The Shepherds and the Angels
And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, "Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger." And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:8-14)
Ever wonder why the angels only appeared to the Shepherds? No one else. Not to the respected religious leaders, who then could have told the masses. Not to devout believers who were praying. Not to any others. But they came to the dirtiest, smelliest, lowest, loneliest, and least respected of all the people! Up until then, the angels had only spoken to Mary, Joseph, and Zecharaih, the key players in the story. But now the shepherds.
Heaven couldn't contain its joy and who does it share it with? The most broken group of people and the least reliable group of people it could find! Isn't that why He came? And what a visitation! Not just one angel but a whole choir proclaiming the most amazing thing that has ever happened in the history of whole world since creation!
Why them? In my readings about shepherds one source says they were held in such low esteem that they weren't considered trustworthy enough to even testify in court! Yet the first gospel message was entrusted to them and they were the first to proclaim it! Isn't that the way the Lord works?! Think about that. Who would truly believe them? His message always leaves just a little room for doubt. After seeing one miracle and healing after another, the religious leaders (and us at times) said show us a sign from heaven and then we’ll believe. How many times have we seen healings and miracles or talked to those that have, yet it's still hard for us to truly believe. Even the disciples were slow to believe.
He could have appeared to the earth in great glory, coming from heaven, and leave no doubt. He could still do that today if He wanted, but instead He wants us to believe. He wants us to use the faith we're all born with, to look around and acknowledge the very obvious - that creation must have a creator and that the gospel is true because we instinctively know He loves us. But there is always room for doubt and we get to choose to use that gift of faith that every man is born with and put that faith in Him.
The Shepherds were the first to know. The Shepherds were the first to go and see. The Shepherds were the first to worship Him. The Shepherds were the first to testify about Him. And later on our Lord was called the Good Shepherd and the Great Shepherd of the sheep.
When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. (Luke 2:15-20)