Initially, when I read the story of the angels announcing the birth of the Christ child to shepherds, my response was, “Couldn’t the host of angels found a more important group to tell this earth-shattering event?” From what I read in the Bible, the shepherds were the only group who received this celestial announcement on Christmas morning. True, the wise men saw a star; but, we aren’t exactly sure when the star appeared to them. Further, wise men had to interpret what the star meant and follow it from Persia (Iran) to Judah. In contrast, the angels were clear when they announced God, the Son’s birth, to the shepherds.
A new acquaintance is a lay Catholic sister at Madonna House. When I told her my observation about angels choosing to give the announcement of Christ’s birth to shepherds, her response was that God loved and saw the value of poor shepherd on a rural hillside as much as he loved and valued the wealthiest king in a sumptuous palace. To her, God’s choice of the shepherds for this impressive announcement was based on love, consequently, not the least surprising. Not willing to give up my perspective that the shepherds were a strange choice for this august announcement, I asked my husband what he thought. Bruce believes that God’s choice of the shepherds was God’s first symbol that the infant Jesus was born to be the Good Shepherd of the world.
These two responses reminded me that there is no greater love than when a man (or woman) lays down his/her life for another. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, gave his life for the sheep, that is, Christ gave his life for you and me. Given Jesus’ love and actions, having his birth announced to simple, even smelly, shepherds makes God-sense. It was consistent with Jesus’ choices while he lived on earth, to include how Jesus died.
Jesus died to protect us and save our lives for eternity. Before Jesus died for us, he had to be born; and his birth was announced by a choir of angels to simple shepherds who lived and worked in the Bethlehem area. So why didn’t the angels find a more important group than shepherds to announce the birth of Christ? Because of love and because Jesus started as he finished, as a Good Shepherd who was willing to give his life for sheep.