherds, we don’t do the religious messiah bit. Why would he be bothered with us? We’re low-life, he’ll only come to the nice religious people who go to synagogue regularly or do the feasts in Jerusalem – I’ve never even been to Jerusalem and I live just a few miles away, I’m too busy looking after sheep.

How do you answer this? You undersell yourself. First, God is concerned about everyone, you included. Second, He’s come especially for the likes of you, all those who put themselves down, not to make you religious but just to let you know that He loves you and His Son has come to help you.  You may not understand it for several decades but perhaps one day you will. In the meantime, go and see him, and then tell everyone what’s happened.  It won’t change the world today but it will in the long run.

Let’s Pray: “Lord Jesus, your life revealed in the Gospels show us that you are concerned for all people, and it doesn’t matter whether they are the so-called ‘low life’ or not, you love them. Thank you that you love me and came for me, as dysfunctional as I can sometimes be. Thank you for the wonderful news that was brought to the shepherds – you had arrived here! Please help me take in the wonder of that. Amen.”

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