The first time the full impact of this part of the Christmas story really dawned on me, was when I was watching a movie about Jesus. I'm not one to get real emotional, but I cried. The shepherds were the lowest of the low socially. They were humble people who lived in the fields outside of major cities tending sheep. They told each other stories about the constellations in the night sky; they played instruments. They didn't have fine robes and big houses. If God had waited 2000 years He could've made an announcement on TV. But that wasn't His plan. I'm so grateful. It's important to note also that King David was called by God as a shepherd boy. These were simple, humble, and honorable people.
8 Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. 10 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. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger."
13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:
14 "Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!"
I think I would be afraid too if I saw an angel. Just imagine, it's the dead of night. The shepherds are listening for any disturbance in the bush, a wolf? A lion? There may have been a soothing song playing in the background to calm the sheep. They would have been on alert listening, protecting the sheep, their income. When suddenly a great light appears before them! An angel speaks. Sheep? What sheep? What is this? The angel tells them not to be afraid and tells them to go see Jesus in Bethlehem. He's wrapped in swaddling clothes, in a manger. Then the whole sky lights up! And the angels rejoice right in front of the shepherds! We will see this in Heaven too. How awesome is that? In verse 10 you see "I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people." The message is expanding it's no longer just for Jews it's for all people now. Even those of us who are Gentiles. There are many prophecies in Isaiah and Jeremiah about the Gentiles. Here's one:
10 "And in that day there shall be a Root of Jesse,
Who shall stand as a banner to the people;
For the Gentiles shall seek Him,
And His resting place shall be glorious."
The Jews will always be God's chosen ones, always the first-fruits. God chose to include the Gentiles as well. For that I am very grateful. Jesse is David's father. This prophecy sounds like it's referring to the manger in Bethlehem. The wise men were Gentiles.
I'm not sure why God mentions the shepherd many times in Scripture. He is God, I'm a sheep... I've never been a shepherd. But from what I've read a shepherd's job is very taxing. They need to watch everything their sheep do. They're not the brightest of animals and will eat poisonous food, fall off of cliffs. It does sound familiar with my life... They are also considered a tasty treat by meat eating animals so they constantly need to be guarded and protected. It would take a great deal of patience and love to handle a job like this. I believe sheep are also sensitive to emotion as well and frighten easily.
6 'But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
Are not the least among the rulers of Judah;
For out of you shall come a Ruler
Who will shepherd My people Israel.'"
My favorite Psalm, I memorized this and repeated it before I went to sleep every night during a difficult time. What an awesome God we have!
1 The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
3 He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name's sake.
4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord
A great Christian book on God as our shepherd is A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, by W. Phillip Keller.