ADVENT MEDITATIONS No.18
18. Why Shepherds?
Luke 2:8,9 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.
Being of a limited mind, there are a variety of things I would like to ask the Lord when I see Him. For instance, why the Shepherds? Why did an angel come to a bunch of shepherds on a hillside outside of Bethlehem? I’ve got various ideas but the Bible doesn’t actually tell us why shepherds. You’ve probably taken them for granted in the Christmas story, most of us have. But why do they get included?
Is it that God is just so happy that He’ll send His angels to whoever happens to be around? Was it because they were the only ones awake at the time the baby was born? Was it that God saw this bunch of social outcasts – because that’s what scholars tell us they probably were – and just took pity on them and so laid on an angelic visitation? I mean, those sort of things are typical of God. Rejoicing overflows from heaven, and the Lord is concerned for the poor.
Perhaps it is an object lesson for the world, as if the Lord is saying, see here, look, my Son is available to be seen by anyone. You don’t have to be rich; you don’t have to be religious. You can even be an outcast, and he’s there for you. That would certainly be true of Him.
Perhaps it is a symbolic gesture, sending shepherds to go and check out the latest birth of a sheep, or rather of a lamb to be more precise, one who would later be referred to as the Lamb of God (Jn 1:29) who was slain in the place of sinners.
So how do those suggestions resonate with you? Do you know the God who is so full of joy that it overflows to His world (see Prov 8:30,31) or is the God you think about a miserable, vindictive old man in the sky who you do well to avoid? If He’s that latter, it’s time you readjusted your thinking about God because He’s far more like the former picture (see Isa 62:5, Lk 15:7,10). Oh yes, heaven is not a miserable place!
Do you still think you have to earn God’s love by being good or by being religious? Oh no, these shepherds challenge that, if nothing else in Scriptures didn’t – but it does! No you don’t have to earn the right to come into the presence of the Son who is now seated at his Father’s right hand in heaven reigning; you just have to acknowledge that you’re on the same level of these shepherds.
Do you still think you have to try and appease God and make up for the wrong things you do? You’ve never taken in the truth about the Lamb of God then, who died in your place to take your punishment, so all you have to do is come to the Father with gratefulness. If this story tells us nothing else, it tells us that God is the One who takes the initiative in coming to men, and He’s not put off by anyone – shepherds, you or me! God doesn’t look for good people, just receptive people – and we’ll soon see how receptive these men were!
But at the end of it, we still don’t know exactly why the shepherds, but that’s typical of God as well. He leaves some questions unanswered until we see Him face to face in eternity. Can you live with that? Have you that assurance? This is a very reassuring story, so if you’re not completely sure of your place in eternity with God, go back and reread some of the things above. They are true. The way is open for you. Rejoice with the shepherds.