Shepherds are appealing as we anticipate Christmas—because God chose to announce Jesus’ birth to a group of lowly shepherds.
Shepherds are also a familiar Biblical metaphor. Shepherds are used to portray God Himself in the Old Testament. Ezekiel said, As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I [God] look after my sheep. . . . (Ez. 34:12a NIV)
In the new Testament, Jesus identified with shepherds when he said, I am good shepherd. (Jn. 10:11a) So it is fitting that shepherds were among the first to receive news of Christ’s arrival.
And yet, when An angel of the Lord appeared to them [the shepherds] . . . and they were terrified. (Lk. 2:9) Their response was understandable, but their reaction did not demonstrate an ability to care for others—or present a picture of God looking after His people.
So perhaps God had dual vision when He selected these particular shepherds. Perhaps He wanted to emphasize the shepherd image—and perhaps He selected specific shepherds who also represented sheep in need of salvation. When we look at the shepherds as sheep, we can identify with them—and identify with their quest for Jesus.
Originally published December 2, 1983.
8 years ago