Was it just a coincidence that Jesus was born in Bethlehem? Of course not. Watch as God’s perfect plan unfolds. A census is declared requiring individuals to travel to their native city. Joseph was of the lineage of David, so it required them to go to Bethlehem, the city of David. And the timing was just when Mary was due to deliver. This was not an accident or a coincidence. No, rather it was God’s perfect timing in order to fulfill prophecy. But why Bethlehem? What was so significant about Bethlehem that God would choose it for the birthplace of His Son?
Bethlehem was the place where the sacrificial lambs for Passover were raised. Migdal Eder…the Tower of the Flock…was only a short distance from Bethlehem. This was no ordinary place for grazing sheep. Rather this was where the sheep were raised that would be used for the sacrifices for the Passover. The shepherds were specially trained to know exactly what type of sheep was required….to distinguish any type of imperfection or blemish that would disqualify the sheep from being a perfect sacrifice. After carefully watching and guarding their flock, the experienced shepherds would then separate the perfect lambs and drive them into Jerusalem where they would be sold for sacrifices.
How fitting that the town that was home to the Passover lambs would also be the birthplace of the Lamb of God! Mary’s little Lamb came into this world to be our sacrifice….the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
"And there were in the same country, shepherds, keeping watch over their flock by night….." Luke 2: 8
It was an ordinary night, business as usual. The shepherds doing their job…watching over the flock. Shepherds must be ever vigilant. Sheep are some of the dumbest animals there are. They will eat in the same place, not knowing to move on even after the grass is gone. If their fleece gets wet it becomes heavy and can cause them to lose their balance and fall over. If that happens, they are like a beetle, they can’t right themselves. If someone does not come to their aid, they will die. They must also have someone to lead them to fresh water. Sheep will not drink from a rushing stream…it must be still water. Remember???? "He [my shepherd} makes me to lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside still waters" Psalm 23: 2
Sheep also are prime targets for predators…wolves, mountain lions, and other wild animals. They are followers and if one sheep takes off over a cliff, the rest will follow. That is why shepherds must keep a constant watch on their flock….day and night.
Shepherds were probably the lowest of the low on the social ladder. Because they remained in the fields with their sheep, there was not much time for socializing with the townspeople. Besides they were smelly from all that time with the sheep and not really welcome. It was not a prestigious job. Yet it was honest work. And these shepherds were special because they prepared the flock for Passover.
Scripture refers to Jesus as the Good Shepherd…our Good Shepherd. He is ever vigilant…watching over us, providing for our needs, guarding us against the enemy. We often go in the wrong direction, and he must draw us back. But at all times "The Lord is my shepherd…I shall not want…..He leads me in the path of righteousness for His name sake…Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for [He] is with me." Psalm 23: 3,4
How fitting then that the first ones to be told of Jesus’ birth would be the shepherds. The birth of the King was not announced to the hierarchy of the day, nor was it announced to the townspeople who were scurrying around in preparation for Passover. It was not announced to the rabbis in the synagogue or to those in other positions of authority. It was not announced to Mary and Joseph’s family. It was not announced to the Innkeeper who had no room. No, on that starry night, on the quiet hillside, the announcement of the Savior of the World was announced to some smelly shepherds just doing their job.
God comes to each of us right where we are. He is not impressed by power, prestige or position. He doesn’t care about how much we have in our bank account, what kind of car we drive or if we even have one. He does not care if we reside in a mansion or under the bridge. He is not impressed by our stock portfolio or the number of degrees we possess. He is not swayed by the title on the door or the number of people who work for us. He doesn’t care if we are the CEO or the garbage collector. He does not care if we are one of the "beautiful people" or if we are marred and scarred by life. He does not care if we are white or black, red, yellow or purple. God is no respecter of persons. He came to the shepherds right where they were. And He will meet you today…in fact, He LONGS to meet you today…right where YOU are!!!!!!!