And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.
That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them.
They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”
Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”
Look at the circumstances of this Child’s birth! They had to leave their hometown to be counted in a census. The only reason Rome had a census was for crowd control. They wanted to make sure the armies and the taxes were ‘evenly distributed’ among their conquered lands. It was NOT a vacation.
I knew a guy that was born in the back of a car on North Fulton Ave. He brought it up as often as he could, because he had made it part of his identity. This baby was born and put in a feed trough because there wasn’t room for Him anywhere else.
That too would become part of His identity.
The shepherds are awesome and confusing. Either they were shepherding close to home, and didn’t have to leave for the census, or they didn’t count. It’s safe to assume that they were close to home. BUT the job of a shepherd wasn’t a noble one. You know how there are jobs in our culture today that are kind of reserved for teenagers and ex-cons? I’m thinking the guys at the car wash or the dude that drags the lawnmower all over the neighborhood, knocking door to door to mow your grass. Or maybe the guys that work on Alaskan fishing boats or turkey processing plants.
Nobody grows up saying they want those jobs when they grow up, but you look forward to the opportunity while you’re sitting in jail. (Not saying those car wash guys are ex-cons! They are cons today! Have you seen how much a car wash costs? But I digress.)
Shepherds weren’t respected or honored by their society, but they were essential for anyone that wanted to eat lamb or bring a sacrifice to the temple. These guys, unnoticed and unappreciated, were doing their dangerous work when God showed up.
It was to them that the angel would announce the birth of the savior. It was them that were invited to the birthday party. Later, Jesus would tell a parable about gathering people from the road to join Him at a wedding…He was in the habit of inviting the rejected from long ago.
So shepherds are given a sign — a baby will be found in a feed trough — and they can probably relate to those hard times.
They saw a whole sky full of angels singing and praising God, and ran to see the child themselves. It says after they left, they went out telling every one and rejoicing in God. It was their natural reaction. It was the only thing they could do.