When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them.... The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. (vs 17-18, 20)

Luke 2:15-21 Friday 1 January 2021

Psalm 8


After describing Jesus' birth  (Luke 2:1-7) and the angels (vs 8-14), Luke’s account of the childhood of Jesus moves on to the shepherds (2:15-21). Further instalments will feature incidents in the Temple at Jerusalem (Luke 2:22-40 and 41-52).

In presenting the shepherds as part of the infancy narrative, Luke is underlining the connection between this child and David, the young shepherd anointed by the prophet as the king of the nation (1 Samuel 16:1-13). The shepherd is a common image in the Bible, for example in Psalm 23 and Jesus sees himself in this role (John 10:1-16).

And what about these shepherds? Commentators are somewhat divided as to where they came in the social hierarchy. Were they simply animal herders, ritually unclean by the nature of their work,  or were they well-to-do farmers, providing animals that were a mainstay of the economy in terms of food and wool, as well as essential for religious rites? Were they nomadic, moving their herds from one place to another in search of grazing and clean water, or did these shepherds stay permanently in the fields outside Bethlehem and close to Jerusalem watching over flocks that would provide unblemished animals for Temple sacrifice?

What is clear from the story is that these shepherds left their flocks to find this child, and then, importantly, to tell others of what they had seen and heard. It is significant is that those who heard them were amazed by the message, rather than by the messengers! And, finally, the shepherds returned to the task from which they had come, "glorifying and praising God".

Points to Ponder:

  • Verse 19 of today's passage says "Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart." Take some time to do this too.
  • Note how many times the word ‘told’ is used in these verses. Reflect on how God may be glorified in your telling of the story.
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