Taxes were high; wages were low.
Hypocrisy was rampant; honesty was rare.
Freedom was gone; occupation was hard.
The rich were getting richer; the poor were always struggling.
Morality was ebbing; rebellion was brewing; cruelty was reigning.
Life for a shepherd in Century One was difficult at best. Cold nights, long days, distant family, and rare friends were part of the territory. Sheep stink and shepherds smell. Sheep wander and shepherds search. Life was never restful; work was never done.
At the low end of Jewish society stood the shepherd. Away from the synagogue, absent from the Temple, and defiled by dead animals - they were outcasts to the Jerusalem crowd. Unable to even be a witness to special events they seemed almost outside of culture. But then everything changed.
That starry night on the hills of Bethlehem left a group of shepherds forever changed. What they heard and saw was burned into their hearts and minds. What they found was to forever change their lives. Luke tells us they went from the dazzling light show in the fields and searched until they found Him - of whom the angels sang. And when they found Him - they were never the same. In one moment everything they had ever gleaned from the Scriptures came alive.
Luke 2:8-11 "Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord."
God, angels, Heaven, Messiah, promises and prophecies became real at once- it all made sense. Sacrifices, lambs, offerings, sin, and forgiveness became intensely personal. The sheep they watched and sold became the pictures of mercy and grace. The Temple they served became theirs. The sacrifices for them, the pictures made sense, and they believed.
So a group of patient men, who sat on the same hills their grandfathers had sat upon, were watching the stars and talking that night - and then God came down.
The Shepherds remind us how God comes to mankind. God is the seeker. God is the initiator. And the shepherds were there, willing to listen and act.
They Listened to God when He speaks.
They Came to God like they were. Instead of backing away with the excuse of lack of education, lack of clothing, lack of standing - they welcomed God's message in wonder, in fear, in uncertainty, and in hope. There was no time to become someone else, God called them as they were!
They Responded to God at once. What a picture of faith - they received the message and acted upon it. They didn't doubt, they didn't disagree, they didn't question, they didn't hesitate. They just heard and responded -- and they were first to see Jesus.
- They Sought Baby Jesus until they found Him.
- They Told everyone they could the Good News.
Now this Christmas time, will you be a shepherd? Will you experience the glad tidings of the Gospel? Do you experience great joy? Today chose to be like them and:
- Listen to God when He speaks.
- Come to God like you are.
- Respond to God at once.
- Seek Jesus until you find Him.
- Go against the tide/crowd.
- Tell everyone the Good News.
To continue reading this message please copy and paste this URL into your browser bar: http://www.dtbm.org/sermon/the-shepherds/