“That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep.”
During the time of Jesus' birth, shepherds were not well liked. They were often thought of as being unreliable, uneducated, and immoral. They were dirty all the time. They stunk of sheep. They were the outcasts … the people avoided … the ones no one wanted to claim. And they were the first ones to receive the news of the birth of Jesus.
Of all the people on the planet, why would God first choose to reveal the birth of Christ to this overlooked group of people? Well, I think it’s because this is how God has proven Himself to work throughout history. He starts with the overlooked, the outcast, the needy, the weak and reveals to them that “a Savior has been born.” To receive such grace … to be offered such a gift … to not be told “this is what you have to do” but rather to hear “good news that will cause great joy for all people” and then to respond in faith and simply go and “see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about” … it's transforming. This is why it’s called the “Good News.” It’s not advice. It’s a declaration that you do not need to earn your way to God. A Savior has been born! The life I should have lived … Jesus has lived it. The punishment I should have … Jesus has taken it. The rightness with God I think I need to earn … that is freely given through faith in Jesus Christ.
The story of the shepherds tells me that we do not have to have our life all together to be noticed by God and to receive “good news of great joy for all people.” What that means is this: Maybe you left your house this morning and it was a disaster … clothes everywhere, food everywhere … you were just hoping you had all of the kids with you. Maybe bills are piling up. Maybe your company is downsizing. Maybe your personal life is a mess. I don’t know what it is … but, if you’re anything like me, I think it’s easier to believe that a statement like, “You do not have to have it all together” is truer for someone else than it is for you.
But, if there is one thing I have learned very clearly over the past few years it’s that the Bible is crowded with people who did not have it all together. The Bible is bursting with people who experienced God working powerfully through their weakness, and during their pain, and in the midst of their neediness. In fact, rooted throughout the story of the Bible, as Matt Chandler has said, is the idea that God does not need a better version of you in order to work in you and through you. God glorifies Himself through the weakness of men and women. Jesus can be the Savior and Lord of anyone. And that is certainly “good news of great joy for ALL people.”