Shepherds. There seem to be varying opinions about shepherds as a class of people in the days of Jesus' birth. Some say that they were a disrespected lot in society and subject to prejudice for several reasons. They were deemed unreliable and so could not serve as witnesses in a legal matter, and it seems that they had the reputation of possessing the regrettable habit of confusing thine and mine! Moreover, their occupation often left them ceremonially unclean and restricted from entering the Temple courts. They may have been living in the despised outskirts of Israel at the time.
On the other hand, the profession of being a shepherd as a rule was an honorable one. Not only were Israel's patriarchs shepherds in the literal sense, but the leaders of Israel were called shepherds, as those who were responsible to justly lead and compassionately care for the people of God (Ezek. 34:1ff.). Above all, the Lord Himself identifies Himself as a Shepherd (Psalm 23; Ezekiel 34:11ff.; I Pet. 2:25). And of course, Jesus describes Himself as the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for the sheep (John 10:11ff.). So while shepherds may or may not have had the best reputation in town at the time, God nonetheless visited a group of them on the night of Jesus' birth!
In preparation for our worship service together on Christmas Eve, let's think about what the Lord tells us about the shepherds who were "keeping watch over their flock by night," on that most holy of nights! Read Luke 2:1-20.
1. Shepherds. How do you imagine them before the angel announced Jesus' birth to them? What do they look like? What are they doing?
2. How do you picture the angel showing up to announce the birth of Jesus? What do you think "the glory of the Lord" that shone around them was (v.9)?
3. What does Luke tell us about the shepherds' reaction to the angel's appearance (v. 9)? How do you think you would have felt had you been there that night?
4. What was the angel's message (vv. 10-12)?
* Why was this good news of a great joy? Is it still good news of great joy today? Explain.
* Why is a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger a sign?
* And what does this sign tell us about the coming of Jesus?
5. In your sanctified imagination how do you envision the appearance of the host of angels (v.13)?
* If you were in that field that night with those shepherds, how do you think you would have felt?
6. What was the angels' song?
* From an angel's perspective what were they witnessing? What did they see of God's glory?
* What does this tell us about the attitude of heaven at the coming of Jesus into our world?
7. When the angels disappeared, what did the shepherds do and what did the shepherds see? (vv. 15-16)
8. Once they had seen Jesus what did the shepherds do then (vv. 17-18)?
* Was what they did a duty or a joy? What think ye?
* What was the response of those who heard them?
* How do you think you would have responded to the shepherds' report?
9. The idea of a "shepherds' song" is drawn out of verse 20. What does Luke tell us about these shepherds' return to the fields to keep watch over their flocks by night?
* If you were with them what do you think you would have heard them saying or singing?
10. Think back over all the songs of the Nativity that we have looked at. What is the single emotional note? Why do you think that is?
11. What does the Lord want you to know or do in light of this meditation? How do you respond to the message that Jesus has come?
May the Lord fill you with joy as you celebrate the coming of Jesus!
Christmas Eve Candle Lighting Service: 5:00 PM
Christmas Morning Worship Service: 10:30 AM
(No devotional will be sent out for the Christmas morning message