And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
— Luke 2:8–20
Shepherds were diligent, alert, willing to pursue even one that wandered, not afraid to get dirty, had a livelihood that depended on knowing where each sheep was and on guiding them in the direction they should go. Herding sheep wasn’t a glamorous occupation, and it was certainly not for the faint of heart. It also had to be lonely at times. While I am sure that the shepherds had quite the collection of memorable stories based on some crazy experiences, I am pretty confident that none of them could’ve imagined all that would transpire that night. They were keeping watch over their flocks, doing what they knew to do. When the angels appeared to the shepherds, they were in the midst of their routine.
The birth announcement of Jesus was proclaimed in heavenly array for the shepherds to see. I can imagine the total shock and fear that initially transpired. Even as the angel told them not to be afraid, I think that the shepherds’ hearts must’ve been beating a million miles a minute. Then, to hear the angel’s message about good news of great joy for all people. (Luke 2:10) — the shepherds probably went from shock to hanging onto every word as they began to learn of this hope. I am sure that sparks of doubt and disbelief tried to ignite in the minds of the shepherds. Why would an angel appear to them? They were unclean. They were unworthy. The angel must have made a wrong turn to get to their field. Surely this news was for all the other people. It couldn’t be for them. They had to be dreaming, but the angel continued to unwrap the details:
“Today in the city of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
— Luke 2:11
If the message had been meant for another audience, there is no way the angel would have continued with the details and directions. The shepherds were convinced, and I believe that at the very moment their hearts and minds believed is the exact moment the heavenly hosts of angels appeared — the greatest celebration the world had ever known as heaven unleashed its praise with the most unlikely of honored guests to celebrate the Savior of world.
The celebration continued as the shepherds arrived to find Mary, Joseph and Jesus. Their hearts had been changed at the very news of the Savior, and now, to behold him with their own eyes, grace had a name.
God’s plans are always intentional, thorough, and what is best. He uses everyday, ordinary people to do extraordinary things. He meets us where we are, as we are. His love is for all. His gift of love and life is for all.