Shepherds – Luke 2:8-20 A Study in Contrasts
Oh, the life of a shepherd!
As an introvert, sometimes I long for it, especially at Christmastime. No rushing around. Far from the bustle of the city. Camping out under the stars. Lots of time just “being.”
Oh yes, there is responsibility. Those dumb sheep could get lost. And, of course, there could be a wolf roaming around. But for the most part, day after day, quietness and reflection.
With the company of a small group. Like minded people not prone to drama. Drama was found in the city, not the countryside.
Close relationships. People you could trust with your flock. People who had your back. People who knew you — your dreams, your sorrows, your hopes.
So you’re just handing out, chewing the fat, wondering about if price of sheep is going up or down. Nothing new. Just under the stars, night after night.
Then bang! The sky lights up beyond everything you have ever seen. You look at your friends — they are seeing the same thing, faces aglow with reflection. It’s not a hallucination. It’s angels, real angels!
Speaking to me…speaking to us?
Of course I’m afraid!
“Behold, I bring you…”
Me? Why me? I’m just a shepherd, nothing special. I sleep outside with a bunch of smelly sheep. Me?
“Good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”
Do I look like a messenger? Boy, I’d love some good news! And I’m all for joy. But how can I be a representative to “all the people?”
“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
You’ve got to be kidding. I’ve heard of the Messiah in the temple, the few times I have gotten to go. Life has been hard, especially with the Romans roaming the country, taking sheep for their dinner.
But a Savior, for us spiritually, for us physically, for the nation of Israel? He would be Christ the Lord, the Master, of all. How can this be?
“And this will be sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”
Ok, now something I can relate to – a barn. But the contrast, a Savior, Christ the Lord, as a baby?
And then there is not just one angel, but a whole bunch! People used to being alone in the darkness; now their world is surrounded by light, by beings, praising God, promising peace.
Overwhelmed is an understatement.
And then, as suddenly as it appeared, it’s gone. Darkness. Silence. I wonder how long it was quiet before someone broke the silence. I wonder what they first said, confirming what they saw, knowing that a group can’t hallucinate the same thing!
I wonder if they all went, or if they left one behind with the sheep? I wonder what it would have felt like to be the one left behind?
I wonder if they were filled with curiosity, to see if it was really true, or belief, to confirm that what they saw was true?
They went to the village. Did anyone know of a baby that was born tonight? Introverts who were used to being alone we now talking to others, searching for meaning. Anyone know a pregnant woman who is staying in a barn?
And then they arrived and saw it for themselves. The moment of awe when, like the Magi, their experience became very real and deeply personal.
People who were usually shy are now bubbling over, interrupting each other to tell the story of angels, describing the lights, the sounds. It was more than they could contain.
And it wasn’t just Mary and Joseph they told, but “all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.” I picture a little parade through the dark, making it’s way to the barn, waking up others as they heard the commotion. Those shepherds, their story, was the center of attention.
And then, it died down again. Those who hadn’t seen the lights, heard the words themselves, went back home and back to bed.
After all, it was just a baby.
The shepherds returned to the fields, to their responsibilities, to relieve the ones who had been left. They told them what they had found, how the vision had been confirmed. How it wasn’t just a dream.
It was more than a baby.
It was hope for a future, a world forever changed.