Like all elements of the Christmas story, the account of the shepherds has been parsed, dissected, interpreted and reinterpreted. For instance, one of the great questions regarding the shepherds is ‘why appear to the shepherds?’ I’ve heard many explain how the shepherds were humble and lowly, the kind of people Jesus came to reach. That always seemed to make sense. But I think the real reason may be a tad more obvious.
Why did the angels appear to those shepherds that night, two thousand years ago? Because they were the only ones who were awake. It wasn’t as though there were a lot people working the night shift in those days. Only shepherds would be around to receive the angel’s message.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized there are several amazing things about their response to that event. For instance, they were attentive. They listened to the angel and noted the signs he gave. They weren’t so scared that they were completely clueless to what was really going on that night.
The shepherds were also inquisitive. They didn’t simply take the angel’s word for it. They wanted to find out for themselves. Following the signs given by the angel, they found Mary and Joseph and the Christ child in the manger.
After they found the child, they shared everything they saw and heard. When God showed up, the shepherds couldn’t wait to tell anyone and everyone. They weren’t simply the first witnesses of the Christ, they were the first to share the good news.
The story of the shepherds proves that so often God shows up unexpectedly. Yet the shepherds were ready. If nothing else, they teach us that we, too, should be ready for when God speaks.