The Shepherds Were The First Church

In the time of the Roman empire, whenever a VIP family had a baby, they didn’t have Facebook but to get the word out but they’d send out a herald.

The emperor would send out heralds to let all the other VIPs know, announcing the ‘good news’ of the birth. If this was a first son, even better because the family name would continue! “A child is born!” 

So when we read the God sends a herald angel, to say ‘Hark! Good News!’ 

Notice – who does God send heaven’s heralds to?

LUKE 2: 8There were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, 10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. 11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! 12 And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in highest heaven,
    and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

15 When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. 17 After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. 18 All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished.

The Son of God has just been born on planet earth! Who would you expect God to announce the news to first?

To the VIPs. To anybody who was somebody. 

The kings in their palaces. 

The top religious leaders and scholars in their temples. 

Instead, God sends the herald angels to some shepherds, in a field, outside the city. 

And because we’re used to cute nativities we think, ‘Ahhh… shepherds.. Baaahh…shepherds.’ But the people who first read this story would say ‘Bah! Shepherds?!’ Because shepherds were nobodies. The lowest, most despised, disrespected untrusted people. Nobody invited shepherds to anything!

Though these shepherds in Bethlehem raised animals to be sacrificed for the Temple rituals – they themselves would not be allowed inside or to participate. They were considered unclean. Banned by the Rabbis, not good enough for God, with no way to be made right through the rituals. No power, no position, no prospects. And according to the religious system of the day, when it came to God – shepherds had no place to stand before him

But whenever I picture the shepherds, they are not standing – they are kneeling. Gathered to kneel before God’s own Son, presenting the best they had – as worship.

As I prepared to talk about the shepherds this Christmas, I wondered whether this rag tag mob was in some was actually the very first church.

Not some theologically correct self righteous elite doing religious duties in a Temple building. That didn’t work. Religion didn’t save anyone.

So instead of sending the herald angels to royal dignitaries or religious somebodies, God told a bunch of nobodies, “Go and see Somebody.’ Then they told everybody! 

This is Church: 

A bunch of nobodies, inviting everybody to meet Somebody – who can change anybody!