While shepherds watched their flocks by night all seated on the ground,
The angel of the Lord came down and glory shone around.
I love the shepherds. They were just normal guys carrying out their normal routine on a normal night. I’m not sure what the angel or the glory looked like, but it scared the heck out of the sheep-herders. The angel’s words might have been a bit unsettling as well: “Unto you is born this day…” Unto who?
Shepherd #1: Hey Fred, is your wife expecting a baby?
Shepherd #2: Don’t look at me, I don’t even have a girlfriend.
Shepherd #3: But the angel said a baby has been born to one of us shepherds…
(That’s not in the Bible; I just like to make up imaginary conversations.)
The shepherds hurried off with specific instructions. Of all the babies born in Bethlehem that night, they were to look for the only one lying in a manger. That would certainly narrow it down.
Because of their possible contact with dead animals, shepherds were often considered unclean and not usually able to enter into the temple. But they were able to enter a barnyard, kneel down in the straw and look into the newborn face of God’s Son. They couldn’t approach God, so He came to them with the first invitation to come and see.
Because of their low social standing and lack of religious training, shepherds could never hope to witness something as holy as the radiant glory of God. But as they sat on a hillside outside of town, they saw something even Moses didn’t get to see on the holy mountain, even though he asked. (“Show me your glory.” Exodus 33:18)
Shepherds watched over little lambs, most likely creatures that would one day be sold for temple sacrifice. How fitting that they were the first to behold the Lamb of God, who would one day be the Great Shepherd.
I just love the way God works.