Day 2: Stinky Shepherds

Yet as I read the birth story about Jesus I cannot help but conclude that though the world may be tilted toward the rich and powerful, God is tilted toward the underdog.
— Philip Yancey

Let's talk shepherds.

Both literally and figuratively they were outside of society. They had a lonely job and were removed from any positions or influence in the market place. And in general, they stunk.  

"Shepherds had a hard time maintaining religious purity as the Pharisees defined it. They couldn’t keep the Sabbath because sheep need constant protection. Shepherds spent most of their time in the fields away from society and had no influence to speak of. In modern terms they were blue-collar workers largely unnoticed by those in power. Shepherds were in the lower classes of society." - Gabriel Powell

And if you're going to make a rather large, life-changing announcement, you wouldn't make it to a disheveled group of men who move sheep around in the lonely hills. At least I wouldn't. 

But that's God for you. Doing the unexpected. Always loving the unlovely. The scruffy. The smelly. The not-shiny. The Too Much and Not Enoughs of the world. 

Here's how it went down:

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us. And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
— Luke 2

God seems to have a soft spot for shepherds. Remember King David? Long before he was king, he was an overlooked shepherd kid. Straight-up forgotten. When every other brother was summoned, he was left with the sheep. 

But God turned that sheepish shepherd into a kingly king. 

And let's not forget that later Jesus calls Himself the Good Shepherd. Herding us stubborn folk into a better pasture, even when we insist on eating from the dry and brown and patchy places. 

And maybe that's one of the most unexpected moments: where God announces, like a proud Dad, the arrival of his Baby Boy to some nobodies. With angels and singing and festive lights. With a symphony that out-sings any one of us. With pomp and a puffed-up Dad chest. 

He reveals this to shepherds who were keeping watch over their flock by night. These are the ones that are much like God Himself. Keeping watch over His people at night. In the darkest hours. Not sleeping; instead protecting. As if to say: "Hey, shepherds: I know your kind. I know your work. And I want you to know that today, this very moment, a Baby-King is here. And he's very much like you. You're gunna like Him. He will shepherd. He will herd. He will guide. Why don't you go tell the others about Him for me, will you? Since he's your kind?"

 

Dear God, thank you for coming to us in our stink. In our dark night. In our wandering ways. For coming to us when we are way outside what we hoped we could be. When we are forgotten, side-stepped, alone in the field. When we are the least of these. When we are shepherding and very much need a Shepherd. Thank you for coming to the most unexpected field with a choir of angels and beauty and good news. You're a Good Shepherd. So good. All honor and glory and praise to the Shepherd-King.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come that they may have life, and have it in all its fullness. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.
— Jesus, from John 10:10-11
Like a shepherd He will tend His flock,
In His arm He will gather the lambs
And carry them in His bosom; He will gently lead the nursing ewes.
— Isaiah 40:11