“You may be looking for Jesus but Jesus is looking out for you!!”
The profound signiicance of the shepherds at the birth of Jesus.
With Peter Veysie
George Methodist Church
I am so excited to share with you today about the profound significance of the angel directing the shepherds to visit the Saviour of the world.
Most of us do not know a lot about shepherds and I wondered if anyone of us was to apply for the job then what would the qualifications be ?
I asked the staff and the first thing that Kerri-ann said is that you really have to be good at counting sheep without falling asleep !!!
Tough at heart and yet tender – life and death decisions on a daily basis but a deep desire to care for the sheep even when they don’t even recognise it.
24/7 duty – you can’t just ake a holiday !!! Most early shepherds would work in groups but the sheep would still respond mostly only to one voice – the sheep know my voice scripture
Able to handle extreme weathe conditions.
Provide food and pasture for the sheep – moved around a lot.
The rod and the staff in Psalm 23
Observers of changes in soil weather areas and danger.
Know each one by name – they will test you. They are not stupid as we might have thought !!!
They are good examples, set boundaries, trustworthy, providers for the sheep,sacrificial, totally invested, very relational with their sheep and propbably not so good with humans (rejection issues and possibly deeply introverted – some of the best leaders by the way – the quiet wise ones) and definitely visionaries.(increasing the size of their flock and looking after the lambs.
Exposed to the ridicule of others because they were normally the youngest sons who had no inheritance because it was the oldest sons who got the land inheritance etc. The prodigal son story has a whole lot more significance because of this but there’s not enouth time to talk about that today.
God is described as a Shepherd 8 times in the Old Testament and Jesus describes himself as the Good Shepherd John 10:1-18.
- Shepherds in the fields keeping watch over their flocks by night. We need to be aware of the fact that these are not just any shepherds but would have been those chosen to prepare the lambs for sacrifice in the temple and remember that they would have to be unblemished lambs. Remember also that this is all happening in Bethlehem the place of bread and in David’s town who was also the youngest and a shepherd (think about that in terms of being chosen by God as King – there’s hope for all of us who are the youngest children !!!) Most of these shepherds would have had some family connectedness to the line of David. They were obviously outies who were not the most appropriate guests to be the first to be invited to the birth of Jesus !! Surely you invite the important people like the high priest scribes, rabbis and Pahrisees etc !!!After all that I have share we just take note that it’s night time and probably around about late October and not 25th December (winter solstice was celebrated at this time and the early church decided to use this date to celebrate the birth of Jesus).According to Bible commentator Adam Clarke, it was customary for the Jews to send their sheep to pasture from the spring until early October. As the cold winter months began, the flocks would return from the fields for shelter and warmth. Since the shepherds were still tending their flocks in the fields around Bethlehem it can be concluded that the angels announced the news of Jesus’ birth no later than October.
- An angel of the Lord and the glory of the Lord. This night was significantly different for the shepherds and a profoundly spiritual experience. Can you imagine just sitting around the fire with a piece of grass in your mouth – or around the tub having washed your socks ( sorry I had to add that little bit as I am sure you have all sung that once or twice in your lives ) Just a joke !!! They were terrified which is exactly what happens to everyone who encounters an angel ans so it’s frightening. This is both a spiritual and physical experience for the shepherds on a hugely significant level.
- A Saviour has been born in David’s town – Bethlehem – He is the Messiah the Lord. You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger. This would have shocked anyone at the time because they were expecting the Messiah to come in a very different way – a white horse, the restoration of Israel and a mighty warrior who would take over the world and defeat the Romans etc.. Not a baby lying in the eating trough of some animals in a cave !!! In their terrified state they might have just ignored it if it wasn’t for the next thing that happened.
- A mighty big beautiful choir. The establishment of heavenly choirs and worship when it comes to the announcement. “Glory to God in the highest heaven and peace to those on whom his favour rests.” There is always worship when it comes to announcements. The earth is stirred into song and I can imagine the sheep possibly also joining in with a baaa!!!
- Let’s go – yala – when the angel left them they went at once and hurried off. Now just remember not without their sheep !!!
- They found the Saviour – they were looking for Jesus but Jesus was already looking and calling for them. A beautiful moment of truth for these shepherd boys.I really found this part of the story so profound in the sense that we are shown by this story a critical transformative moment for them knowing the scriptures of old which spoke about a saviour as a shepherd Isaiah 4: 11 and the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. John 1:29 and Isaiah 7:14 the virgin will give birth to a son and you are to call him Immanuel. – God with us !!!
- Conclusion I wonder if we are as excited and enthusiastic as the shepherds were to go and look for the Saviour. I wonder if we find ourselves in spaces of spirituality allowing the Holy Spirit to engage with us as he did with the shepherd. I wonder if we are aware of the significanc of who are invited to the celebration of the birth of Jesus – the outsiders called inside ? May we find ourselves this time of celebrating the birth of Jesus embracing the moment of the saviour breaking into our history especially at a time like this !!! Think about the significance of this story and embrace as Mary did – I love this little lineright in the heart of the story – vs “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”
- They returned glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told vs 20.