The scriptural accounts of Jesus’ birth are full of barbs, pricks, and leaps; yet, over time we’ve become so familiar with the story that we now fail to grasp (let alone appreciate) the blessed disruption that always seems to occur when God appears.
Now, on the eve of Christmas, allow me to briefly examine the third of three things wrong with the Christmas story, as we commonly hear it: The under-appreciation of the shepherds’ courage in deciding to visit the manger.
“When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’ So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. (Luke 2:15-18, NIV)
Back in the days of the Nativity, shepherds were the last group of people anyone would choose to entrust with an important message. Their work was menial; their place in society was marginal; and their credibility was suspect. The folks in the village believed all of this about shepherds, and the shepherds knew that the village folk believed this about them.
If you’ve ever been pigeonholed by others — whether because of your gender, race, nationality, or any of the scores of other possible categories — perhaps you can appreciate the shepherds’ tenuous situation. Yes, they were among the first eye-witnesses of the Christ child, but who would believe their report?
According to the numerous “character studies” in the scriptures, God has done marvelous things through humble lives completely yielded to His will. Perhaps this is why it is said that God cares more about our availability than our capability.
It takes courage to move-out, as the shepherds did that night. It takes courage to disregard the opinions of others as you bear witness to what you’ve experienced first-hand. May the courageous example of the humble shepherds inspire you to always say “yes” to God, in spite of reasons to say “no.” – Luther