8 Nearby shepherds were living in the fields, guarding their sheep at night. 9 The Lord’s angel stood before them, the Lord’s glory shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 The angel said, “Don’t be afraid! Look! I bring good news to you—wonderful, joyous news for all people. 11 Your savior is born today in David’s city. He is Christ the Lord. 12 This is a sign for you: you will find a newborn baby wrapped snugly and lying in a manger.” 13 Suddenly a great assembly of the heavenly forces was with the angel praising God. They said, 14 “Glory to God in heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors.” 15 When the angels returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go right now to Bethlehem and see what’s happened. Let’s confirm what the Lord has revealed to us.” 16 They went quickly and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. 17 When they saw this, they reported what they had been told about this child. 18 Everyone who heard it was amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19 Mary committed these things to memory and considered them carefully. 20 The shepherds returned home, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. Everything happened just as they had been told.
There was probably very little that was pleasant in the life of a shepherd two millennia ago. These men were most likely poor, they had a physically demanding job, not to mention the stench; even by barnyard standards, sheep are ripe. There was nothing glamorous about the job; plus, the reputation of a shepherd was rather low. The shepherd was definitely not a career most would aspire toward as youngsters. Despite all of that, come Christmas we glamorize these filthy, tough, crass men; why? Because despite their character defects and social standing, they left their sheep in the fields and went to pay homage to the King born in the town near where they were their sheep were grazing. Because of their willingness to follow God’s instructions they have gone from social outcast to a model for children to emulate. The angels presented the Good News to the shepherds and they responded by seeking the child. Surely, we all want to emulate their faithful response to God’s message.
In recent years, many have begun to point exactly how low on the totem pole the shepherds were, and, how in recent years our image of them has been sterilized. That is an amazing point, that God used the low to spread the Gospel of Jesus. If God is willing to use these people, what does it say about our standard of judgment? Let us also consider the reason the image of the shepherds was sterilized, might it have been because in the presence of the purity of God our filth is removed and God’s purity is shown in us. In the presence of Christ even the vilest of individuals can be made pure. The Church sees the shepherds through a sanitized lens, not because we want God to use respectable people, but, because in doing God’s work a person is seen in the purity of God. The shepherds are a reminder to the Church that when we commit to God we are transformed from disreputable slobs into honest respectable servants of God.
Gracious Father, grant that I might be so identified with your Savior that all of the filth which clings to me might be removed and that I might be made respectable in your presence, through Jesus Christ the Righteous. Amen.
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