What Do We Learn from the Shepherds?

While (Joseph and Mary) were (in Bethlehem), the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son, and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger because there was no place for them in the inn. In that region, there were shepherds living in the fields keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people — to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you; you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen as it had been told them.  (Luke 2:6:20, NRSV)

  • Which of the following actions of the shepherds are most like you?
  1. They were minding their own business. (They were not looking to get more involved.  The life of the shepherd was to stick to the routine; seek convenience and minimize risk; protect what you have at all costs.)
  2. They encountered God in an unexpected way and were terrified. (Would you have been terrified as well?  Is it ok to be terrified in a circumstance such as this?)
  3. They encountered God in an unexpected way and knew that it was God. (When the unexpected comes, how can we know God well enough to know if it is of God or of some other source?)
  4. They heard God’s message and responded immediately to do what God instructed them to do. (Do you think they considered reasons why they should not respond so spontaneously?  What might these reasons have been?  What are your reasons for not responding immediately to God?)
  5. They made known what had been told them – and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said. (Why were they so willing to share the message they had heard?  Are you just as willing?  Why or Why not?)
  6. They returned to their flock “glorifying and praising God”. (They took the majesty of the experience with them as they went back to work.  Do you think their lives returned to “normal” after such an experience?  Why or Why not?  How does your response to this last question describe your own life?)
  7. Which of the actions of the shepherds do you wish were more like you? How can you bridge the gap between how you see yourself and how you wish you were?
  • How are the shepherds’ experiences similar to the way you celebrate Christmas? What of their mindset would you like to make a part of your own Christmas experience this year?
  • The shepherds were outsiders in mainstream society – smelly, poor, uneducated, not the people who would typically be invited home for dinner. And yet the angels appeared to these shepherds and invited them to be the first to visit the new born Messiah.  Why would God honor them in such a way?  What might the intended message be for us as we interact with the outsiders of our world?  And who are these outsiders?
  • When the angel appeared to the shepherds, they were “terrified”. Upon hearing the message of the angels, the shepherds “went with haste” to “see this thing that the Lord has made known to us”.  Why the transformation in them?  Have you ever had such a transformation in your own life?  … or seen such a transformation in the life of someone else?  How does knowing of these transformations still impact your life?