“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby,
keeping watch over their flocks at night.”
It was a common enough idea in Jesus’ time that shepherds were a despised lot of people. First, they could not attend the Jewish worship very often as sheep required 24/7 attention.
Shepherds would often graze their flock on other peoples’ property when they could get away with it. Their word was not trusted and they could not act as witnesses in the courts of Jesus’ time.
When they could, shepherds would find a blind cave at sunset that was not the liar for predators and lead the sheep into it. He then would lay his mat down at the mouth of the cave and act as a door to the sheep.
No one person or animal could thus get at the flock except by passing the shepherd. This was why Jesus called Himself the door of the sheep when referring to Himself as the Good Shepherd.
When such a cave was not to be found the shepherd would join with another few shepherds and take turns sleeping at night in the fields so that there was always someone alert and ready to sound the alarm if danger came.
Because the Lord’s angel and the heavenly host came to these particular shepherds we might assume they were honest men seeking to scratch out a living at their occupation. The heavenly visitors came at night for reason not explained in Scripture. We simply know that this lowly segment of society were the first to hear and they heard within an hour or two of the event.
Explicit instructions were given to them concerning how to find the child born King. Interestingly the wise men had to have a lot of help along the way in finding Jesus.
Verse 2 of our hymn for today says, “O rest beside the weary road and hear the angels sing.” What a wise word for all of us. Listen to the angels announce the fact that God has invaded His own creation. The Lawgiver has become subject to His own laws. The Immortal has taken on mortality. The all glorious One has stooped to be simple humanity.
What a paradox and yet it is true and it is the only hope for this weary and sinful world in which we live. God has invaded our space and did so in order to redeem us and set back in place the marvellous world that existed before Adam and Eve fell into sin.
Perhaps you sense that you live in darkness and have lost your way in life. You may be eminently successful or possibly on welfare. Whatever you station in life, if you recognize that you cannot live properly without having your Creator come into your life just as He did the shepherds so long ago then call out to Him tonight. What a wonderful gift to receive from your Creator on Christmas Eve, the gift of eternal life that is in Jesus Christ.
Make this Christmas the best of your life by receiving the gift God offers you right now. He has put the forgiveness of sins and eternal life before you and asks you to take it by faith. You cannot pay for this gift by your good works or religious devotion. Just as you do not get your wallet out Christmas morning to pay each family member for the gifts they give you, so you cannot pay God for His gift of Jesus. Just pray and accept Jesus from your Creator today. As soon as they heard the shepherds came to Jesus. Come and come today.