While Shepherds Watched

No, I have not lost track of time I just started Luke’s gospel and today read his account of the birth of Jesus. He has different details from Matthew’s account and this one verse was suddenly profound though I have read or heard this account more times than I can remember not to mention singing the carol time after time.

Ā Nearby, in the fields outside of Bethlehem, a group of shepherds were guarding their flocks from predators in the darkness of night.

Luke 2:8

Why did Luke include these shepherds? They’d likely be a common group of men, huddled on the hillside, maybe sitting around a small fire with the staff that guided the sheep at hand ready to strike at any predators. Perhaps, like David, they had slings and stones too but in the pitch dark because there was no ambient light from a city or town, the sling would be less accurate than a staff and they would need to be prepared to get in close. Their conversation would be hushed so as not to disturb their flock or wake the ones catching a few hours sleep while the others were on watch, hushed whispers so they could hear the approach of any wild beasts coming to snatch a sheep or lamb. They wouldn’t be relaxed having a pleasant camping trip, this was a serious business protecting their livelihood, even as they stared into the dark in silence they would be alert not daydreaming ready to leap up and defend their flock.

I think I just answered my question. After all, who was being born in the stable but the Good Shepherd? The One who would eventually lay down His life for His flock. The One who had come to gather those who were lost and guide them, to lead them like a shepherd to good pasture where they would listen to His voice and be safe and secure.

Luke was writing after the death and resurrection and as he heard about where Jesus was born and about the angels proclaiming His birth to these shepherds who were doing in the physical what Jesus would do spiritually I imagine he knew that he had to include them in his account. I don’t think I will ever sing that Christmas Carol the same way again.


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