During the Christmas season, we often see or hear the Christmas story as told through the eyes of Luke in his gospel. I’m particularly fond of this passage:
“In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:8-11 NNAS)
Look at the first thing that the angel said: “don’t be afraid.” I don’t know about you, but if an angel of the Lord showed up in my sleeping quarters tonight, I’d be scared out of my socks. You can bet that the shepherds were, too. But the angel, anticipating their fear, began with words of comfort: “don’t be afraid.” He then went on to announce:
“good news of great joy which will be for all the people.”
Perhaps the most exciting and dynamic truth of Christmas is in that simple statement. It can slip by so quickly that we can miss its beauty and significance. Look at it again:
“good news of great joy which will be for all the people”
All the people.
All the people. Every last one of them. The rich ones, the poor ones, the Jews, the Gentiles, the old, the young, the whatever—All the people. Every last person on our planet is eligible to know and live the great joy of the arrival of the baby Jesus, the Messiah, the Christ.
It is nothing less than pure, divine poetry that the Lord chose a group of shepherds as the first to receive the exciting news. Consider their socio-economic status. Shepherds in that day were roughly equivalent to sharecroppers. They didn’t own the land, they didn’t own the sheep, they didn’t own much at all beyond the clothes on their backs and a shepherd’s staff, a required tool of the trade. They lived out in the fields with the sheep, virtually homeless wanderers. They received a small portion of the profits from the flock when it was shorn or sold, but if a sheep was lost under their care, the value of that sheep came out of their portion, possibly explaining why the shepherd is so insistent on finding the lost sheep in Jesus’ parable.
These guys were poor, homeless, and smelled like sheep. In today’s economy, they could be migrant farm workers, barely getting by, wandering from field to field doing a dirty job for minimal pay. They stood on one of the lowest rungs of the socio-economic ladder, with little climbing potential.
And those lowly, smelly, bottom-rung-dwelling shepherds were the ones to whom God chose to announce the greatest news in all of history, the birth of their Savior, Christ the Lord.
If the Savior could reach to the lowly shepherd, there could never be a person in their society—or in ours—who could say “He’s not for me. I’m not good enough.”
“A Savior, who is Christ, the Lord.”
A Savior for the shepherds.
A Savior for ALL the people.
A Savior for you.