Why Shepherds?

Initially, when I read the story of the angels announcing the birth of the Christ child to the shepherds, my response was, “couldn’t the host of angels found a more important group to make this earth-shattering event?” From what I read in the Bible, the shepherds were the only group who received this celestial announcement on Christmas morning. True, the wise men saw a star; but, we aren’t exactly sure when the star appeared to them. Further, wise men had to interpret what the star meant. In contrast, the angels were clear what Jesus’ birth meant to the world.

A new acquaintance is a lay Catholic sister at Madonna House. When I told her my observation about angels choosing to give the announcement of Christ’s birth to shepherds, her response was that God loved and saw the value of each shepherd as he loved and valued the wealthiest king in a sumptuous palace. To her, God’s choice of the shepherds for this august announcement was based on love, consequently, not in the least surprising. Not willing to give up my perspective that the shepherds were a strange choice for this august announcement, I asked my husband what he thought. Bruce believes that God’s choice of the shepherds was God’s first symbol that the infant Jesus was born to be the Good Shepherd of the world.

These two responses reminded me that there is no greater love than when a man (or woman) lays down his/her life for another. And, Jesus, the Good Shepherd, gave his life of the sheep, that is, Christ gave his life for you and me. Given Jesus’ love and his actions, having his birth announced to simple, even smelly, shepherds makes God-sense and was consistent with Jesus’ choices while he lived on earth, to include how Jesus died. Recall, the young boy David telling King Saul that he would fight the Philistine giant Goliath with a sling shot. David explained to King Saul that he defended his sheep against bears and lions with a sling shot. Foreshadowing Jesus, David was willing to die to protect his sheep.

Christ died to protect us and save our lives for eternity. But, before Christ could die for us, he had to be born and his birth was announced by a choir of angels to simple shepherds who lived and worked in the Bethlehem area. So why didn’t the angels find a more august group than shepherds to announce the birth of Christ? Because of love and because God decided to start as he determined to finish, as the Good Shepherd who was willing to give his life for the sheep.

Reflection: I always sing along with church choruses. Do you think the shepherds sang along with the choir of angels who sang, “Glory to God in the highest!” What about you? Would you have sang along or just stood there stunned if you saw a host of singing angels?

Copyright: November 11, 2017; Carolyn A. Roth

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