Luke 2:1-20 (NRSV)
Chapter 2In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. Verse 2This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. Verse 3All went to their own towns to be registered. Verse 4Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. Verse 5He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. Verse 6While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. Verse 7And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
Verse 8In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Verse 9Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. Verse 10But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for see-I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: Verse 11to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. Verse 12This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger." Verse 13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, Verse 14"Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!" Verse 15When 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." Verse 16So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. Verse 17When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; Verse 18and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. Verse 19But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. Verse 20The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
Thank goodness for the shepherds — this little crew who were most likely all men, who were not educated or connected to anyone important. They probably could not read, and they would not necessarily have been trained in the Jewish traditions of waiting for a Messiah. In fact, we do not even know if they were Jewish. They could have been foreigners. There is a good chance they were drinking that night as well — the night we now call Christmas Eve. When the shepherds saw the angel, they might have laughed the way Abraham's wife, Sarah, laughed at God so long
ago. They might have opened up another bottle of wine. They might have mock-toasted the heavenly hallucinations they had just seen.
Instead, they were curious — perhaps because they were bored or spooked. In any case, they were curious. And their curiosity led them to witness the greatest thing that has ever happened on this earth: the baby Emmanuel, God-with-us. Without the shepherds, would any of us even know that Jesus Christ was born?
Thank you for the shepherds, Lord. Only you could pick the right people to witness your miracles and wonders. Help us find those people and listen to them. Amen.