It's dark above. The sky laced with stars their only light.
Their occupation was one with mental room to spare. They worked with their hands. They corrected with their rod, and they defended with their staff. The ones entrusted to their care the only animals without any form of self-defense.
Shepherds, well-acquainted with dirt, care of the lowly, the needy, the helpless.
These shepherds, they were raising their sheep for the slaughter. Sacrifices made year after year. The annual celebration of the Passover sobered them. A feast dedicated to ingrain deeper into God's people the awareness of the bondage they couldn't escape in Egypt—the bondage of their souls to darkness.
The lamb they'd pick out for Passover on day ten stayed with them four days, long enough for any child to name it, play with it, love that little lamb without blemish. None of the lamb's bones could be broken. The tender care required appealed to each and every man to embrace the brokenness he couldn't escape. At twilight on the fourteenth day, they'd kill it. Blood spattered on their hands, the stain of it whispering the story of redemption. The color of it beckoned them to the shore their forefathers had stood without defense, desperate for their lives. Desperate for deliverance.
Blood was a necessary price for sin.
If anyone's hearts longed for deliverance more than these shepherds, you might find it hard to believe. They kept watch over their flock by day and by night, only to see them slaughtered for sins. They laid down their lives for sheep who'd find a certain death in the hands of sinful men. The heart of the Father, they knew more than they realized.
The sky lit up, a terrifying sight, like the holy fire that consumed the altar's sacrifices. The steadfast shepherds trembled. They were filled with great fear.
The shadow cast by the Old Covenant was being lifted before their eyes. The dawning of what their heavy hearts were waiting for, were cultivated for, was upon them.
On those who dwelt in darkness, the glory of God shone in abundant light. Good news of great joy rang in their ears. The announcement of a Savior: the Christ. The long-awaited Messiah, the One who'd stand and shepherd His flock with God's own strength and majesty. Who'd break the staff for their shoulders and the rod of their oppression. Who'd take on the yoke of their burden--the yoke of sin and slavery—and deliver them into peace and security.
Unto them a firstborn Son who’d redeem the sheep who went astray. The Good Shepherd content to become a sheep for slaughter. The Lion of Judah humbled as the Lamb of God, slain for the sins of the world. The blood of the New Covenant potent enough to lift the curse.
The paradox of this gospel, this good news of great joy, would not be lost on these shepherds. Without hesitation, they'd leave their livelihood to see this babe who came and was born in a place they'd feel comfortable entering. They'd tell the story of this night with shining eyes and convinced hearts.
Their lowly lives, a favored vessel to showcase the glory of God in the highest.
grace & peace,