So, I did a bit of research and found that several historians tell us that at the time of Jesus’ birth, shepherds were considered to be amongst the lowest of the low in society. They were not always so, regarded in fact as quite the opposite in earlier times, but not so now. Here they are. About as well regarded as tax collectors, who at best were despised with raw passion… as well esteemed as street cleaners, garbage collectors, who in a day cleaned streets littered with refuse of every pungent and putrid pile and kind …
Lower than low. Belittled. Reviled. Often deprived of civil rights. Distrusted. Sinners!
In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,
‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favours!’
(Luke 2: 8-14)
Interesting isn’t it? And wow, how significant!
These lowly shepherds were presented with not just a royal invitation, but one that was directly delivered by the celestial mouths of those in regular intimate contact with The Holy, with sacred Glory! No well-regarded leaders were on that divine mailing list. No high-ranking, or low-ranking or mid-ranking government officials, or religious leaders, or worldly leaders of any clime received an invite to this first glimpse of the King of the Kingdom come on earth. Nope. None. Angels exuberantly share the good news with shepherds, and urge them to go – go! – see! touch! listen! Gaze with their own eyes, first-hand, upon the world’s Saviour, the long-awaited Messiah: the very One that the many who rejected these humble shepherds were, and would be, too blind to see.
Imagine … Wow.
Simple. Poor. Unsuccessful. Nobody. Ordinary. Backward. Tsk. Half-wit. Slow. Uneducated. Irrelevant. Laughable. Dense. Naive … … Sinner.
And what labels have you been slapped with? Oh friends, I say we drop them all and go – go and see!
Let’s take our lead from these humble shepherds and draw close to the Good Shepherd. Let’s listen for His gently persistent and holy invitation calling out for us. Do you hear it? It’s that whisper that softly lingers and recurs over the cacophony of the world, over the branding and ranking, over the inflictions and afflictions that break and crush us. Let us go friend! Let’s run, yes, with our hair and hearts a tossed mess, our fingernails and minds crammed with dirt, our clothes and souls pungent and smelly, our faces and spirits smudged and soiled. Let’s stand up, and pick up our feet and go! Let’s look and see. Let’s linger and listen. Our long-awaited Messiah, our Saviour, is here, and He is inviting us to come close!
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.’ So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
(Luke 2: 15-20)
Soil and Seed