Jeni and Ray Cook Furr
8 That night in the fields near Bethlehem some shepherds were guarding their sheep. 9 All at once an angel came down to them from the Lord, and the brightness of the Lord’s glory flashed around them. The shepherds were frightened. 10 But the angel said, “Don’t be afraid! I have good news for you, which will make everyone happy.
Why shepherds? Jesus is the Messiah. The King of Kings. Shouldn’t the angels have appeared to kings? Lots of people listen to kings. Shepherds were poor, simple people. They didn’t spend much time with others because most of their time was in the fields watching their sheep. They didn’t take many baths so they were not allowed inside the Temple. So, does it really make sense for the angel and the heavenly choir to make such an important announcement to shepherds at night in a field?
Maybe Luke wants us to make the connection that Jesus is related to Israel’s greatest king—David. He was a shepherd when he was a boy. He was born in Bethlehem. The Prophets said the Messiah would be one of David’s offspring. Telling the shepherds first reminds us about these prophecies.
Maybe Luke is trying to tell us something else too. In Luke’s gospel, he says the kingdom of God is like a huge dinner banquet that includes all kinds of people — people who don’t dress like us, speak English, and even those who need a shower. Maybe going to the shepherds first was God’s way of announcing to all of us — don’t be scared. I have good news. Starting now, you have a place reserved at God’s dinner table. Come eat with us—just as you are. Now that’s some really good news.
The Week of Joy
At the birth of your Son, you whisper to our hearts, Father, as you fill us with the joy of our salvation. We thank you. Amen
Weekly Advent Prayers by Betty Claire Jackson
By Diana Bridges
Shepherds in first-century Palestine understood their status in society. It was low and upward mobility wasn’t a possibility. Their work was necessary, but neither glamorous nor celebrated. If you pause for a moment, you’ll be able to identify those in our world who would fall into the same category.
If we hadn’t known this story our entire lives, it would be shocking that the angels gave this most important of messages to shepherds. (You might want to pause again to imagine the President delivering the State of the Union to an audience of migrant workers or the Queen of England giving her Christmas Day Address exclusively to day laborers.) Their response, however, was textbook — abject fear. The appearance of angels out of the blue seems to be one of the great levelers of humanity.
They soon followed orders and headed toward Bethlehem and the Baby. I wonder if that other piece of information ever took root in their overwhelmed minds. “I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide.” (The Message) Did they hold their heads a little higher, do their work with a greater sense of pride, teach their children and grandchildren this very good and inclusive news?
Where do we find ourselves in this bit of the gospel? We don’t occupy the high place of angels or the shepherds’ place on the margins. However, the meaning of the word angel is “messenger” and that actually is us. We’ve been entrusted with this treasure for the sake of all people everywhere, including those most often overlooked. This Advent and beyond may we find our joy multiplied as we embody the gospel to people in unexpected places.
By Rubye Box
The Son of God came to earth as an infant altogether human and yet, altogether God. The shepherds, whose job it was to watch over a flock of sheep, were not considered as very important nor were they very high on the pay scale. They were just common men doing the job they were hired to do. The flock they tended was very possibly the sheep that were used in the temple as sacrifices. These shepherds were caring for blemish free sheep who would one day take their turn as a temple sacrifice. Their blood would serve to briefly cover the sins of man until another sheep would follow with no end in sight.
The birth of Jesus was not announced to Herod. It was not announced to Cesar or any other political official. It was not announced to the religious leaders serving in those days. No, God sent his messengers, the angels, to go to the lowly shepherds and proclaim His birth to them.
We know from scripture that the angel who appeared to the shepherds frightened them. They were certainly not expecting to be the recipients of a message from God. After all, they were just regular men doing a mundane job. Over and over in scripture, we see that God does not look at a person’s status but at the hearts of men. It is there that God finds the worth of a person. The shepherds, though of lowly status, had a heart for God. They were constantly reminded of the fact that the sheep they cared for would become a sacrifice one day. Did they realize the baby the angel told them about would one day become the ultimate sacrifice? Probably not but that is just what Jesus became. He became the ultimate and final sacrifice for the sins of all mankind.
Dear Father, help us to realize that our worth to you has nothing to do with the job we have, the education we have, or the wealth we have accumulated. Help us to realize the worth of a person is determined by how You view us and not man. Thank you for loving us enough to send your precious son to be the ultimate sacrifice.
What a spectacle those shepherds witnessed the night Jesus was born!
Picture them out on the hills, minding the flock, perhaps chatting among themselves. Suddenly the entire sky was filled with light! The light of heaven, the glory of God, blazed down on them. Maybe they stood in astonishment, looking at one another as if to say “Can you believe this?” Maybe they fell to their knees, or hugged the ground in fear and awe. But the show had only started!
An angel appeared, announcing the birth of the Messiah. Then a great company of angels appeared and began singing a heavenly chorus, praising and glorifying God. Can you even begin to imagine what that sounded like? A perfect composition, sung in perfect harmony by perfect voices. Every note, every phrase perfectly shaped, every moment so exquisite that there was no past, no future, only the all-consuming now. It must have seemed as if time stood still.
But time did pass, the composition came to an end, the Conductor put down His baton and the angels returned to heaven, taking with them the spectacular light. I imagine the shepherds needed a few moments to adjust to the reality of the dark night, the quiet hillside. They must have talked excitedly, saying “Did you hear…?” and “Did you see….?”
Then I picture them gathering their robes above their knees, sprinting to Bethlehem, the flocks forgotten in their excitement. Laughing, crying, stumbling and tumbling, they found their way to the humble stable and the manger where the Messiah lay.
Holy Father, thank you for the wonderful gift you gave the world that night so long ago. Open our hearts to your glory and splendor so we too will be excited, awed, and humbled by the birth of the Christ Child.