Luke 2:1-52, Isaiah 9:2-7, Galatians 4:4-5
For you. Focus on these two words as you read: “A Savior was born for you” (Luke 2:11, emphasis mine).
An ordinary shepherd’s life was rich in irony. His job was to tend the animals that would be sacrificed to atone for the sins of the people. Yet because of his work, a shepherd was often ceremonially unclean. And because he was routinely unclean, he was sometimes seen by others as untrustworthy and irreligious.
Jesus said a good shepherd would lay down his life for his sheep (John 10:11)—sheep that would be sacrificed for the sins of the same people who regarded the shepherd as unclean. This reality made shepherds’ very lives a kind of sacrifice. They were outsiders.
When the angel appeared outside of Bethlehem to these marginalized men keeping watch over their flocks, what did he say? In effect, he said, “Go behold the end of your life as an outsider.” Let’s unpack that.
The angel uses three names for Jesus—names that speak to His purpose. Savior means He will atone for the sins of the people. Christ identifies Him as their deliverer and Messiah. And Lord recognizes His divinity.
But then the angel uses one more expression, which would have brought overwhelming clarity to the moment. The angel tells the shepherds that the Savior, Christ the Lord, has been born for them (Luke 2:11). The divine, atoning Messiah has been born for shepherds. They are not outsiders to this gift. They are recipients!
Imagine it. An angel appears to some of the most disregarded people in the land to deliver the greatest announcement ever given. The glory of all glories appears to the lowest of the low, and he gives them a sign to prove Christ was born for them, a sign that would have left them speechless. The baby King would be lying in a manger.
The shepherds saw not only that He had come; they got a hint as to why. When they found Jesus there in a manger, just as the angel had said, the very location of His birth was drenched in meaning. The Savior was born into their unclean world and placed in a manger, a feeding trough for sheep. As the Good Shepherd, the Savior would lay down His life, and His body would be broken to feed His sheep.
Like those shepherds, we are not outsiders to this gift either. We are called to receive Him who came into our unclean world, the Savior who is Christ the Lord. May we leave this text in the same way the shepherds left the manger—glorifying and praising God for these things we have seen.
Written by Russ Ramsey