By Joshua Stevens, Faith Contributor, Valley Ag Voice
We hear the story every Christmas. “’Tis the reason for the season,” people will say while setting up their nativity scenes in their front yards or in their homes, but what if there was something more to the story? Not something that changes the story in any significant way but adds a small amount of depth to a story already teeming with promises past and hope’s future.
We start in the Gospel of Luke: “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.” This angel would go on to tell the shepherds in verses 11 & 12: “‘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.’” (English Standard Version Bible, 2001, Luke. 2:8-9, 11-12)
The story from here is familiar, shepherds were used by God just as He had used them in the past with Abraham, David, and so many others. God has again decided a shepherd should be the first to know the good news. This time the good news is of Jesus’ birth. And we’ve heard it discussed why Jesus was born in Bethlehem, hometown of King David himself and how the Christ’s humble birth was foretold in Malachi. We know the shepherds brought the news the angel told them of newly born messiah, but what is seldom talked about is the sheep those shepherds left behind. They left—not to find the one lost sheep who had wandered off—but to join in heralding the lamb who had come to redeem all the lost of the world.
“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. 18 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.” (English Standard Version Bible, 2001, Luke. 2:16-20)
According to an article written by Bryce Hamond, he suggests that the sheep being watched over by the shepherds in Luke 2 may have been watching over temple sheep, which would go on to be used as sacrifices in Jerusalem (Hamond, 2009).This may or may not be true, however let us for a moment entertain the possibility that the same shepherds who were watching over sacrificial sheep went on to be some of the first to not only greet the baby Jesus but to be some of the first to announce that the Messiah was born.
It seems equally curious and fitting that the Lamb of God would not only be heralded by shepherds but also to be heralded by those shepherds who oversaw the temple sacrifice. Hebrews 9:12 says, “he [Christ] entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.” (English Standard Version Bible, 2001, Heb. 9:12)
The Christmas story we know remains the same, but now when we think of those shepherds greeting our newly born Savior, we can find another reminder that from the Messiah’s first breath He willingly gave His life so that we may find reconciliation through Him, or as Paul says in Romans 5:8-9, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.” (English Standard Version Bible, 2001, Rom. 5:8-9)
Crossway Bibles. (2001). The Holy Bible English Standard Version. Wheaton : Good News Publishers.
Hamond, B. (2009, December 18). Who were the Shepherds in the Christmas Story? Retrieved from Temple Study: TempleStudy.com/2009/12/18/Shepherds-Christmas-Story.