THE FIRST EVANGELISTS
Lord, Your angels fully know what we only try to grasp.
Read LUKE 2:15–20
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
New International Version (NIV)
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O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness!… / Kneel and adore him: the Lord is his name!” (John S. B. Monsell, 1811–1875).
Up until now, the only people who know of the arrival of the Messiah were Joseph and Mary. Zechariah and Elizabeth understand the meaning of Gabriel’s message to Mary. But how will this message be more widely spread?
If we didn’t know the story so well, we would never have guessed. It was to shepherds that the angel announced that the long-awaited Savior/Messiah/Lord had come. It was around shepherds that the glory of the Lord appeared. It was shepherds who witnessed the heavenly choir singing “Glory to God in the highest” (14). It was shepherds who were the first to pay homage to the baby in the manger. It was shepherds who were the first evangelists, spreading the news of what the angel had told them.
So far the story has focused on the temple and Zechariah’s family, those with a pedigree and a lineage. Now the story switches to people outside of the inner circle. We don’t know who these shepherds are, but we do know that as a class, shepherds were marginalized and despised for not observing the minutiae of the Law. They lived rough lives, sometimes outdoors 24/7—especially at lambing time.
Later, this Jesus will teach how blessed the poor in spirit truly are. For now we remember that he is born the son of David, the shepherd-king. The shepherds are there all along. The good news is for all people, regardless of their religious observance, social status, and race. No wonder those who hear their testimony are amazed. Mary is beyond amazed. She stores up the memory of all these events as she considers what they might mean. There is much for us, too, to reflect on—the very fact of the incarnation, the humility of the Shepherd-King, the wonder and glory of it all.
Are there marginalized people whom you encounter (immigrants, addicts, mentally ill, disabled, chronically unemployed, etc.) and to whom you should pay more attention?
Lord, raise up modern-day shepherds who will continue the work of spreading the Good News.