By Pastor Rob Bloss
The presence of the shepherds has to be one of my favorite parts of the Christmas story. They don’t say much. They don’t do much. But it sure was important to God that they be there for the birth of Jesus. And that says a lot.
If you were planning to launch a political campaign, a new business or a new product line, who would you plan to invite first? It would be people who have money or power or influence. And I bet if you asked people in the first century who should be invited to the coming out party for the Messiah the list would start with the high priests and religious scholars, along with other celebrities, powerbrokers, and dignitaries.
But instead, it was a ragtag group of lowly shepherds who got invited right into the makeshift nursery to admire that little baby who was the newborn Son of God.
Shepherds were not a very popular group of people. They were considered social misfits, thieves, and religious outcasts. They were considered unclean and were not able to participate in temple worship. They spent their entire lives taking care of sheep. Their job was dangerous at times, but it was mostly just boring and thankless.
When the angels told the shepherds their good news, they said it was “good news of great joy for all the people.” And if the shepherds were included, then it really was for all people. If they were included, then there is room for us, too.
If we translated the story into our modern economy, to whom would God have sent the angels? Who are the marginalized, forgotten, and looked-down-upon outcasts of our day? If it’s good news of great joy for all the people, then there is room for all us, too.
Back in the fields outside Bethlehem the shepherds sit around discussing what they just witnessed. The angel had told them who the baby was and how they could find him, and the shepherds decide very quickly to head into town to find the Savior. Luke tells us they left in haste to find the one, as told by the angel. The angel does not tell the shepherds to go, but how else could they find the Savior?
One can only imagine the faces of those present in the stable when the shepherds show up. Remember, these were not guys people wanted to hang with, yet it is this group of unpopular people that first come to see the Savior. As they come into the place where Jesus is, they communicate to all who are listening the message they heard from the angel out in the field, this is the Savior, who is Christ the Lord. Packed into that one statement is the good news everyone needs to hear.
The text tells us that those who heard what the shepherds said, stood in amazement and wondered at what they heard, but Mary sat by the manger and just pondered it all. She knew who the baby was, and outcasts and misfits had arrived to confirm it.
The shepherds received the invitation. They left their tents and campfires to go see for themselves. And afterwards, when they returned to their flocks, there was a new bounce in their step. They were no longer just lowly shepherds. The outsiders were now insiders. They left praising and glorifying God!
The story of the shepherds reminds us of the reach of the gospel to all people. This group of people, who were unpopular in society and without a religious bone in their bodies, this is the group that God chose to invite.
No one is beyond the reach of God’s grace. The gospel reaches into the lives of all people with a message of hope and salvation. That’s the kind of God we serve. That’s the kind of news that’s worth receiving and sharing. It’s GOOD news of GREAT joy for ALL people!
I’m looking forward to our Christmas Eve services, to celebrating the birth of our Savior, who is Christ the Lord. I hope you’ll join us online or in-person at any of our four services. And in this difficult and disorienting time in many people’s lives, I pray you’ll consider who it is that God may be asking you to invite to see for themselves this child.