They were the dregs of society pulling the night shift in a despised vocation. How unexpected, how illogical, how revolutionary it was that The Holy One of All would choose these men to receive His the joyful news- His Son, Messiah, was born. The darkness was most certainly heavy that night. Perhaps the shepherds were telling stories around the fire. Maybe a comfortable silence had settled over them broken only by an occasional bleating from the sheep, when the night sky split and a shining, fierce angelic being stood among them. Scripture says they were rightly terrified.
Society had taught them they were unclean, in need of forgiveness more than most but this angelic visitor quickly moved to ease their fears. The message from God was not one of judgement, but of good news and great joy.
“For all the people…” (Luke 2:10)
All the people? Even shepherds like them? If indeed Messiah had come, they would have been extremely hesitant to go visit him. Wouldn’t the parents of Messiah reject a group of unclean, despised shepherds?
To the western ear, the angel’s next words are quaint but to the shepherds they are words of the heart, the language of acceptance.
“You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:12)
Shepherds and peasants always wrapped their newborns this way. A household manger filled with fresh straw was a common, and fitting cradle for a poor family. Could it be this new king was just like them?
Their fears of rejection were eased and they went to little Bethlehem to visit the new Messiah with the song of the angels ringing in their ears.
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:14)
Favor, not condemnation. Peace, not judgement. Truly it was the best of news for all.