The People of Christmas: The Outsiders
Filthy. Smelly. Not fit for decent society. Outsiders. Otherwise known as shepherds.
Shepherds fulfilled an important need in ancient Israel. They watched over the flocks—flocks that provided food for the nation’s physical sustenance. And some had the privilege of watching over lambs destined to be temple sacrifices for the worship of Yahweh. An important job, yet no one other than another shepherd would rub shoulders with them, at least not willingly. Outsiders by virtue of the location of their work and outsiders in polite society.
Yet it was to these outsiders that an angel of the Lord appeared with an amazing announcement. The long-awaited Messiah had finally come! The angel even told them where they would find the baby: in a manger, not a palace. The joy they felt when they saw the child then overflowed into joy and praise to God.
It’s one thing for human shepherds to be an outsider in polite company. But have you ever stopped to consider that Shepherd is the name by which The Lord referred to Himself? God the Father was Israel’s Shepherd (Ezekiel 34). Jesus proclaimed Himself the Good Shepherd (John 10:14).
And like the human shepherds, in many ways the Good Shepherd was also an outsider among His people. Israel’s religious leaders rejected Jesus during the three years of His earthly ministry. Jesus had no place in a religious worldview that valued status, ritual, and rules more than a deep, personal relationship with God.
- Our Shepherd came willingly, knowing He would be rejected.
- He came to His sheep, knowing He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
- He came to die, knowing it was the only way to bring us eternal life.
- He became an outcast on earth, so that we would not be outcast from heaven.
God reached out to the shepherd outsiders two-thousand years ago. He is still reaching out to outsiders today. It’s why Jesus came. It’s why He died.
It’s also why I live…and in this third week of Advent, it’s the source of my joy.
What about you? Is the Good Shepherd the source of your joy? If not, why not?