A shepherd protects, feeds, and cares for the sheep. This is important work, right? But out here on the Palestinian hills, this isn’t how it’s viewed by most people.
The shepherds were the first to hear the Good News of Jesus’ birth. And it was the angels who came to tell them. We picture the shepherds in a pastoral setting—warm cloaks hugging their shoulders as they recline on gently sloping hills and as they watch their white, woolly sheep grazing or snuggled together in peaceful sleep. In reality, shepherds at the time of Jesus’ birth were poorly clad, dirty, and used to living rough. They also had to be brave and hardy—constantly on the lookout and ready to protect their flocks from wolves and even lions. In spite of this bravery, the shepherds were regarded by their contemporaries as low life. They were outsiders who lived on the edge of society. For the Jewish people of Jesus’ time, the shepherds had another mark against them—they did not observe regular worship.
So why did the angels seek out the shepherds? What influence could such an “inferior” group have? Was this God’s way of widening the circle to include all? Was this God’s way of lifting up the shepherds to let them know that they, too, mattered?
- In today’s Western culture, do you think those in the centre would listen to those on the margins if they had miraculous news to share? Would you? Why or why not?
- If you were on the margins, would you feel judged by the rest of society?
- How would you get the attention of others? How would you share the Good News?
We read “He has brought down the powerful from their thrones and lifted up the lowly” (Luke 1:52).
- How does this verse from Mary’s Song of Praise (the Magnificat) resonate with the shepherds’ story?
- Are you ready for the opportunity that God is offering you to enter the story?
- What good news do you have to share?
- What are your reasons for not sharing the Good News?