Every Christmas story, play or nativity includes shepherds. When my kids were small, we dug through the closets to find costumes for our own Christmas story reenactment. Being the only girl, I was, of course, always Mary. The baby at the time was Jesus, and another kid would be a shepherd with a towel or t-shirt wrapped and fastened to their head. Christmas is not complete without shepherds. They play a leading role in the Christmas story. Why is that?
As I reflected on the following verses I am struck by the shepherd’s extraordinary part in sharing the Christmas story.
Light in the Shepherd’s Ordinary Darkness
It was very, very dark, for there were no street lights or flash lights in a shepherd’s field at night. The shepherds were in a familiar, everyday place — in a field looking after their sheep. There was nothing spectacular about them or their work as they did the work that they always do — caring for and watching their sheep day after day and night after night. But this one night was very different from all other nights, a night when an extraordinary story interceded their world:
In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. (Luke 2:9)
I imagine a shepherd, who is use to dark nights in lonely fields, does not easily forget such spectacular brightness of heavenly light. When the darkness of life is upset, lifted or overcome— life becomes very different, much brighter. It changed everything— heaven’s light shattering the dark of the night. Redemption is announced.
The Shepherd’s Message
The angels speak with a message for them in that radiant night— a message they also would never forget:
But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God. “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased. (Luke 2:10-14)
The “One” many had looked for, waited for and, even they, longed for is announced. “This One” who will be our peace” (see last week’s post) is here. The Savior, Christ the Lord is in Bethlehem. These ordinary shepherds, living their ordinary lives are entrusted with an extraordinary message:
…for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
Their Quick Response
What should they do? Stay with their sheep? Doubt and wonder if they were dreaming? Go back to sleep? They respond with haste:
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.” So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger. (Luke 2:15-16)
They had a sense of excitement and urgency with such good news. They hurried to find “This One” in Bethlehem.
Sharing their Story
Light came into their darkness with a message for them to make known:
When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child. And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart.(Luke2:17-19)
Their message was simple. They repeated what they had seen and heard, probably something like this: “Our darkness was interrupted by the light of heaven. Angels appeared and said that this is the time; the One is here. We couldn’t wait, but we had to hurry, for this baby is the Savior, Christ our Lord. He has come for all people, including us, the shepherds.”
Taking Christmas back to the fields
As I reflected on these verses this week, I couldn’t help but think that the Shepherds, though ordinary, had an extraordinary part to play in the sharing of the Christmas story:
The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them. (Luke 2:20)
Their story went to Mary and Joseph, and all those who had gathered to see Jesus. Their story went back to the fields, where the shepherds lived and worked. I imagine they went back to the fields with their sheep, among other shepherds and families — making known the Christmas story. Their story was one of darkness becoming light, lives changed, a message believed, received, and proclaimed. Ordinary Shepherds become ambassadors for Christ the King.
As they went back to the fields I am stuck by this:
The Shepherds, who were very ordinary, were some of the first ones whose lives were changed by Jesus and who proclaimed Christmas.
Because of this they left their fields to find the Savior. Then the returned to the fields proclaiming Christmas. The message went with them.
Sharing the Christmas story in our “fields”
The shepherds remind me that the story is meant to be shared. It isn’t much different for you or I, who have found light in the darkness, forgiveness and grace in brokenness, redemption because of a Savior. Our message is similar: Jesus the Savior, Christ the Lord, is for all the people; for you and me.
My Christmas story is for my “fields,” the ordinary places I find myself — work, class, with family during the holidays, in my neighborhood, etc. Here I live to tell the story – not just by deeds, but with words: a story of great news for all people. God uses the most unexpected people to share His Christmas story in the most unexpected places. The Christmas story is to be shared, just as the shepherds did when heaven came to earth.
Overflow: allowing God’s ways to touch our lives and then our lives to pour out to others
- Where is my shepherd’s field? Where are the ordinary places I spend most of my time and work?
- How has God entered my darkness? How has His light changed my life?
- Who in your shepherd’s field is it time to share the story with of what you have seen and heard? This is a great time to proclaim the Christmas story in our shepherd’s fields.