I have always loved the shepherds in the Christmas story. And it might have a little to do with having played the part of the shepherd every year in the Christmas play in the little Church where I grew up. I was always a shepherd every year. I never got to be Joseph. I never got to be one of the Magi. My sister got to be an angel, and I was always a shepherd. Maybe God was trying to tell me something early on. I have always loved the shepherds in the Christmas story.
And playing a shepherd every year, I started to wonder what the shepherds were doing when the angel of the Lord showed up. Oh, I know that they were keeping the night watch over their flocks. I know that they were counting sheep to stay awake. But I really started to wonder what the shepherds were thinking before the angel of the Lord showed up.
It was a good year for one shepherd. There was a lot of growth in his flock. New sheep were born this year. There were many things to be thankful for this year. There were lots of things to celebrate this year. He was thinking about the joys of the season and the seasons of joy. It was a good year for one shepherd.
It was a tough year for another shepherd. There was a lot more loss than you want to see in one year. There was a lot more loss than you want to see in one lifetime. He lost some sheep to the wolves and some family members to sickness. It was a tough year, a tough year that wouldn’t seem to end. It was so tough that he couldn't think about today and tomorrow because the yesterdays were keeping his mind busy. It was a tough year for one shepherd.
And there were other shepherds too. One was worried about how many sheep he had. Another shepherd was beaming with pride because his son had a job working for the government in Bethlehem. He said something about them needing extra help for a census. Another shepherd was thinking about the future of his daughters. One shepherd was worried about his parents. And one shepherd was thinking about his grandchildren. There was joy and sorrow. There was concern and congratulations. There was anxiety and prosperity. All of these things were in the minds of the shepherds when the angel of the Lord showed up.
And what did they hear as they kept watch over their flocks by night?
I proclaim to you good news of great joy. A Saviour has been born for you, o joyful shepherd! The year that has been good is now even better for a child is born and a son is given.
I proclaim to you good news of great joy. A Savior has been born for you o sorrowing shepherd! The child born for you will be called Wonder Counselor, Father Forever, Prince of Peace. He will claim power over sickness and power over death and power over the grave.
I proclaim to you good news great joy. A Savior has been born for you, o shepherd keeping watch over your flock by day and by night. This child born for you will carry dominion on his shoulders and carry us in our burdens.
Whichever shepherd each of you stands with on this most holy night, I proclaim to you good news of great joy. A Saviour has been born for you!
O come, let us adore him.