Today, I want to focus on some lowly people to whom God gives an incredible mission. I’m talking about the shepherds who learn about Jesus’ birth and are entrusted with the good news of the messiah in the manger.
This year, my new addition to my nativity set is a shepherd. I didn’t get around to making more than one, so next year, I might add another. I also added a couple sheep. Here’s my first nativity post from two years ago, and also my post from last year.
I’m not an expert on middle eastern shepherds, especially those from Bible times, but I do know that it wasn’t a glamorous job. These shepherds in particular were up at night watching their flock in the field. They might have been travelling shepherds, or they could be those who lived in the region, simply feeding them at the outskirts of town.
And the Angels didn’t come to rich Herod or the High Priest at the Temple. They came to these humble shepherds, in the midst of their work, to bring them the best news that has ever been given to mankind.
First, I’m humbled that no matter how rich or educated I am, it doesn’t mean a thing to God. He can choose the lowliest people in the world to have the greatest missions, as is the case here. It’s all because of his grace, not by our own merits, that he bestows great gifts upon us. Namely, the gift of his son.
And these shepherds get information overload. First, an angel comes to them, which by itself is a significant event. I’m sure that didn’t happen much in the middle of the fields, while they were tending their sheep. Then, the angel speaks, and tells them a that a baby has been born, not just any baby, one born in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. In their language, this means Messiah.
First, there’s the fulfilled prophecy, “born in the city of David.” The Old Testament prophet Micah told that the ruler of Israel, one from ancient days, would come from Bethlehem, David’s city (Micah 5:2). Then, they give the word Christ, which is Greek for Messiah, the title of one who would save them. Finally, they learn that this baby is also God. He gets the name “the Lord” (Luke 2:11).
I probably would have peed my pants if I had gotten this kind of announcement from a heavenly being. First, the shock of the angel, then the shock that God himself is in Bethlehem, in a feed trough. To top it all off, they don’t just get one angel, then “the heavenly host” shows up, singing.
The shepherds might have chalked it up to some bad hummus, but instead, they recognize the blessing they’ve been given and go to spread the good news and meet God face to face. I wonder who watched their sheep when they left, but I have feeling that they had other concerns, bigger and better than sheep. Sure, the sheep were their livelihood, so it certainly was a risk.
I wonder if God calls me to something big, will I be willing to leave my job, my security, everything I’ve known to seek him.
Now, I’m not sure if the shepherds simply brought their sheep with them into town. It’s certainly possible but maybe not the fastest course. In my nativity scene, I have a few token sheep there, partly because I think they’re cute, and partly because I can’t figure out whether they abandoned sheep (bad pun, I know).
My shepherd has a hooked staff, and I’m not sure if it’s the traditional shape for a shepherd’s staff of the time. Psalm 21 talks about God as our shepherd, and he uses a rod and a staff (one to prod us along, one to bring us in). Here’s a good description from a shepherd about the uses of these objects. I chose the traditional shape because it’s also so wrapped up in the candy cane symbolism. That might have had something to do with the stripes on the shepherd’s robe.
If anybody has ideas about what I should create next for the nativity, please let me know!