“When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, ‘Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.’” ~ Luke 2:15
From where we stand now, over 2,000 years removed from the birth of Christ, we probably overestimate how glorious it was to be a shepherd in ancient times. When we think of shepherds, we think of heroes like King David. We also know that our Lord called Himself the “Good Shepherd.” In our minds, shepherds are held in high esteem.
But it’s important to remember just how rough the life of a shepherd was most of the time. Shepherds spent long days and nights outside in all kinds of weather. They had to tend to the mess and endure the smells that come with livestock. They also had to take on any threats to their flock. It was a challenging and uncelebrated job. You weren’t considered by society to be anyone particularly important. You wouldn’t expect to ever become famous or end up in a history book.
This makes it all the more remarkable that God decided to reveal Himself to shepherds at the birth of Christ. They were among the very first to know about the Incarnation and to witness it for themselves. Why would God choose to work in this way? Why would He reveal Himself to these particular people?
First, remember we only see and recognize Christ as Lord through the power of God’s grace. Scripture tells us that God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34–35). He is not impressed by someone’s wealth or social status. God chose to come to them and declare Christ’s birth to them for the same reasons why He reveals Himself to you and me—His amazing and unmerited grace.
Although we know very little about these shepherds, they seemed to be ordinary men who were simply doing the work God had given them to do in the place where He had called them to do it. This everyday faithfulness to God’s work prepared them, in a way, to receive the extraordinary news delivered by the heavenly host. They were where they should be, doing what they should do. And God met them there.
The shepherds also responded to God’s lead. After they had witnessed the frightening and incredible sight of the heavenly host praising God and heard the news about the Savior’s birth, they said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us” (Luke 2:15). There was no debate about whether they should go. There was no skepticism about whether this birth was the real thing. There was only faith. They took God at His word. Luke tells us they “went with haste” to see the newborn Messiah (Luke 2:16).
Finally, the shepherds show a willingness to share the good news. They passed along what the angels had said about Jesus to Mary and Joseph (Luke 2:17). After they had visited Christ, Luke tells us they went back to their work, “glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen” (Luke 2:20). These shepherds were still shepherds, but they also became witnesses to God’s redemptive plan and the news of salvation that would be won through Jesus Christ. They were already beginning to experience the joy and peace the angels said Christ would bring to all mankind.
Perhaps you feel like those shepherds felt on that first Christmas evening. You are faithfully doing your work where God has you, but it’s difficult and unheralded. The good news for you today is that, just like the shepherds, you too can encounter Jesus Christ. You can hear the glad tidings of the angels. And you can respond in faith and become a witness to the Savior’s work. You can experience the joy and peace they felt after seeing the baby in the manger.
That’s why we celebrate Christmas again each year. We need to be reminded, to go back once again to the basics of the Christian faith. We need to behold Christ our Savior afresh. We need to remember that what happened on that first Christmas night changed everything. We have a hope and a future because our Lord Jesus Christ came into this world to save us!
Questions for Thought
- Read the message the angels delivered to the shepherds in Luke 2:10–14. Why is this still such good news for us to hear today?
- How can you imitate the simple faith of the shepherds where the Lord has you right now?
Write down a few ways that knowing Christ has changed your life. Glorify God and praise Him for it, just like the shepherds did in Luke 2:20.
Ben serves by leading and overseeing the ministries and operations of First Baptist Dallas as the Executive Pastor. He has served in full-time ministry for more than a decade and is passionate about building the church of Jesus Christ and equipping the saints for the work of ministry. Ben earned a Juris Doctorate from Baylor University and a B.B.A. from Hardin-Simmons University. He and his wife, Parris, have four boys.