December 26

Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Luke 2:8

These shepherds were not seeking revelation from God.  They were faithfully and diligently fulfilling their rather mundane calling – to care for sheep.  That God should choose these men to receive the announcement of Messiah’s birth is full of symbolism.  And that is the way Scripture is written – to picture aspects of God’s heart.  We may assume that these shepherds had some spiritual stature as well as merely agricultural skills!  But the words “living out in the fields” speak to us also of evangelists seeking the lost, or of missionaries pioneering new regions.  The words “keeping watch…by night” speak to us of pastors labouring in prayer for their congregations, or of mothers and fathers, sleepless with longing for their children to know God.  When Samuel came to Bethlehem to anoint the new king of Israel, David was at first absent – he was also caring for sheep, and yet he was God’s choice as king – 1 Samuel 16:11-13.  God does not only answer intense desire and fervent prayers – God answers the life that is laid down for others, and tending sheep symbolises this.  He reveals Himself to the person who loves others sacrificially.  God does not look on the earth for people who are ambitious for fame or greatness – even spiritual greatness.  God looks for people who will lay their lives down for others.  He sees the wisp of prayer that rises in the heart of those who are weary through labouring for others.  He responds by opening heaven and giving a brief glimpse into a glory that transforms our lives for ever.