During this Advent season we prepare our hearts to celebrate the birth of the Savior. As we think of the true meaning of Christmas, there are so many images that come to mind: Angels and kings, stars and wise men, mangers and midnight journeys. One of the most enduring and poignant images is that of the humble shepherds of Bethlehem, men selected by the Almighty to witness the Messiah’s birth on this planet. Consider the beginning of the story as found in Luke:
8 Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. 10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” ( Luke 2:8-12 NKJV)
In ancient Israel shepherds held an interesting place in Jewish society. Sheep and shepherding were an integral part of Jewish culture and life. Consider how many passages in the Hebrew Bible refer to shepherds, the 23rd Psalm included. Many of God’s great men raised sheep, or worked as shepherds—Abraham, Moses, and David among them. And the Bible quite often refers to God’s people as being like sheep.
Yet, as important as raising sheep was to Israelite culture and society, the shepherds themselves were somewhat shunned and ostracized. In a way, this makes sense. Ever spend any time in a sheepfold? Sheep are cute and cuddly. They are also dirty and smelly. And the shepherds who spend their days (and nights) caring for these animals also tend to end up being… well, dirty and smelly. So for the ancient Jews, they had an appreciation for what shepherds did—but they didn’t want to invite them home for family dinner. As a result, shepherds were sort of society outcasts.
Have you ever felt like an outcast? Often a feeling of being overlooked, ignored or rejected causes a lot of anguish for people at Christmastime. You go to a family holiday get-together, and you are treated like the black sheep of the family. You find yourself feeling like an outsider among your own kin-folk. For some, family rejection is as much a part of the holidays as egg nog and Christmas trees.
Or… perhaps you have no family. You watch as others get together and enjoy heartwarming family festivals, and you are left out… alone, forgotten, ignored, perhaps even abandoned. For you, Christmas is a time of loneliness and regret.
If this is your story, then take heart. You who feel rejected or neglected at Christmas should know that there is a message for you in the story of the shepherds. You are not forgotten. Your heavenly Father has not rejected you. The Lamb of God has not neglected you. Consider the shepherds as a sign of this truth. The sometimes despised, often shunned shepherds of Bethlehem were chosen by God to bear witness to the birth of the Savior. God didn’t choose kings, lord and noblemen. He hand-picked lowly, rejected shepherds to experience the incredible joy of seeing the newborn Christ Child. He selected society’s outcasts to be part of the Holy Family’s first night together as a family. Talk about an amazing Christmas family get-together! The rejected ones were welcomed as guests in the most important family gathering in all of history!
So child of God, take heart. This Christmas season you are invited to be a part of the greatest family Christmas celebration of all. You are welcome to come to the Father’s home, sit at His holiday table, and be accepted and respected by the One who knows you best and loves you most. You are received into fellowship with your Father who says, “I will never leave. I will never forsake.”
Truth Builders is a ministry initiative of Advancing Native Missions. However, the content of this site is the personal opinion of Victor Morris, and does not necessarily reflect the opinions, views or conclusions of Advancing Native Missions, its leaders or staff