Luke 2:8 – And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. (KJV)
It has always seemed strange to me that God sent an angel to the shepherds in the fields to announce the birth of the Christ Child. Weren't shepherds considered to be on the lower rungs of society? Their work kept them separate from the rest of their community, and made it impossible for them to practice the ceremonial Levitical laws. Because of this, they were not trusted, and they were never allowed to give testimony in court. Why, then, did God choose the shepherds to spread the good news of the birth of the Son of the Most High? Who would believe them? It just made no sense to me.
Then I learned how shepherds cared for their sheep. A shepherd needed to be present at the birth of a lamb. If a lamb died at birth, the ewe (its mother) was devastated with grief. She herself might die of the pain. If a ewe died during birth, a lamb was orphaned. If a shepherd tried to put an orphaned lamb with a grieving ewe, the ewe would reject it. They both might die. What could be done to save them? The shepherd had to slit the throat of the dead lamb of the grieving ewe, then rub the body of the orphaned lamb with the dead lamb's blood. The grieving ewe would smell the blood of her own, then adopt the orphaned lamb and allow it to suckle.
Who better than a shepherd understood what it meant to be the Good Shepherd, and the Lamb of God Whose sacrificial blood was offered as a symbol of our adoption by our heavenly Father? Of all those who might have heard first, the shepherds were among the most profound theologians present.
Prayer: Thank You, Father, for always knowing what we need before we know we need it. Thank You for sending Your messengers to the shepherds in the fields that first dark Christmas night, so the good news of our Lord and Saviour's birth would be made known. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.