The Shepherds and Angels
Why were the Shepherds the first people to find out about the birth of Jesus? And what an amazing way they found out about it!
The Story in the Bible
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.'
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests.'
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, 'Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.'
So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
The History behind the Shepherds and Angels in the Christmas Story
At that time, sheep farmers were seen as low or little value by other people. The sheep that they bred would have probably been used as sacrifice animals in the temple in near-by Jerusalem. They were quietly getting on with their own business when suddenly an angel appeared to them. I'm not surprised they were afraid!
The angel's words to them told them of Jesus and his amazing birth and how they could recognise him in a very crowded town. The words of the hosts of angels is very similar to the words sung during a sacrifice service in the temple when there were three blasts of the temple trumpets.
This is only the second time in the whole Bible that a group of angels rather than one angel had appeared to people, so this proved that they had a very important message to give to them. We don't know the names of the angels or how many there were of them, but in the Bible it says that there are millions of angels - so it would have been an amazing experience! If you'd like to know more about angels, go to whychristmas?com's sister site whyangels?com.
Being curious as to what the angels meant, they went down into Bethlehem, maybe leaving a shepherd or two behind to keep guard on the sheep. The shepherds probably found Joseph, Mary and Jesus with the help of local women, running errands in the busy town, that had heard of the birth of a baby in a stable or shelter. When they had found and told Mary and Joseph what had happened to them, it says that 'The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.' The people they told probably weren't just the people they saw on the way back to hills, but friends and relatives in Bethlehem and Jerusalem and the people they met in the temple when they took their sheep to be sold.