The Christmas story is one of the greatest stories told. It is historically validated and infused with hope! You can never have too much hope! (Can I get an AMEN!)
In Luke 2, we are given another layer of the Christmas story where shepherds keeping watch of their flocks at night are visited by a host of angels. This encounter will provide another key turning point in the Nativity story and provide us with a glimpse into God’s love for His creation.
Historically Christmas, the birth of Jesus, has been celebrated on December 25th, dating back to the 4th century, although it’s widely accepted that Jesus was not born on December 25th.
So why December 25th?
December 25th was the celebration of the Roman festivals of Saturnalia and the winter solstice. Christians would not participate in such events, so they choose to redeem the date by commemorating the birth of Jesus.
If God wanted us to know the exact date, He would have conveyed that to the New Testament writers. Instead, what He wanted us to know are the events surrounding the birth of Jesus.
So whether it happened in December or mid-summer is inconsequential. The reality is that He was born, and His birth changes everything!
On that first Christmas, Angels appeared to Shepherds keeping watch of their flocks nearby. Culturally speaking, it was an unusual choice for shepherds to receive the first notification of the birth of Jesus, but this was an intentional act.
God was making a statement!
Years ago, the Discovery Channel aired a series called Dirty Jobs. Host Mike Rowe visited and participated in some of the most difficult, strangest, disgusting, or messy jobs in America, some of which would be avoided by most people.
Shepherding in Bible times would have qualified a visit from Mike Rowe.
Shepherding was a dirty and difficult job. Their responsibilities took them away from society for extended periods. Without opportunities to go to the temple to make the proper sacrifices, they were ceremonially unclean.
As a result, they held a lowly place in society and were considered untrustworthy. Rabbinical writings placed shepherds in the same category as gamblers and tax collectors and prohibited them from being a witness in court.
Yet, we see later in Jesus’ ministry how He specifically revives the occupation of a shepherd by declaring Himself to be the good shepherd. The New Testament title of Pastor comes from the Greek word, which means shepherd.
Another interesting point regarding these shepherds was that their proximity to Jerusalem indicates that they were likely watching over the sheep that were used for the temple sacrifices.
So picture this, the men who were considered so sinful that they were perpetually unclean preserved the sacrifices that would make other members of society clean.
In other words, these shepherds were being used for what they did, but they were also rejected for the same reasons! This is what you call the convenience of hypocrisy.
So that raises the question, why did God deliver this all-important message to such ill-reputed people? That’s because God doesn’t see people as others see people! AMEN!!
The Angelic appearance to these shepherds uncovered a life-giving truth to us all. God’s value system is categorically different from our value system. God’s validation of these rejected people gave them a chance to break free of the stereotypes which defined them.
The stereotypes or mindsets you feel bound by have no influence on God’s view of you or His plans for your life. When God sets a person free, they are free indeed! God sees more in you than you may see in yourself.
One of the worst decisions you can make is allowing the opinions and labels of others to dictate and determine your value and your future! Jesus was not born in a palace where only royalty would have access but in a manger that welcomes all people to come to Him. That’s great news!
As the proclamation of Jesus’ birth was made, it was a message of liberty! As you prepare to celebrate Christmas, it’s an annual reminder of how much God values you and that His plans and purposes for your life have not expired, no matter your past or present!