“Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flocks by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid” (Luke 2:8-9).
Can you imagine this? Shepherds living in the fields with sheep. They’re dirty, dusty, tired and pretty smelly. In fact, a predator probably has a hard time distinguishing between shepherd and sheep.
A young lion walks by as shepherds and sheep sleep in the field. He sniffs. Confused, he asks himself, “What does Mama always say? Oh, yes, the short ones are the sheep. The taller ones are the shepherds. I’ll wait until they stand up. Then I’ll know the difference.”
The shepherds have to be on high alert, especially at night, when predators are on the prowl. Who knows when they actually sleep? During the day they’re chasing down sheep caught in the most unusual and also the most usual places.
“Not again, Fluffy! How many times have I told you not to stick you head in the middle of a thicket? Come on, I’ll help you out. Just do what I say,” the shepherd says kindly, but with a tired voice.
As you can imagine, shepherds are not invited to people’s homes for meals. First of all, they don’t have the time to go. Secondly, they are considered lower class citizens. The reputation of the host is very important. He can’t afford to be seen with a shepherd, especially in his own home at his own dinner table. His place in society would be permanently affected. You could even say that it would not have a pleasant smell.
No, shepherds in Jesus’ day were not popular dinner guests or invited to any fancy doings at people’s homes. It’s easy to guess why. They wore those worn out bathrobes, for one thing. Every Christmas program I remember growing up had shepherds dressed in plaid bathrobes. Probably taken from the shepherds’ own closets.
And then there’s the smelling-like-sheep part. No one wants to smell sheep at a fancy get together unless it’s roasting on a spit. So shepherds were considered lower class citizens, and yet shepherds received the very first Christmas card. And a living one at that.
“Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid” (Luke 2:8-9).
An angel from Heaven appears to the shepherds. An angel who’s been in the very presence of God. There were no flashlights back then. No big display lights or even Christmas lights to light up the night. But there was a glorious light shining all around the angel. The light came from God himself. Just by being in his presence, the angel reflects the light from God’s glory.
Wow. “… the glory of the Lord shone all around them” (Luke 2:9).
Of course those shepherds were afraid. They’d never seen anything like it before. Mixed in with their fear must have been reverence, too. Trembling, they probably fell to their knees and covered their heads.
“Then the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger’” (Luke 2:11-12).
As if that’s not enough, a multitude of angels appear, praising God and saying “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (Luke 2:14). With the glory of the Lord shining all around them, the shepherds go into Bethlehem and find the baby Jesus. They become evangelists, telling everyone they encounter all they’ve seen and heard.
These very shepherds who aren’t invited into people’s homes, are helping to spread the Good News, which changes peoples’ hearts. I wonder, as they’re telling about the events, is a little of God’s glory shining around them?
If we’re truly followers of Jesus, does his glory live inside us? Does it spill out and fall onto others around us? Are we reflectors of the Lord’s glory? If we are, then we’re much more than living Christmas cards. Like the shepherds, we’re living lanterns lighting the path to the one born in a stable long ago. The Savior of the world. The Savior of all mankind.
Walk that path with Jesus. Nothing smells sweeter than being in his company.
Kathy Yoder is a devotional writer. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.