Shepherds were some of the most marginalized people group of Biblical times…they were relegated to an unimportant and distasteful position within Jewish society. But yet, God saw fit for them to be the first to hear about the birth of the Messiah. But why? We have only to search Old Testament Scriptures to see the clear correlation between the shepherds on that dark hillside and Jesus Christ. Probably one of the best known Psalms, the 23rd Psalm, starts out, “The Lord is my Shepherd I shall not want.” Isaiah 40:11 talks of Jesus like this, “He tends His flock like a Shepherd; He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart…” And if we look in the New Testament, Jesus Himself says, “I am the good Shepherd.” (John 10:14) And elsewhere we find, in Hebrews 13:20 Jesus is called the Great Shepherd. This scruffy group of men might not have had much notoriety before men…but before God, He chose to honor them in the same way He honored His Son…the Shepherd of all mankind.
This young virgin teen-age girl, Mary, had just been told by an angel that she would carry the Son of God by means of immaculate conception by the Holy Spirit. For most, this mind-boggling idea would have them saying no…but not Mary. Her humble devotion and obedience to God shows in her song back to Him,( Luke 1:46-55) when she sings, “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for He has been mindful of the humble state of His servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me – holy is His name.” Despite what Mary knew would be her lot if she said yes…the personal suffering, heartache, embarrassment, and loneliness…she readily agreed to be the mother of Jesus the Messiah.
These three wise men had traveled from a long distance, relying on astrological charts and Old Testament prophecy…following this bright star in the Eastern sky. And on arriving in Bethlehem, they found the foretold King of the Jews and offered three extravagant gifts worthy of royalty…gold, frankincense, and myrrh. So on this special day of giving and receiving presents, we also have three gifts we can give the Christ Child. For Deuteronomy 6:5 tells us to, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” These three gifts you have to give are unique only to you…for they comprise who you are…your mind, body, and spirit. Therefore, they make up the greatest gift you could ever give anyone today…especially the King of Kings.
I know your day is busy with lots of last-minute things to do before Christmas. But I have a present for you…so will you take a moment from your hectic schedule? Now I know this present isn’t very pretty, in fact it’s very battered looking with red stains on the outside. And to the world it would seem very old fashion and out of date. But this present could literally change your life for the better…with joy, peace, and wholeness. This gift is actually from God, and He, Himself, is offering it to you.. For this wonderful gift is His Son, Jesus Christ…and the whole reason why we celebrate Christmas tomorrow. So please receive this gift of hope, called the Good News…for Jesus came and died for your sins that you may have eternal life.
Imagine being that Innkeeper. The usually small, unassuming town of Bethlehem was being over-run by people coming in for the required census. His rooms were already taken by travelers, when this couple approached…the wife, clearly pregnant. The husband pleaded for a place to stay…telling the Innkeeper the time was imminent for his wife to deliver. The Innkeeper hurriedly pointed to the stable where the farm animals were kept and turned away…too preoccupied with everything he had to do. And if Mary and Joseph had told the Innkeeper who this baby was…do you think it would have made a difference? Or was the Innkeeper just too absorbed…too focused on the tasks needed to be done to realize the Messiah was coming? Today, are you so preoccupied with all the things you think need to get done that you’ve delegated Jesus outside to the barn? Are you like that Innkeeper…so focused on your “to do” list that you’re going to miss the Messiah’s birth?
The wise men came searching from afar. They had discovered that magnificent new star in the night sky and determined it was a sign…a sign of royalty. And so they began their journey of discovery. So what are you searching for today? Peace, truth, comfort, hope? There is only one place to find what you’re looking for, and it’s in the Name of Jesus Christ…for He’s what you’re ultimately looking for. Nothing in the world will ever compare to Jesus and the love He has for you. And just like the Magi, your quest can conclude by bowing down and worshipping the Messiah.
This prophecy of the coming Messiah was quoted 700 years later by the Chief Priests and Scribes when King Herod asked where the Christ was to be born. In John 7: 25-44 we see Jesus at the Feast of the Tabernacles proclaiming that He was indeed the Messiah, only to see the skeptics quoting this Scripture again…but then mistakenly assuming He had been born in His home town of Galilee rather than Bethlehem. But God never makes mistakes…His timing is always perfect…His promises always fulfilled. This long-awaited Savior of the world had indeed been born in Bethlehem for us all.
The shepherds had just experienced the greatest light show ever…more sensational than the biggest fireworks display…more glorious than anything the world had ever seen. Mixed with their awe and wonder was excitement…they had just been told about the coming Messiah. No wonder they all agreed to, “go to Bethlehem and see this thing,(Rhema) the Lord has told us about.” They had been given God’s Word…the Greek word is Rhema…and their enthusiasm was infectious. And after they had found the Christ child, their elation didn’t wane, for in Luke 2:17 it tells us that, ” When they had seen Him, they spread the Word ( Rhema) concerning what they had been told about this child.” These plain, ordinary men were the very first missionaries, spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ. They had no Theological degrees or advanced education… God’s Word had touched them and couldn’t contain their elation. They were compelled to tell others just as we should be. For the greatest story ever told is the one they spread…a Savior has been born to you; He is Jesus Christ the Lord.
Why did God choose to proclaim the coming Messiah to the shepherds? They were far from the politically elite…and at the other end of the spectrum from the powerful religious circle. So what did God see in that rag-tag group of blue-collar workers in that field outside of Bethlehem to warrant such a grand and glorious display to announce the coming of His Son? In a word, He saw us. He didn’t wish to address the political or religious bigwigs…He chose rather to tell the working class…people like you and me the good news of Jesus Christ. And this holds true today…the Lord Jesus Christ has come for you and me… common, ordinary people who need a Savior.
For Mary, this was her first baby…and for the world, it was likewise a new beginning. For Mary, it was her first labor and delivery in rather dismal conditions.. for us, it was the gift of a new start. It tells us in Colossians 1:15 that, “He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born over all creation.” When that tiny baby was born, the manifestation of God the Father came to earth to dwell among us. And when Mary laid baby Jesus in that manger, surrounded by livestock and hay, the preeminence over all creation arrived to light the way for sinners.