The Shepherds were washing their socks by night (that’s how the carol goes right?) when a bright light appeared. The appearance of this bright light on a dark night must have been terrifying which is why it is no surprise that the angel’s first words are ‘do not be afraid’.
The angel continued,
“I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Saviour—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”
What is amazing about this is that shepherds didn’t go to the synagogue or temple because they had to watch the sheep. They were poor and insignificant people who were not able to go to the Jewish equivalent of church.
What does it tell us about God’s priorities that these are the first people who he tells about the arrival of the Saviour of the world?
Many years ago, I was privileged to serve on a church leadership team with Gerald. The one thing that Gerald often used to talk about was that telling the right people in the right order was crucial when communicating. There are people who should be in the loop before news becomes common knowledge and this is something I have tried to think about and apply to my communication since. We tell fellow leaders and other people who may have an influence or an interest in what is happening but none of these categories applies to the shepherds.
The shepherds must have been shocked and amazed and it’s no wonder that they left their sheep in the middle of the night (were the sheep there when they got back and did they have work the next day as a result?) Previously there had been no expectation that God knew or cared about people like them but if God was communicating with them, then they were in!
They went to find the baby in the manger (did they do a how snuggly are you wrapped test to check they had the right baby?) and then rushed around telling people and praising God. They had had an encounter with God and their lives would never be the same again. It puzzles me that churches make evangelism so complicated, these shepherds had never been on Alpha but they go and tell people about their experience. It really is a simple as being honest about our faith. Think about what God is doing in and through us and then tell people in the same way that we talk about the other good stuff in our lives.
God cares about the poor and the marginalized. These shepherds were on the equivalent of zero hour contracts, they had no status or significance in society and yet God gives them a great privilege of being the first to hear the amazing news. God values and loves everyone, not just the rich and important people.
Perhaps you are reading this and you don’t usually go to church and perhaps you even think that God is not interested in you. I hope the shepherds story inspires you to realize that God really does care about and value us all.
Perhaps you are reading this and you usually do go to church. I hope that the shepherds story will inspire you to connect with people who seem far from God because God is at work in their lives too.
This evening we are holding our main carol service outdoors. It is inconvenient logistically and difficult in terms of the weather, background noise etc but it feels appropriate to us to continue the tradition that God started of telling people who seem far from him about the birth of the saviour of the world.
You can read the full story of the shepherds and the angels in Luke 2.