There were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep.
Luke 2:8 NLT
Night watchman, fast food burger flipper, car park attendant, toll booth operator. Midnight shift at the online retailer’s out-of-town warehouse. There are some jobs that put us outside of normal patterns of life.
Maybe it’s just a job that creeps people out and kills conversations at parties: ‘I work at the morgue’. It could be work that keeps us on the road and away from friends and family, like travelling sales or driving a truck. It could be antisocial hours, up early or out late, coming home as everyone else gets up and makes their breakfast. Maybe it’s just a job that’s hard work or dirty, one that few would ever choose for themselves – collecting the trash, cleaning toilets.
Being a shepherd was that kind of a job in first century Palestine. Nobody grew up wanting to be a shepherd. It wasn’t aspirational. Working with animals was considered demeaning, a job for people who weren’t smart enough or responsible enough to do anything else. You’d be out in the hills around the town, sleeping rough, not respected or trusted. And it’s to these guys that the massed ranks of the angel choirs appear.
They’re the ones that see the angels. They’re the ones that hear the announcement. They’re the ones who run into the town to tell everyone else.
This is the most incredible event in the history of the world – the creator entering our reality and being born in human form. It’s the beginning of a new age, a moment so pivotal that we reset the date to year zero and still count the years from this point on. And the news is broken by a bunch of over-excited shepherds running down the streets of Bethlehem in the middle of the night.
God gave them the Christmas story. It’s their story.
And when we hear it and pass it on – whoever we might be and whatever we might do, however important or unimportant we consider ourselves – it becomes our story too.