The upside-down approach to God’s divine announcement
by Karen Woodall
The birth of Prince George Alexander Louis created quite a stir in England this summer. The news of his arrival was made public on July 22, 2013, at St. Mary’s Hospital in London, followed by the official announcement posted outside Buckingham Palace. Social media and news outlets quickly spread the news. Celebration erupted with all the pomp and circumstance that you would expect surrounding the birth of child who is third in line to the throne of England.
Yet amid all the coverage, there wasn’t a single interview with a dock worker or cab driver recounting their firsthand story of Prince George’s birth. No sanitation workers or bus drivers told what it was like to visit the special newborn in the hospital either. That’s because none of the commoners in the country were personally ushered in to see the new heir to the throne.
But 2,000 years ago, a group of ordinary people—commoners like these—were the first to receive the news from God the Father about the birth of His Son.
“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby,
keeping watch over their flocks at night.
An angel of the Lord appeared to them,
and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.
But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid.
I bring you good news of great joy that cause great joy for all the people.
Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” (Luke 2:8-11 NIV)
Shepherds of first-century Jerusalem were not the sort of people to receive important news first. They were social outcasts, considered unclean by the religious system of the day. Though they raised the sheep for sacrifices, they themselves were prohibited from entering the temple. But despite being ostracized, these were the people—in fact, the only people—who were drawn to visit the newborn King.
Why do you suppose the Lord chose to send the most important birth announcement in history to this particular group of ragged men?
The answer is given to us by the angel himself: “I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.” Generally speaking, powerful rulers aren’t concerned about “all the people.” Political candidates in our time rarely entertain the poor, sick, or old unless the press is around. Yet influential politicians frequently host lavish dinners for the wealthy and powerful. It’s the same now as it was then. People who lacked influence or affluence were often overlooked by those in positions of authority.
But on that first Christmas, the angels showed up to a group of lowly shepherds to tell them a new ruler had been born, One not like any before. He would be a Savior—yes, a Shepherd—for all people, including (and perhaps especially for) those who have been ignored and forgotten by the world.
The invitation to see Jesus was first extended to the outcasts of the world because that’s the essence of the message He came to bring. Later He would state it more clearly: “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). If you haven’t ever identified yourself as particularly lost or forgotten, remember that we were all born as outcasts from God’s family (Col. 1:13). His message to you is the same today as it was for those shepherds so long ago.
“A Savior has been born for you. He is Christ the Lord!”