RELIGION ROUNDTABLE

Shepherds were lowly outcasts

Jesus called himself the good shepherd. So why wouldn’t the first to hear about the birth of Jesus be shepherds?

Shepherds were considered lowly, unimportant and their lifestyle forced them to be the outcasts of society. Smug religious leaders maintained a strict caste system at the expense of shepherds and other common folk.

Shepherds were officially labeled “sinners” — a technical term for a class of despised people. This would make the statement that Jesus made in Luke 5:32 very important; He came not to call the righteous to repentance, but sinners.

The saving power of Jesus reaches from the richest to the poorest of society. 1 Corinthians 1:27 reads: “But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty.”

God never does anything without purpose. God revealed to them the true Lamb of God, Jesus, who would be the ultimate sacrifice, taking away the sins of the world through His death and resurrection.

What a sight for these lowly shepherds who were despised and rejected by man, just like our Savior. These shepherds became the first evangelists to announce our Savior’s birth!

Our God is an awesome God, there is no one that He cannot reach or use. Have a very Merry Christmas.

— Winfred Logan, Heart to Heart Ministries

Jesus brings good news to the poor

None of us are worthy to receive an angelic visitation, yet God works in the world through willing human partners who can bear witness to God’s hopes, love and dreams.

God could have sent the angels to the religious teachers, leaders or the monastic holy people in Qumran, but instead it was the humble shepherds living in the fields with their flocks. Shepherds have a special place in Israelite history. Moses was a shepherd tending sheep when he had an encounter with God through a burning bush. Samuel anointed Jesse’s son David as king while he was still a shepherd.

A common theme in Luke’s gospel is God’s special concern for the outcasts and marginalized in society. Only in Luke does Jesus quote Isaiah 61:1-2: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor …”

Some Christian teachers and scholars have suggested that God sent the angels to the shepherds because God wanted to send a message that regardless of social status, God notices all people and intends to lift up those who society treats as lowly.

It could have been that angels tried to announce the good news to others, but perhaps they were too busy or saw themselves as too important, or too self-consumed to be interrupted. I wonder sometimes if I might miss a holy interruption because of the business of the season.

— Dale Clem, First United Methodist Church, Anniston