The Cast of Advent: December 21 – the shepherds
In the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger” (Luke 2:8-12).
When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child (Luke 2:15-16).
Some unnamed shepherds play a unique supporting role in the advent of our Lord. They are the only ones who get to hear the announcement of the angel and the praises of a multitude of the heavenly host. They are also the only visitors to and witnesses of the infant Jesus in the manger. They are the first to testify to this good news, too. They are never mentioned again in the New Testament, but are cast and costumed in every Christmas pageant I’ve ever seen. They don’t need a line. We all know why they are there!
There are many other shepherds in the bible. Abraham, Jacob, Moses, David, and Amos were all shepherds. Jesus would later call himself the good shepherd, the one God promised to send to care for his people. Pastors are charged with “shepherding” the flock under their care. It is an occupation that weaves its way throughout the pages of scripture.
I am certain others got to see the infant Jesus in the days that followed. If Joseph’s ancestral home was Bethlehem, he must have run into family while he was there to register. Without realizing it, they were looking on the heir to the throne of Israel, the Messiah, the Son of Man, and the Word become flesh. But the shepherds knew. They knew the gravity of that moment.
Never underestimate the value of simply hearing the good news of the Gospel, which is the good news of great joy of Christmas. The word that powerfully changes hearts and lives gives you a part in the story, too! You get to make this good news known.
Thank you, Lord, for casting me in this amazing story. Amen.