by Crystal Bowman
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” John 1:29 NIV
In most nativity sets, you will find a shepherd or two or three. It’s because the shepherds were the first to hear the good news that Jesus, the Messiah, had been born. In Luke 2:8-12 (NIV) we read, 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.”
Through the years, many have debated why the angels announced the news to the shepherds first. In Bible times, shepherds were the low rung on the social ladder. They were dirty and smelly and probably not well educated. Some have suggested that this shows how Jesus came to demonstrate His love to everyone—even lowly, humble, scruffy shepherds. Though that is certainly true, there is more to this story.
Most shepherds cared for their flocks in fields that were in the wilderness, far away from any town or city, so the proximity of a field near Bethlehem was an exception. The lambs being bred in the fields near Bethlehem were designated for sacrifice at the Temple in Jerusalem. The shepherds who raised the lambs were trained by priests to inspect the newly born lambs to check for imperfections. If they determined a lamb was free from defects and qualified for sacrifice, they would wash the lamb and wrap it in strips of cloth.
Like most Jews of that time, the shepherds anticipated the coming of the Messiah who had been promised long ago. With his birth, the days of animal sacrifice would soon end. Upon hearing the announcement from the angels, the shepherds left their flocks and raced to the town of Bethlehem, where they found the newborn King wrapped in strips of cloth, lying in a manger. It’s no surprise that these shepherds were overjoyed to see Jesus! Believing and rejoicing, they ran through the town and shared the news with everyone they met.
As we enter into this most holy season of the year, I pray that we will dwell on the true meaning of Christmas; that God loves us so much He sent His only Son to pay for our sins and restore us to a right relationship with Him. Jesus came for everyone—rich and poor, male and female, educated and uneducated, kings and queens, common people, and scruffy shepherds. May we share the joy and excitement of Jesus’s first visitors and run to the manger to see the perfect sacrificial Lamb.
This article is brought to you by the Advance Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).
About the author: Crystal Bowman is a bestselling, award-winning author of more than 100 books including, Our Daily Bread for Kids.She and her husband have three married children and eight huggable grandchildren.
When a child’s grandparent or great-grandparent is afflicted with dementia, it’s difficult to explain the disease in a way that helps the child understand why the person they love is not the same. I Love You to the Stars–When Grandma Forgets, Love Remembers, is a picture book inspired by a true story to help young children understand that even though Grandma is acting differently, she still loves them–to the stars!
Join the conversation: What part of the Christmas story is most meaningful to you?