8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping
watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared
to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were
terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring
you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today
in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah,
the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped
in cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 Suddenly a great company of
the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those
on whom his favour rests.”
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds
said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that
has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” 16 So they hurried
off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the
manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning
what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it
were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured
up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20
The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the
things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been
The Shepherds were low by social standards.
The last ones you'd expect to be visiting in the middle of the night.
Especially after a less then perfect birth. But there they are.
Knocking on the Manger Door. Or to be Post Modern Correct, standing
outside a dwelling with a built in manger.
There are several aspects of the story of the Shepherds. The first
has been mentioned. Shepherds were somewhere located down at the
bottom of the social spectrum. Not educated and somewhat dirty and
The next aspect is that we don't know exactly how many Shepherds
are being addressed. As, just like the mention of the Magi or Wise
Men, the Shepherds are not numbered. The standard Folklore has been
rough;y three of them. So given an average of 30 sheep per Shepherd,
we'd be looking at at least ninety sheep all told that they were
looking after. Not likely that they dragged them along with them
when they gate crashed at the place where the Lord Jesus was born.
So they would have had to leave them somewhere seemingly safe.
The next which gets missed most times are the Angels. Throughout
the Old Testament we get images of fearsome and avenging Angels.
Bringing dire consequences and fear wherever they tread. And no
they didn't "Tread Lightly" in those days. So of course
the Shepherds were more then a little afraid. They were in utter
shock. Quaking for their very life's. But wait there's more. The
Angels tell them to calm down and relax. They were there for 'Good
Tiding" and not to bring about "Holy Retribution".
Which must have been a great relief to the Shepherds. So much so
that they dropped everything and ran off to see the new born King
Next point of interest? They left behind the sheep. I can't agree
or accept that they would have herded roughly ninety sheep across
country, through a village and to the front door of a dwelling.
So back to leaving the sheep behind. This is really dereliction
of their duties. If while they were gone the sheep had gone astray.
Been stolen. Or eaten by strays dogs or wolfs. They would have been
passably stoned to death. So they took a huge risk.
Now follow the story as they follow the star and general directions
the Angels gave them. Arriving at the gates or edge of the village
they, the socially lower class, will now have to enter the village
at night. Most notably is that people who are honest do not enter
a village at night unless they have a good reason. These guys would
have been considered breaking a few social norms of the times. So
imagine as they wander around checking different houses and places
to see if the baby King of Kings was by any chance born there. The
confused looks on the owners may have said it all.
But they arrive at the right dwelling and with awe inspiring gusto
they knock on the door or perhaps what passed as a door (for you
Post Modernists who read this). Opening up the door would have been
Joseph. As Mary would hopefully still be resting. Here are several
rough, dirty smelly and bewildered Shepherds asking if the King
of Kings had been born there and if they can drop in to say hello.
Joseph would have been taken aback and somewhat dumbfounded. Perhaps
the voice of Mary inside calling to let them in (as Hospitality
was a social norm of the time). She also had her personal insights
as to who the baby really was.
So in trod the shepherd, who would have really felt at home in the
enclosure for animals. Lucky them. The other animal smells would
have masked their own slight smells. Jesus is sleeping peacefully.
Mary and Joseph are staring at the Shepherds. The Shepherds are
looking slightly confused at Jesus as they may have been expecting
something a little older or stringer or royal in appearance.
Then possibly a yawn from Mary and a nod from Joseph. And off the
Shepherds go to spread the Good News far and wide. Hopefully not
forgetting about the sheep and getting back to them. Leaving Mary
to ponder the odd events and what to expect next.
Note I did not mention the Three Magi or Wise Men. They did not
show up until much later when Jesus was somewhat older and they
had moved into a house. All those Nativity Scenes with the Shepherds
and Magi both visiting a Manger are not entirely correct. So start
throwing them out. Well if you're a Post Modernist you may have
already done this.
There is humour in the smile of a child,
There is music in the sounds of their laughter.
Each new life is a blossom of grace.
A gently reminder of your birth.
May we never lose the warmth,
Love and beauty of love.
Of your Grace shown to us all.