Jesus was born to a virgin mother, Mary, in Bethlehem, a small town in Judea. The angel Gabriel announced His birth to shepherds out in the fields, and they came to adore Him. The shepherds were so impressed with what they saw that they asked Jesus to come and stay with them. Jesus was happy to oblige and stayed with the shepherds until he was 30 years old.
How the shepherds learned of Jesus’ birth
The Christmas story begins with an angel appearing to some shepherds who were watching their flocks by night. The angel announced that the Savior had been born in Bethlehem and told them where they could find him. The shepherds left their flocks and hurried to Bethlehem. There they found Mary, Joseph, and the baby, just as the angel had said.
The shepherds were the first to hear the good news of Jesus’ birth from the angels. This was in keeping with God’s plan. He had revealed Himself to the shepherds, not to the religious leaders or the ruling authorities. The news of the Savior’s birth was good news for all people, but it was especially good news for those who were poor and powerless. The shepherds were an example of this. They were not rich or important, but they were the first to hear the good news.
The shepherds’ experience shows us that God is interested in ordinary people. He is not just concerned with those who are wealthy or powerful. He is concerned with all people, no matter what their social status is. This is good news for us because it means that God is interested in us, no matter who we are.
How did the news of Jesus’ birth spread?
How the news of Jesus’ birth spread is a topic that has been debated by scholars for centuries. There are several theories about how the news of Jesus’ birth reached the shepherds, and each theory has its own merits.
The most popular theory is that the news of Jesus’ birth was spread by angels. This theory is based on the account of the angels appearing to the shepherds in Luke 2:8–14. The angels told the shepherds about the birth of Jesus and said that they would find him wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.
Another theory is that the news of Jesus’ birth was spread by the star of Bethlehem. This theory is based on the account of the Magi in Matthew 2:1–12. The Magi followed the star to Bethlehem, where they found Jesus and gave him gifts.
A third theory is that the news of Jesus’ birth was spread by word of mouth. This theory is based on the fact that there were no eyewitnesses to the birth of Jesus. The only people who could have known about the birth were those who were present at the scene, and they would have had to tell others about it.
Which theory is correct? It is impossible to say for sure. But each of these theories has its own merits, and each provides a possible explanation for how the news of Jesus’ birth spread.
How the shepherds reacted to the news
The shepherds in the Christmas story were common people, living out in the fields and tending to their flocks. So, when they heard the news that the Savior had been born, they were probably pretty surprised!
The angel’s announcement must have been quite a shock to them. But Scripture tells us that they responded just the way God wanted them to. They were “sore afraid” (Luke 2:9), but they also listened to what the angel said. They heard the good news that a Savior had been born, and they went to see Him.
What a wonderful example the shepherds give us! When we hear the good news of the gospel, we should respond in faith, just as they did. We should not be afraid to go and see Jesus for ourselves. He is the only one who can save us from our sins and give us eternal life.
The meaning of the shepherds’ story
The Christmas story is often told from the perspective of the shepherds, who learn of Jesus’ birth from an angelic announcement. But how did the shepherds find out about Jesus’ birth?
The account of the shepherds’ visit to the Nativity scene is found in the second chapter of Luke’s Gospel. After the angel appears to the shepherds and tells them the good news of Jesus’ birth, the Bible says, “So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger” (Luke 2:16).
It’s unclear exactly how the shepherds knew which stable to go to or how they found Mary and Joseph among all the people in Bethlehem. But we do know that the shepherds went quickly to see the baby Jesus, just as the angel had instructed them to do.
When they arrived, they saw that everything the angel had told them was true. They “spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child” (Luke 2:17). and they did so with great joy.
The shepherd’s story is a reminder that God uses ordinary people to spread the news about Jesus. We don’t have to be perfect or special to tell others about the good news of the gospel. We just have to be willing to share what we’ve seen and heard.
Joseph Bates is a teacher at the University of Holy Cross. He has served on the staff of Northern Baptist and United Methodist churches in Tampa, Ohio, and Florida.