What Do We Know about the Shepherds at Jesus’ Birth?
The four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John serve as the foundation of the New Testament. These four books chronicle the story of the coming of the Messiah, who is also known as Jesus the Christ. Only one of these four books takes us through the events leading up to Jesus’ birth. In Matthew, we are only given Jesus’ lineage; in John, we are told of Jesus’ Godhead (the Word became flesh); and in Mark, we are only given Jesus as an adult. Our entrance into the sacred moments surrounding Jesus’ birth is granted solely in Luke’s account, and this includes the shepherds.
Interpreting the Story of Jesus’ Birth
Nativities scenes, Christmas songs, and Christmas plays are all examples of ways in which we might learn about Jesus’ birth from the Bible. Artistic liberty is a term that refers to the use of creativity in a creative endeavor. This may often be beneficial in terms of broadening our perspective. However, there are situations when it can distort the facts and, as a result, what we believe we know. The wise men are often depicted alongside the shepherds in nativity scenes, but their arrival and departure times are not always the same.
Look at the narrative as it is told in the Bible to see if we can learn anything about the shepherds from it.
The Story of Jesus’ Birth
According to Luke 2:1-21, the narrative of Jesus’ birth is told. Furthermore, it came to happen during those days that an edict from Caesar Augustus was issued ordering the imposition of taxes across the entire world. (And this taxation was instituted for the first time during Cyrenius’ tenure as governor of Syria.) And they all went to their respective cities to pay their taxes. And Joseph likewise went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, into the city of David, which is named Bethlehem; (for he was of the family and lineage of David:) to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, who was nine months pregnant at the time of his taxation.
- In the meantime, she gave birth to her firstborn son, wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and put him in a manger because there was no space for them at the inn where they were staying.
- And, lo, the angel of the Lord descended upon them, and the glory of the Lord shined around them, and they were terrified to their hearts’ content.
- Also, the following will serve as a sign unto you: you will discover the child lying in a manger clothed in swaddling cloths.
- And when they saw it, they spread the word of the saying that had been imparted to them about this kid all throughout the world.
- Mary, on the other hand, treasured all of these things and pondered them in her heart.
As soon as the eight days for the circumcision of the kid were over, the child’s name was changed to Jesus, which was the name given to him by an angel before he was created in the womb.
What We Know about the Shepherds
Nobody knows who they were or how many they were since we don’t know their names. Although there are different reports about their social standing, it is apparent that God considered them to be significant. Here are a few facts that we may learn about:
- They were the first to be told
- They were busy doing what they always do
- sThey saw and heard the angel of the Lord
- They were afraid at first
- sThey saw and heard the host of angels praising God
- They believed the angel of the Lord and went to see Jesus — with haste
- They were the first evangelists
- They saw Jesus long before the wise men. He was less than a-week-old in the manger
The shepherds are an integral element of the nativity story and should not be overlooked in our celebration. Photo courtesy of iStock/Getty Images Plus/rudall30/public domain Author, coach, and speaker Danielle Bernock is a multi-award-winning worldwide author, coach, and speaker who specializes in empowering individuals to accept their worth and heal their souls through the power of God’s love. She has published several books, includingEmerging With Wings, A Bird Named Payn, Love’s Manifesto, and Because You Matter, and she is the host of theVictorious Souls Podcast.
She lives with her husband in Michigan, close to her adult children and grandkids.
The Christmas Story – The Shepherds and Angels
What was it about the Shepherds that made them the first individuals to learn of Jesus’ birth? And what a fantastic method in which they learned about it!
The Story in the Bible
Shepherds were also there in the same territory, camped out in the field and keeping watch over their flocks during the night. In the midst of it all, an angel of the Lord stood beside them, and they were scared as the glory of the Lord shined around them. “Do not be frightened, for behold, I bring you good news of great pleasure that will be shared by all the people,” the angel assured them. For there has been born to you today in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord, who has come to save you from your sins.
- “Let us go to Bethlehem right away and see what has happened,” the shepherds agreed.
- When they saw it, they immediately shared the statement that had been shared with them regarding this kid.
- Mary, on the other hand, saved all of these sayings and pondered them in her heart.
- Luke 2:8-20 (KJV)
The History behind the Shepherds and Angels in the Christmas Story
In those days, many people believed that sheep farmers were typically regarded as having little or no worth by their fellow human beings. The ‘fat tailed’ (also known as wide tailed) sheep that the shepherds would have been rearing were the sort that would have been raised. They frequently had lambs in the fall and winter, rather than the spring, which is the time of year when most sheep in western nations give birth. The shepherds were calmly going about their job when an angel appeared in front of them and told them to be still.
- When the angel spoke to them, he informed them about Jesus and his miraculous birth, and he explained how they could recognize him in such a populous town as theirs.
- Considering that this was just the second occasion in the whole Bible when a group of angels appeared rather than a single angel appeared to mankind, it was clear that they had a very important message to deliver to them.
- In order to learn more about angels, you may visit the sister website of whychristmas?com, whyangels?com.
- Just a few miles outside of Bethlehem, there existed a particular watchtower known as the Migdal Eder, which literally translated means ‘The Tower of the Flock.’ Sheep bred in the area are believed to have been used as sacrificial animals in the Jewish Temple in nearby Jerusalem.
- Many people believe the lambs at Migdal Eder were given a health check by being placed in a manger (or in a rock pit to keep them from running away), and they were even dressed up in swaddling clothes to demonstrate that they were special!
- One old Bible prophecy also stated that the Jewish messiah will come to the ‘tower of the sheep,’ which is located in Jerusalem (Micah 4:8).
As a result of their encounter with the newborn, the Bible states that “they spread the news about what had been told them about this child, and everyone who heard it was surprised at what the shepherds reported to them.” If they had been shepherds from Migdal Eder, they could have told the people they encountered on the way back to the hills, their friends and relatives in Bethlehem and Jerusalem, the’middle class’ people to whom they sold sheep, and the people and priests at the Jewish Temple when they brought their best sheep and lambs to be sold there for sacrifices, that they were from the region.
That this exceptionally unique infant had been born in a ‘regular’ house (or in the Migdal Eder), rather than in a wealthy family home or a royal palace, would have been astonishment to both the shepherds and the people who heard about it from them.
The Real Truth About the Shepherds on That First Christmas Night
“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord,” the prophet Isaiah writes in the book of Isaiah. Luke 2:11 (NIV) On this particular night, the shepherds were out and about, keeping an eye on their flocks of sheep and safeguarding them from predators like they would on any other night of the year. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, the angels of heaven arrived and announced the greatest news in the history of news: the birth of Jesus Christ! According to popular belief, the shepherds were impoverished, smelly, and ragamuffin.
- Yes, they were smelly and possibly a little untidy, but they were not the destitute, country-bumpkin farmers eking out a livelihood as we’ve always been told they were.
- So, who were these shepherds in the first place?
- A short look at the responsibilities of Jewish priests reveals everything.
- The tale is laid out for us in Luke 2:8–20.
- For today, in the city of David, a Savior has been born to you, and his name is Christ the Lord.
- They arrived in a hurried manner and saw Mary and Joseph, as well as the infant, who was resting in the feeding trough.
- All who heard it were taken aback by the things that the shepherds had said to them in their language.
As the story goes, “the shepherds returned, worshiping and thanking God for everything they had heard and seen, exactly as it had been told to them.” (WEB) The most common narrative we hear about these shepherds is that they were impoverished and filthy.
That is, to a certain extent, correct.
These shepherds, on the other hand, were not outcasts from society.
It is only of the Mishnah that we know they were priests.
The Mishnah is divided into three sections: As stated in one of its commandments, it “expressly bans the keeping of sheep throughout the country of Israel save in the desert —and the only animals that would be allowed to be maintained would be those for the Temple service” (Bab K.7:7; 80a).
As a result, they had to have been priests.
This is due to the fact that the sheep were scheduled to be sacrificed during the Passover celebration.
In another passage from the Mishnah, it is said that the Messiah would be revealed from the Migdal Eder, which translates as “tower of the sheep.” It was a real tower that existed just outside of town, within the grounds of the Temple priests’ compound.
It was the priest’s responsibility to remain in the Migdal Eder throughout the night.
(Isn’t it wonderful how such a small word can convey such a great deal of significance in the Bible?) Given that the shepherds were in the fields on a consistent basis, they were most certainly filthy, but they were not a group of impoverished shepherds.
No matter how you look at it, they were still shepherds in their hearts and minds.
Far if the notion that the angels appeared initially to impoverished, illiterate rural shepherds makes a great deal of sense, the truth is even more compelling.
Among other things, it was their responsibility to prepare the sheep for the Passover holiday and other Jewish festivities.
While it is likely that the shepherds were unaware of what was taking place, the angel was hand-delivering a message to them, informing them that the time for animal sacrifice was drawing to a close, and they were the first to find out.
Luke 2:11 (NIV) He was finally born as the promised Messiah, the Savior of the world, whom the priests had been hearing about from the prophets for hundreds of years.
Now, via His death and resurrection, Jesus would prove to be the ultimate and perfect sacrifice, paying the price for man’s sin once and for all.
I’m sure you’d be running as well, wouldn’t you?
Regarding the swaddling cloths, just a little aside.
The rags Mary and Joseph used were neither rags Mary and Joseph brought from home or rags they happened to discover in the stable.
It is unclear where Mary and Joseph obtained the cloths, but theologians assume that they came from the priest Zacharias, whose wife, Elizabeth, is Mary’s cousin, and that they were given to them by Elizabeth.
As a result, the shepherds discovered baby Jesus, who had been wrapped in priestly robes.
As the Lamb of God (John 1:29) and the great High Priest, it is only fair that He should be slaughtered like a lamb for the salvation of all people at some point in the future.
What a blessing it is that we no longer have to sacrifice animals because of the price that Jesus paid on our behalf.
It is recorded in the Bible that the shepherds “returned, glorifying and thanking God for everything that they had heard and seen” after witnessing Jesus with their own eyes (Luke 10:20).
Knowing that the Savior of the world has arrived should inspire all of us to express our joy in His presence. From my family to yours, I wish you and yours a very happy Christmas!
Annunciation to the shepherds – Wikipedia
The annunciation to the shepherds is shown in this late 15th-century Flemish miniature. When angels announce the birth of Jesus to a group of shepherds, it is known as the annunciation to the shepherds. It is portrayed in the Bible in Luke 2 as an occurrence in the Nativity of Jesus. It is a popular theme in Christian art as well as in Christmas carols and hymns.
Rembrandt The Angel Appearing to the Shepherds (The Angel Appearing to the Shepherds, 1634). Shepherds were tending their flocks in the countryside near Bethlehem when they were startled by the appearance of an angel, as reported in lines 8–20 of the second chapter of the Gospel of Luke. The shepherds were scared. The angel adds that he has a message of good news for everyone, and that this message is that God has forgiven everyone “A Savior has been born to you today in the town of David; he is the Messiah, the Lord, and he has come to save you.
This will serve as a sign for you.” “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests,” sings a slew of angels as they praise God with the lyrics, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” The shepherds decide to follow the angel’s instructions and journey to Bethlehem, where they discover Mary and Joseph, as well as the child Jesus, sleeping in a manger, exactly as they had been informed.
Following then, the shepherds’ admiration is shown.
The words of the angels are translated differently in the King James Version of the Bible than in current editions, with the lines “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward mankind” being used instead of “Glory to God in the highest.” It is this earlier translation that is reflected in most Christmas carols, with “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear,” for example, utilizing the phrases “Peace on the world, good will to mankind,” from Heaven’s all gracious King, as an example.
The discrepancy can be traced to a disagreement about the Greek text of the New Testament concerning a single letter.
The last word of the text is in thegenitivecase, which means “on earth peace to men of good will,” and it is in thegenitivecase because it is in thegenitivecase because it is in thegenitivecase because it is in thegenitivecase because it is in thegenitivecase because it is in thegenitivecase because it is in thegenitive (apparently reflecting a Semitic idiom that reads strangely in Greek).
Although this is the reading found in the original version of the ancientCodex Sinaiticus(denoted * by scholars), it has been altered by the erasure of the last lettertoepi gs eirna en anthrpois eudokia( ), which literally translates as “on earth (first subject: peace) to men (second subject: good will),” with two subjects in thenominative case.
The editedCodex Sinaiticus is consistent with the reading of some other ancient Greek manuscripts (and many medieval manuscripts), but most modern scholars and Bible translators accept the reading of most ancient manuscripts, which is “on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests” (NIV) or “on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased” (NIV) (ESV).
It is generally agreed that the fact that this message was delivered to shepherds, who were believed to be on the bottom rungs of the social ladder in first-century Palestine, is noteworthy. While they are in direct opposition to the more powerful people portrayed in theNativity, such as the Emperor Augustus, they appear to represent Mary’s words in theMagnificat: “He has brought rulers from their thrones, but he has exalted the lowly.” Taking the shepherds, who are assumed to be Jewish, and combining them with the GentileThree Magi, who were later thought to be one from each of the three continents then known, represent the first official declaration of the Christian message to all peoples of the world, according to later tradition.
In the past, the phrase “peace to men on whom his favor rests” has been read both restrictively, referring to a certain set of individuals that God has selected, and inclusively, referring to God exhibiting favor to the whole world.
Depiction in art
Initially shown exclusively as a component of a larger Nativity scene, the annunciation to the shepherds became an independent topic for art in the 9th century, but has remained a relatively unusual subject for art, with the exception of long cycles with several scenes, until the present day. As a standardByzantinedepiction, which is still used inEastern Orthodoxicons today, the scene is shown in the backdrop of aNativity, normally on the right, with the Three Magiapproaching on the left. This is also quite frequent in the Western world, albeit the Magi are very rarely included in the story.
- A similar scene is depicted in theNativity at NightofGeertgen tot Sint Jans, when the shepherds are seen the annunciation from a hillside via a gap in the stable wall.
- These scenes are properly called as the Adoration of the Shepherds.
- This is also consistent with the biblical interpretation of this episode, in which these two groups represented the peoples of the world between them.
- It is fairly uncommon for sceneries in the backdrop of a Nativity scene to portray the shepherds on a steep hill, which helps to visually explain their placement above the main Nativity scene.
- Despite the fact that the annunciation to the shepherds became less prevalent as a standalone topic in the late Middle Ages, portrayals of it lasted until the twentieth century.
Aside with theAgony in the Garden and the Arrest of Christ, this scene is considered to be one of the most important for the evolution of the representation of night scenes, particularly in early Netherlandish painting and manuscript illustration in the 15th century (see illustrations here and theGeertgen tot Sint Janslinked above).
The shepherds are sometimes represented with musical instruments in Renaissance art, which draws inspiration from ancient myths of Orpheus. While a joyful Virgin Mary stands to one side, a lovely but unusual miniature in theLa Flora HoursinNaplesshows the shepherds playing with theInfant Jesus.
The Annunciation is a subject that appears frequently in Christmas cantatas. Part II of Bach’sChristmas Oratorio, and Part I of Handel’s Messiah both include passages from Und es waren Hirten in derselben Gegend (And there were Hirten in the Same Place), which is one of Bach’s most famous works.
The annunciation to the shepherds is mentioned in a number of Christmas songs, with the Gloria in Excelsis Deo being the most ancient. “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” a poem by Phillips Brooks written in 1867, has the lines “O morning stars together, announce the holy birth, / And praises sing to God the King, and peace to mankind on earth! ” “Shepherds quiver at the sight; / Glories pour from heaven afar, / Heavenly hosts cry Alleluia!” proclaims the original German song ” Silent Night.” The event plays a significantly larger part in Charles Wesley’s ” Hark!
The Herald Angels Sing ” The herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King;Peace on earth, and mild mercy;God and sinners reconciled!” “Glory to the newborn King; Peace on earth, and mild mercy; God and sinners reconciled!” All ye nations rise in joy; join in the victory of the sky; and with the celestial host declare, “Christ has been born in Bethlehem!” The annunciation to the shepherds is the subject of Nahum Tate’s well-known carol ” While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks ” (1700), and the episode is also mentioned in ” The First Nowell “, ” Angels from the Realms of Glory “, and the originally French carol ” Angels We Have Heard on High “, among many other works of literature.
Similarly, the hymn ” It Came Upon the Midnight Clear “, written byHenry Wadsworth Longfellow during the American Civil War, focuses on the words “Peace on earth, good will to mankind” in a pacifist context, as does the carol ” I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day “.
In popular culture
Throughout history, the phrase “peace on earth, good will toward mankind” has been employed in a number of circumstances. To give an example, Samuel Morse’s parting telegram in 1871 stated: “All throughout the world, greetings and gratitude are sent to the telegraph fraternity. S. F. B. Morse said, “Glory to God in the highest, peace on earth, and good will toward men.”” After reciting the scenario verbatim at the conclusion of A Charlie Brown Christmas, Linus van Peltre explains to Charlie Brown how this is “the essence of Christmas,Charlie Brown.” It is used as a juxtaposition in the novelty song “I Yust Go Nuts for Christmas,” in which Gabriel Heatterpreaches the annunciation of peace and good will, and “(exactly) at that time, someone smacks Uncle Ben,” to contrast the purpose of the holiday with the typically chaotic character of the festivities.
- AbLuke 2:11–12, NIV (BibleGateway)
- AbLuke 2:14, NIV (BibleGateway)
- AbLuke 2:14, KJV (BibleGateway)
- AbAland, Kurt
- Barbara Aland (BibleGateway)
- Barbara Aland (BibleGateway) (1995). Textual criticism of the New Testament: an introduction to the critical editions of the Bible, as well as the philosophy and practice of modern textual criticism A commentary on the Greek text of the Gospel of Luke by I. Howard Marshall (Eerdmans, 1978)
- AbcdGreen, Joel B.,The Gospel of Luke (Eerdmans), 1997
- AbcdAland, Kurt
- Black, Matthew
- Martini, Carlo M
- Metzger, Bruce M
- Wikgren, Allen (Eerdmans, 1997)
- AbcdGreen, Joel B.,The Gospel of Luke (Eerdman (1983). This is the third edition of the Greek New Testament. United Bible Societies, Stuttgart, pp. xv, xxvii, and 207. Stuttgart: United Bible Societies. The ISBN for this book is 3-438-05113-3
- Aland & Aland, p. 233
- The erasure may be seen in the onlineCodex Sinaiticusat the top left of the relevant page, at the end of the sixth line of the first column, which is the last line of the first column. Archived from the original on July 25, 2011, via theWayback Machine. In addition, see here for a manuscript comparison tool
- Luke 2:14, ESV (BibleGateway)
- Douay-Rheims Bible online (Luke 2), from the Latin ” in terra pax in hominibus bonae voluntatis.”
- New American Bible online (Luke 2)
- See alsohere for a comparison of many other translations
- Green, p. 130
Who were the Shepherds in the Christmas Story? – Temple Study
The Shepherds are informed of the Good News, Painting by Abraham Hondius, 1663, oil on canvas. (To see a bigger version of this image, click here.) The following is an excerpt from the Christmas narrative in Luke 2: Shepherds were also out in the field, keeping watch over their flocks during the night in the same region of the nation as well. And, lo, the angel of the Lord descended upon them, and the glory of the Lord shined around them, and they were terrified to their hearts’ content. They were comforted by the angel’s words: “Fear not; for, see, I bring you good news of great joy that will be to all humanity.” For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord, who is the fulfillment of all Scripture.
- This will serve as a reminder to you.
- And once they had seen it, they spread the word throughout the world about the statement that had been given to them about this kid.
- Mary, on the other hand, treasured all of these things and pondered them in her heart.
- (See Luke 2:8-20 for further information.) We are all familiar with these verses since it is a family custom in many households to recite this tale every year around the time of the Christmas season in order to remind us of the actual meaning of the holiday season.
- Have you, like me, thought that the angelophany to the shepherds in their fields was a wholly random event that happened by chance?
- Or was the heavenly revelation to these shepherds part of a larger plan with a grander purpose in mind?
- During a preview of the upcoming Messiah documentary, which aired on BYU-TV on December 6th, Professor Dr.
These shepherds may have been men who were used to slaughtering and preparing lambs that were symbolic of the Messiah because of their cleanliness, perfection, and sacrifice on the altar of the temple, among other things.
However, there are some other elements worth mentioning.
According to one observer, “This watch tower, which dates back to ancient times, was used by shepherds to protect themselves from their enemies and wild creatures.” It was the location where ewes were sent in order to give birth to the lambs.
It is believed that these particular lambs came from a specific herd that was set aside for sacrifice at the Temple in Jerusalem.
This Migdal Edar was not the watchtower for the common flocks that pastured on the desolate sheep field beyond Bethlehem, but it lay near to the town, on the route to Jerusalem, as stated in Book 2, Chapter 6 of the Messiah’s life.
In the first place, we know that Migdal Edar was a watchtower that watched the Temple flocks that were being raised to be sacrificed in the Temple.
The shepherds who looked after them were guys who had received specialized training for this regal duty.
It was their responsibility to ensure that none of the animals were injured, harmed, or blemished throughout the process.
As a result, following the founding of Temple worship in Jerusalem, the fields outside of Bethlehem were transformed into a specific group of shepherds who were responsible for raising the lambs that were slaughtered in the Temple.
sheep were born in the Tower of the Flock, and the surrounding fields served as grazing grounds for the flocks of shepherds who came to graze.
It was to this location that Joseph transported Mary.
… Shepherds were out in the fields at night, keeping watch over their flocks, according to Luke 2:8-18, who recorded this.
Without a doubt, these were shepherds who lived in the vicinity of Bethlehem.
The shepherds were merely instructed that they would discover the Babe wrapped in “swaddling cloths and lying in a manger” by the angels, and that was it.
These were the men who were responsible for the raising of the sacrificial lambs that were sacrificed in the Temple.
You will be unable to explain the meaning or direction of the sign they were given, or their response, unless you have the proper manger and shepherds!
Tens of thousands of lambs had been sacrificed in order to prefigure His birth, and He was born in the identical area where they had been sacrificed.
Jesus was not born in a squalid stable behind an inn, where travelers’ donkeys and other animals were kept, as is commonly believed.
He was the son of Mary and Joseph.
Abrams III)) I’m not sure how much of this commentator’s assertions can be verified, but it’s an intriguing point to explore anyway.
During this 17th century art piece, the angels in heaven are seen dancing in circular rings, which are evocative of old temple prayer circles, with the cherubim grasping each other’s hands in their dances.
Jeffrey Bradshaw characterizes this sort of heavenly worship in the following terms: “Temple motifs in the Christmas tale” When it comes to ancient literature, heavenly worship is invariably represented as taking on a round shape.
According to Nibley, this statement is clarified by the fact that “he is encircled on all sides.” In a similar vein, Lehi depicts God as being seated on his throne “surrounded by countless concourses of angels who are in the attitude of singing and worshipping their God.” In addition, Nibley reminds out that “a concourse is a circle.” Of course, “concourses” is an abbreviation for “circles inside circles.” Similar imagery pertaining to holy circles may be seen in the Islamichajj, during which pilgrims circumambulate theKa’bah and offer prayers in the form of angels, among other things.
When Jesus was teaching His followers about prayer, He stated that “when two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Jeffery Bradshaw’s article, “Temple Themes in Luke’s Account of the Angels and the Shepherds,” appeared in the December 2009 issue of Meridian Magazine.
Shepherds or Wise Men?: The Birth of Jesus
Luke 1:26-56; 2:7; 3:26-56 (The Annunciation to Mary and the Birth of Jesus) Luke 2:8-20 (The Visitation of the Shepherd) Matthew 1:18-25 (New International Version) (The Annunciation to Joseph and the Birth of Jesus) Matthew 2:12 – 12:12 (The Magi Visit)
Luke 1:26-56, 2:1-7 (The Annunciation to Mary and the Birth of Jesus) Luke 2:8-20 (The Shepherd’s Visit)
We will note some significant differences between Luke’s narrative of Jesus’ birth and Matthew’s account of Jesus’ birth in the sections we will read this week. The focus of Luke’s account is on Mary and the shepherds, but the focus of Matthew’s story is on Joseph and the Magi. One of the most important aspects of Luke’s Gospel is the prominent position that women play throughout the narrative, beginning with the part performed by Mary, who serves as a model for all women. Mary is referred to as the “favored one” (or “full of grace” in the ancient language) in the Bible.
- Mary is God’s favored one (1:28), and she has gained favor (1:30) with the Father in Jesus Christ.
- It extends to the most improbable of individuals as well—low-life shepherds out in the fields, whom people in Jesus’ day would have viewed as something akin to the way we see garbage collectors or employees in sewage treatment plants: perennially dirty, as opposed to people today.
- It is not enough, according to Luke’s Gospel, that God’s favor has been extended to Mary, or even that God’s favor has been extended to the “unwashed” keepers of sheep.
- As a result, at the conclusion of his first lecture, Jesus declares that the year of the Lord’s favor has begun to be fulfilled in the ears of all those who hear him (4:19)
Matthew 1:18-25 (The Annunciation to Joseph and the Birth of Jesus)Matthew 2:1-12 (The Magi Visit)
In popular culture, the narrative of the visit of the Angel Gabriel to Mary in the Gospel of Luke is referred to as the Annunciation to the Virgin Mary. However, it is less customary, though no less accurate, to assert that the Virgin Joseph receives a heavenly annunciation in Matthew’s Gospel. Just as Luke places an early focus on Mary’s part in Jesus’ birth into the world, Matthew places an early emphasis on Joseph’s role in Jesus’ birth into the world. In a dream, an angel appears to Joseph and assures him that it is acceptable and proper for him to accept Mary as his wife, despite the fact that she is pregnant before they are married.
In Matthew’s story of Jesus’ birth, there are no shepherds to be found.
(Shepherds were regarded ritually unclean because of their mucking around with sheep and sheep manure, and hence were unable to attend the Temple in Jerusalem to offer the prescribed sacrifices.) There is, however, an equally surprising surprise in the choice of people who are picked to be the first visitors to Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel: “unwashed” Gentile Magi who do not even worship the God of Israel!
So it would appear that, despite the differences in emphasis and main characters between Luke and Matthew’s birth stories, one central point about Jesus and his birth is the same: this Messiah will be a surprising one, turning upside down many of the expectations of his fellow Jews as he is welcomed and celebrated by—and will himself welcome and celebrate—”ritually unclean” Jews (the shepherds of Luke) and “unbelieving” Gentiles (the Magi of Matthew) (the Magi of Matthew).
This Jesus will demonstrate God’s favor, God’s love, God’s peace, and God’s healing to anybody who comes to him, whether they are Jews or Gentiles, ritually unclean or those who have never believed in the God of Israel. Bill Rich is a writer and entrepreneur who lives in the United States.
Questions for Reflection
1. Do you find yourself pulled more to Luke’s accounts of Jesus’ birth than you do to Matthew’s accounts? You may be able to pinpoint what it is that pulls you to one Gospel over the other, but can you explain why? God’s favor enters into the world as a result of Mary’s cooperation with the heavenly message she receives from God, despite her reservations and concerns. What fears or apprehensions do you need to get over in order to receive God’s blessing? 3. Many individuals find the emphasis placed on the virgin birth to be difficult to comprehend and accept.
- Would it be more helpful to conceive of virginity as more about being uncluttered (by prior or current distracting obligations) and open to receive what God has to offer instead?
- Jesus’ initial guests are “unwashed” Jews and unbelieving Gentiles, who are among his most ardent supporters.
- For you, how does it alter your perspective to conceive God inviting anything you consider to be unwashed in you to have a personal experience with Jesus?
- What happens when you agree that God wants to announce you—including your unwashed and disbelieving parts—divinely favored?
1 – Do you find yourself pulled more to Luke’s or Matthew’s accounts of Jesus’ birth? You may be able to pinpoint what it is that pulls you to one Gospel over the other, but it may be difficult. God’s favor enters into the world as a result of Mary’s cooperation with the heavenly message she receives from God, despite her fears and anxieties. To gain God’s favor, you must first overcome whatever questions or concerns you may have. Third, the focus on the virgin birth is a source of contention for many people.
- It could help to conceive of virginity as more about being uncluttered (by prior or current distracting obligations) and open to receive whatever God has to offer.
- “Unwashed” Jews and unbelieving Gentiles are among Jesus’ earliest guests.
- What changes in your life when you envision God inviting anything you consider to be unwashed in you to have a personal meeting with him?
- What happens when you believe that God wants to announce you—including your unwashed and disbelieving parts—divinely favored?
Even if we haven’t had the pleasure of witnessing children participate in a Christmas pageant, we are all aware that the Christmas shepherds arrived on the night of Jesus’ birth to announce his arrival. Now, let’s have a look at the place in the Bible where this tale is located, and why it is so crucial to the Christmas story – “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.” They were startled when an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord blazed around them as he appeared to them.
I have fantastic news to share with you that will bring tremendous delight to the entire community.
This will serve as a signal to you: you will come across a baby wrapped in clothes and lying in a manger.
While they were waiting for the angels to return, the shepherds decided to visit Bethlehem to see what had happened, which the Lord had informed them about.
Luke 2:8-15 (KJV) But, except from the fact that they were mentioned in the tale of Jesus’ birth, we know little nothing about these shepherds. What was God’s reasoning for delivering the good news to the shepherds first? Let’s take a closer look at these and other questions.
What The Bible Says About the Shepherds
We don’t have a lot of information on the shepherds other from what we’ve already learned. We know it was likely close to springtime, when shepherds were out in the fields, so we may guess when it happened. Also, they worked the second and third shifts, practically staying up with the sheep the entire time. These people would have resided outside of the town’s boundaries. We don’t have to extend our suspension of disbelief very far to realize that they didn’t have a particularly glamorous career.
- We don’t know much else about these shepherds, do we?
- ” From here he kept watch over them all day, making certain that none of the sheep walked away from the others, and if any did escape his notice and wandered away from the rest, he searched tirelessly until he discovered and returned the sheep.
- He would bring the flock back to the fold in the evenings, counting each one as they went under the rod at the door to ensure that none had gone missing.
- He was frequently required to watch the fold during the nighttime hours against the onslaught of wild creatures or the cunning attempts of a robber on the prowl.” In essence, the task never came to a close.
- A wild beast or an intruder into the flock could not be overlooked by these shepherds, who were required to stay watch at night.
Which Angel Appeared to the Shepherds in the Christmas Story?
When the angel of the Lord appears to them and informs them of the coming of the Messiah, their normally evening responsibilities are thrown into disarray. Even if they didn’t have the best education, they would have been required to memorize the first five books of the Bible while they were children and young adults. They were well acquainted with the predictions concerning this Messiah. As for the angel, he isn’t mentioned by name in the Bible. However, we can safely say that Gabriel is the most probable contender to occupy this position.
Why Did God Choose to Shepherds About theBirth of JesusFirst?
Now comes the big question: why did the Christmas shepherds come to be? After all, it takes the Magi (kings) two years to travel to Bethlehem from their home in Egypt. Aside from the animals in the barn, these shepherds are the first witnesses to the birth of Jesus in the literal sense. “Because God doesn’t care about riches,” we may hear ourselves say over and over. As a result, he chose one of the most humble people in the land to be present at the humble birth of our Savior.” True, but the solution entails more than just this.
In addition, it foreshadows how Israel will treat the Good Shepherd in the future.
However, the fact that the shepherds are the first to witness Jesus’ birth highlights the tone of his life and ministry on earth.
Instead of opting for a life of luxury and power, he comes from humble beginnings and practices humility all the way to the point of death on a crucifix. It all starts with the shepherds, as you might expect. It needs to happen.
4 Facts about the Christmas Shepherds
In addition to the information we now know about these people, what additional do we need to know about them in order to better appreciate the chapter contained in Luke 2? First and foremost, we should be aware that the Israelites were sprung from shepherds, whether they liked it or not. Sheep were raised by the patriarchs themselves, who were responsible for their well-being. Job possessed a flock of 14,000 sheep. And there were a plethora of these animals across the area. However, even though these shepherds were ridiculed by their fellow inhabitants, they had a fascinating past that was interwoven into the very fabric of Semitic life.
This explains why David stayed at home with the flocks while his brothers went off to fight in battle.
Imagine the rage that his brothers felt as they witnessed their eldest brother ascend to the position of high king of Israel.
Sheep are prone to being sunburned or getting tangled in thorny bushes (they are not the brightest of creatures).
In a similar vein, Jesus refers to himself as “our Great Physician.” He bandages up our wounds and brings us back to health.
We do, however, have a Healer and a Provider in our midst.
As a result, people had fewer alternatives when it came to pursuing more desirable occupations in the future.
Still, shepherds were typically seen as untrained or illiterate, which contributed to their negative connotation in Jesus’ day.
What a blessing it is that God picked the most despised of the despised to see the most significant birth of all time.
If God had picked a monarch or a religious leader instead, the course of events would have been drastically different.
Photograph courtesy of Getty Images/KristiLinton She is a multi-published author and a graduate of the professional writing program at Taylor University, where she studied creative writing.
As a writer and editor, she has worked for a number of different publishing firms as well as periodicals, newspapers, and literary agencies, and she has worked with writers such as Jerry B.
Her modern-day Daniel trilogy, published by IlluminateYA, is now available.
Her inspirational adult novel Picture Imperfect, which will be released in November of 2021, will also be released.
As part of our bigger Christmas and Advent resource library, which focuses on the events leading up to the birth of Jesus Christ, this piece is included.
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