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“Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people;” (NASB)
Throughout the Christmas narrative, the Angels of the Lord appeared to announce the coming of the Messiah. They spoke to a priest, a carpenter, a teenage girl and a bunch of shepherds. Why this cast of characters?
The teenage girl we know. She was going to give birth to the Messiah of Israel, the Savior of the World: Jesus Christ. On a need to know basis, she needed to know.
Why the priest? God sent His angel to speak to Zacharias because of who his wife was, not because of what he did for a living. Zacharias and Elizabeth, both well advanced in their age, were about to be the proud parents of a bouncing baby prophet: John the Baptist. After years of wanting a child, followed by years of wishing they could stop longing for one, the angel of the Lord came with a message, that God answered their prayers. They would have a child. But not just any child, this one was the forerunner of the Messiah, the one that would cry out, "Prepare ye the way of the Lord."
Why the carpenter? Not because of his vocation either. God sent His angel to speak to Joseph because of who his wife was going to be, not because of what he did for a living. Matthew 1:20-21 tells the story: " . . .an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, 'Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for that which has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.  And she will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins."
Mary I understand, Zacharias I understand and Joseph I understand-they were all personally involved. In a sense, they were family they needed to know. But why the shepherds?
People didn’t admire Shepherds during Biblical times. They are called loathsome in Genesis 46:34. In fact, being a shepherd was considered punishment. Numbers 14:33 says, "And your sons shall be shepherds for forty years in the wilderness, and they shall suffer for your unfaithfulness, until your corpses lie in the wilderness."
"The shepherds were despised by the orthodox good people of the day. Shepherds were quite unable to keep the details of the ceremonial law; they could not observe all the meticulous hand washings and rules and regulations. Their flocks made far too constant demands on them; and so the orthodox looked down on them as very common people." (Barclay, p. 17)
The angel of the Lord appeared to these common men-- these loathsome men, to give a glorious message. And when the shepherds saw the glory of God that accompanied the angel, they had a healthy, holy fear. With a fear of the Lord, the shepherds were spiritually prepared to hear the angel's message. "Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people;" (Luke 2:10 NASB)
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