Greetings Summit Faith Family!
Most would agree the main character in the Christmas story is God/Jesus Christ. The demonstration of the love of God is clearly seen in the birth of Jesus. God went to great lengths to create an avenue through which He could have a personal, intimate relationship with mankind. Like every life event, there are primary characters and supporting characters. The events surrounding the introduction of incarnate God into the world includes more than a cast of heavenly beings. Several human characters fulfilled a significant role in the incredible story of the birth of Christ.
Mary, the virgin mother of Christ, was faithful at a time when faithfulness among the nation of Israel would have been waning. The prophets and God had been silent for centuries. It is true the nation of Israel was anticipating the coming of a Messiah, but one has to wonder the kind of impact such a long period of silence had on the faith of the average Israelite. Mary found favor with God. Certainly that favor was connected to her level of faith.
Joseph was another human cast member of the Christmas story. Matthew records that Joseph was a righteous man. (1:19) His righteousness was demonstrated in the choices he made following the discovery that Mary was pregnant. Rather than having Mary stoned, which was the custom, he chose to divorce her quietly. That decision was reversed after having been visited by an angel of the Lord during a dream. From that moment on, Joseph demonstrated his righteousness through his faithfulness to Mary in what could only be described as difficult circumstances.
On the night Jesus Christ was born another group of cast members joined the story. And there were in the same country, shepherds abiding in the fields, keeping watch over their flocks by night and an angel of the Lord came upon them and the glory of the Lord shone round about them and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them: Fear not, for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people for unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you, you will find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. (Luke 2:8-12)
Why would God choose to deliver the message about the birth of Christ to a group of lowly shepherds? Shepherds were not very influential members of society. Most shepherds were either the youngest male member of the family if the family was a landowning family; or they were elderly men who could no longer fulfill duties that required endurance and strength; or they were wage earners (men who came from non-land owners and therefore would not receive an inheritance). Shepherds were on duty twenty-four hours a day. As a result, they would have consistently broken the laws of the Sabbath, as well as many other laws of cleanliness, which would have resulted in societal avoidance.
Fertile fields and valleys were delineated for raising crops. The primary place for herding sheep would have been in the remote sections of the country. Consequently, most shepherds were nomadic in nature and experienced physical separation from the rest of the community in addition to societal separation. Because sheep needed twenty-four hour care, shepherds would have worked throughout the night. Actually, they would have been about the ONLY people out at night. The culture at that time would have kept the average citizen indoors. It was not safe to be out after dark.
So, why did God cast the shepherds in this great event – because they were available!!!!! Time and time again God chose to use people to accomplish His goals simply because they were available. Mary was available. Joseph was available. The shepherds were available. I wonder what kind of story/event God could allow us to be a part of if we just make ourselves available!