Some of Israel’s great heroes were shepherds — Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and David. Both Psalm 23 and Jesus compare God’s care to that of a Good Shepherd. But at the time when Jesus was born shepherds — specifically hired shepherds — had a reputation for dishonesty and for stealing. Jesus however distinguishes between the good shepherd and the hired shepherd. He tells a parable of the shepherd leaving ninety-nine sheep in the fold while searching the hills to find the missing one. Perhaps this is because Jesus, who spent his time with the despised and sinners, knows and appreciates them as people. There is no suggestion that the shepherds to whom the angels appeared were not devout men but they would not have held any status in society.
How amazing it is then that the angel brings the joyful news first of all to these ‘salt of the earth’ types – a Saviour – the expected Messiah has been born! Extraordinary news coming to very ordinary people! Christ the Lord, born not in a palace, but quietly, humbly in the back streets of Bethlehem. We are told that the shepherds ‘hurried off’ to Bethlehem to find the baby and when they had seen him they ‘spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child’. Let us all follow their example and with joy share the good news with our neighbours and friends.
Mary and Joseph are continuing their journey in our parish. They have now visited Ford Road and moved on again to Upton.