Shepherds herd sheep. They gently tend to their sick or wounded sheep while simultaneously leading the ones trying to go their own way with a firm hand. They defend their flock from predators. They nurture the babies. Normally, whenever an unblemished lamb is born, the responsibility falls on shepherds to spread the news that there’s a lamb worthy to be sacrificed.
Shepherds watch over the entire flock. They drop everything to go in search of one lost lamb and rejoice when it’s found. Shepherds must remain alert, all through the long nights. All the time.
Theirs is a lonely job. And it’s a lowly job.
Shepherds are often the bottom rung of society. They’re typically uneducated. In Romania, they wear long, smelly coats made of sheepskin with the fleece on the outside. (When you see a shepherd coming, you want to give him a wide berth and hold your nose.)
Yet God chose a shepherd to become a king. King David, the man after God’s own heart, tended his flock with integrity of heart and skillful hands. In many languages, the word for shepherd is “pastor” and the job description is surprisingly similar
More importantly, God chose shepherds to be the first ones to hear the best, most joyous, news ever uttered. The angels proclaimed to shepherds, at night in a lonely field, that the Lamb of God had come to earth!
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:8-12
The shepherds hurried to see this baby. Then they hurried to spread the word. And all who heard it were amazed.
The Great Shepherd had come. The spotless Lamb who would grow to become the Lamb led to slaughter, the Lamb sacrificed once for all time.
The Lamb who would rise from the grave. The Lamb who would call a fisherman, and later us, to tend his flock. The flock that He loves.