They were a smelly, uneducated lot who hardly ever spent time around people. They were shepherds who could never leave the defenseless sheep with which they had been entrusted. So they spent most of their lives with the sheep and each other. And the only good thing about living their lives with the other smelly shepherds was that they didn’t notice their own personal odor so much.
Even though it was one of the lower class occupations, the shepherds could take great comfort from time to time in knowing that the sheep they watched over would be the sacrificial part of one of the great Jewish festivals. Their greatest hope was for each of the sheep in their care to be sacrificed on the Temple altar in Jerusalem. This was the life of the shepherds in the Advent story.
But on the night Jesus was born everything changed. The shepherds were selected to be humanity’s representatives to welcome the Christ child into the world. They were the only ones who received personal invitations from heaven. They didn’t even have to RSVP; all they had to do was walk to the stable in Bethlehem.
Can you imagine how worried they must have been as they walked toward Bethlehem? After all they were dirty and smelly, hardly appropriately attired to welcome the new king. But to their surprise, they found Him in a place where they were completely comfortable. Isn’t God awesome when He does things like that? Had Jesus been born in a nice house, the shepherds would have felt totally out of place. But the stable put them at ease. Why is God concerned about us so much?
Father God wants to do for you what He did for the shepherds that night. In this Advent story Father God is sending you a personalized invitation to meet His Son and doing it in such a way so as not to intimidate you. He doesn’t want to frighten you away. He just asks you to meet Jesus in the same place where the shepherds met Him. It isn’t a matter of you getting all cleaned up on your own, somehow becoming worthy of meeting the Redeemer. All you have to do is just meet Jesus in the stable; arriving all smelly in your sin will be fine, just come. So is it time for you to do what the shepherds did? “They hurried to the village” and met the Christ child (Luke 2:16).
Prayer: Holy God, I am awed by how easy you make everything for me. You don’t make me earn Your love; You don’t expect me to wash my own sins away; You don’t require me to live good enough to deserve Your grace and mercy. Your plan for Jesus to be born in that stinky stable was at least in part for the benefit of the shepherds. You did everything to put them at ease so that they would come. You have done the same for me all of my life. Father, please help me to be more aware every day of the things You do for me. And Lord, I want to be like the shepherds when I see what You do to help me come to Jesus. “They hurried to the village.” I want to rush to You and to Your Son Jesus. So please, help me. Amen.
Mike Sublett is a pastor at Hi-Land Christian Church, 1615 N. Banks St., Pampa, Texas 79065. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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