Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Christmas Character Spotlight: the Shepherds

In the few weeks leading up to Christmas, let’s take a step back from the decorating, shopping, and commercialism, and focus on the true meaning of Christmas - the Bethlehem story. One person at a time, we’ll go through the story in a character-study format, and try to put ourselves in the shoes of those individuals that were there on that first Christmas. Want to do some study for yourself? Here is the schedule:

November 29: Joseph
December 4: Mary
December 6: Gabriel
December 11: Shepherds
December 13: Wise men
December 19: Herod
December 24: Jesus
Today's character: the Shepherds, who received the first Baby announcement ;)

ShepherdsThe Shepherds that were sent the news of Jesus’ birth pretty much only appear one time in the Bible, in Luke 2:8-20. No other account is given that marks them as an important part of the story. In fact, with just a surface reading, there’s is not a very important detail of the Christmas story. Yet I believe there is much we can learn from these humble men.

I said they are pretty much only mentioned once - did you know they are indirectly prophesied about in the Old Testament? I didn’t either, until my pastor preached about them a couple of weeks ago. :) I find it very interesting, so I’m passing it on to you!

These shepherds were not just any shepherds...they were the shepherds keeping the temple flock. History tells us that the temple sheep were kept near a tower called “The tower of the flock” in English (I’m not attempting to spell the Hebrew name!). Although Luke’s account does not tell us about this location, Micah 4:8 prophesies that this would be the place where the first announcement would come.

Why does this matter? Because Jesus came to earth as the ultimate Sacrifice for sin. These temple sheep would not be needed much longer. It is only fitting that these men were the first to find out that The Sacrifice to end all sacrifices was now on earth. If these men knew the Old Testament prophecies, no wonder they were so excited!

A few things that are important to note about these men:

They were simply doing their job. Different accounts in the Bible show us that being a shepherd was not looked on as a very illustrious job. Probably these guys working third shift were the lowest of the low. The margin of my Bible says verse 8 could literally mean they were “keeping the night watches.” ‘What fun’ said none of them ever!

But they were faithfully doing their job, no matter if it was fun or not. They were faithful...and God uses faithful people, not important ones.

They had a front-row seat for this display of Heavens glory - and it caused fear. Just as the first glimpse of the angel Gabriel brought fear to Zacharias {Luke 1:11-12} and Mary {Luke 1:28-29} it brought immediate fear to these shepherds. A glimpse of God’s Glory does that. When we really see what the glory and holiness of God is like, it will cause to fall on our face in reverent fear.

They recognized that this message was God-sent. Verse 15 tells us that they  knew it was the Lord that had made this known. I believe this shows they had a relationship with God already...enough so to recognize a message from him.

God doesn’t use angels these days to send his messages {we have the Bible, we don’t need angels any more!} but He does send circumstances and divine appointments our way - do we recognize when they are from Him?

They couldn’t keep the Good News to themselves. They made it “known abroad” {vs.17} and openly praised God {vs. 20}. Do we keep the news to ourselves? We have the true story of Christmas - do we take advantage of this season of “good will” to share our good news?

God sent the news directly to these shepherds because He knew He could trust them with it - that they would do with this news what they were supposed to do. Can he trust us with the same news?


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