By John RisnerDecember 11, 2017
The shepherds were watching their flocks by night. A boring, smelly existence, and it was transformed into a joyous celebration. Because the good news of Christ means joy for the downcast. The story of the shepherds reveals how God fills the seemingly insignificant with His presence and turns the mundane into the majestic.
Shepherds were in the lowest social class. They were ceremonially unclean. Not fit for worship. They lived in the pastures. They were isolated from the rest of the people. And because their flocks needed to move around to find new grass and fresh water, they never stayed in one place for long. On the rare occasion that they crossed paths with others, they were treated with contempt and mistrust. In fact, their testimony was not even valid in a court of law. And in many ways they lived up to people’s expectations. They had foul mouths. They always ready for a fight. They were always stealing stuff. The Talmud, which is a collection of sayings of rabbis, says: “No help is to be given to heathen or shepherds.”
What began in the shepherds’ minds as just another ordinary night on the late shift, watching their sheep, soon would unfold into the most extraordinary evenings of their lives.
God entrusted the greatest message ever to a bunch of smelly, foul-mouthed, mistrusted shepherds! The Lord comes to the lowly, to the most undeserving, to the neglected and marginalized.
And they were terrified! Maybe because they thought it was an angel of judgment. “Is this payback for our raunchy jokes, bad language and thievery? Maybe our sins have caught up with us and now we’ll be vaporized!”
Suddenly their swagger was gone. There were probably on their knees. Because they knew that they were mortals in the presence of the eternal.
When was the last time you were in awe? When was the last time you hit your knees before the glory of the Almighty God?
The good news was accompanied by the heavenly choir singing Angels We Have Heard on High. What the shepherds experienced that first Christmas night was the good news of an arrival, that revealed a long-awaited Messiah had been born.
Everything would be different now because of this good news. Not just different for the shepherds or the Jewish people, but different for all people. This was good news worth doing something about: “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.’ So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.” (Luke 2:15-16)
The shepherds didn’t waste much time. They hurried off. They were ready to engage in God’s plan. For those that believe, we cannot sit on the sidelines! As James writes in James 2:17: “Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”
They wanted to see the baby with their own eyes. And they found him in a manger – a trough for feeding sheep. If there was anything these shepherds knew, it was sheep and they knew this was the Lamb of God. When God comes near, He turns the mundane into the majestic.
I am thankful that the shepherds didn’t keep it to themselves. They released joy into the world. They shared the good news with others. And “All who heard it were amazed.” (Luke 2:18)
The shepherds went back to their same jobs afterward, but they weren’t the same on the inside. They glorified God. They sang His praises. They may have continued shepherding, but they did so in a whole new way.
This is Joy. A God who transforms the mundane into the majestic.