“In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock at night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood near them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened.”Luke 2:8-9 NASB
The social status of a Jewish shepherd during the time of Christ was as low as you could get. They were despised like tax-collectors and dung-sweepers. Although sheep-herding began as a noble occupation with the Patriarchs, the Israelites slowly changed into farmers and agriculturists. This began when Joseph and his brothers were reunited in Egypt, and Pharaoh invited them to relocate in Goshen. Joseph plainly informed his brothers, “…for every shepherd is an abomination to the Egyptians” (Genesis 46:34 NASB).
But God chose people of the lowliest profession to have the greatest honor of the ages–to witness a supernatural birth announcement from heaven in the night sky.
And so the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.‘”Luke 2:10-12 NASB
Can you imagine the amazement of the shepherds when the angel was suddenly joined in the night sky with “a multitude of the heavenly army of angels praising God and saying, Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among people with whom He is pleased” (Luke 2:13b-14 NASB).
A multitude of angel armies lit up the sky, and their praises must have resounded for miles. Afterward, they retreated into heaven, leaving the night sky black, but their glorious presence and message spurred the shepherds to quickly run to Bethlehem.
When they found Mary and Joseph, they looked at the Christ child and told them what the angels had said about him. Everyone was amazed at their words, and Mary especially treasured and pondered them in her heart.
And the shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.Luke 2:20 NASB
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.‘Matthew 2:1-2 NASB
The three magi from the east were polar opposites to the shepherds. As educated astronomers who studied sacred writings and served in royal courts, they understood the sign in the heavens. These wise men followed the star, which led them to the house where Messiah was found, bearing gifts to honor and worship the new king. They represented non-Jewish nations paying homage to the Lord of lords.
And after they came into the house, they saw the Child with His mother Mary; and they fell down and worshiped Him. Then they opened their treasures and presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.Matthew 2:11 NASB
Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh
GOLD was not only a gift of great wealth, but it symbolized royalty, nobility, and great love. By bringing gold to lay at Jesus’s feet, they were acknowledging Him as King of the Jews. This provision supported Mary and Joseph when they fled to Egypt and later moved to Nazareth.
FRANKINCENSE was a valuable, fragrant ingredient for making holy incense to burn in the Temple. It was used for ceremonial worship and represented Christ’s divinity. The magi confirmed through this gift that Jesus was special–fully God and fully man.
MYRRH was an aromatic spice used for burial. It was also used to make a fragrant smoke, a rich perfume, and as medicine to treat wounds and skin inflammations. This gift represented Christ’s humanity and sacrificial death because He was sent from God to die for the sins of the world.
Come as you are to worship the King.
‘So the last shall be first, and the first, last.‘Matthew 20:16 NASB
Is it any mistake that the shepherds were first in line to witness the miracle of Jesus’s birth? God chose the humble and lowly of this world to be first. In fact, Jesus bills Himself as the Good Shepherd in Psalm 23. Further, God tells us in Isaiah 66:2b, “But I will look to this one, at one who is humble and contrite in spirit, and who trembles at My word” (NASB).
Today we have a personal invitation from God to come witness the miraculous birth of the Christ child. Whether we have great wealth to lay at His feet or have nothing, we can come as we are. He is offering a beautiful gift for each of us–the free gift of salvation.
Will you accept His gift?
Dear Father, thank you for sending Your Son to be born on the earth. We bow before you in worship and lay our hearts before You. We receive Your free gift of salvation, and we praise You for it. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.
Witnesses to a Divine Birth by Karen Jurgens copyright 2022, All rights reserved.