Why the shepherds?
Why does God send an angel, tramping across the hills by starlight, to carry a message to this band of night-shift workers?
Why do they get an additional host of angels, marching, under cover of darkness, across the sky?
Some say it is because God seeks out the marginalised. And there may be some truth in that. But God seeks out all of his children; and perhaps it is truer to say that the powerful prefer the darkness while the poor, knowing how dark it is – how it hides their suffering from the eyes of the world – are more open to welcoming light…
No, I think there is another reason why, of all the village peasants, the shepherds must be fetched down from the hills.
This is the story of the restoration of the house of David. This is the key. When God chose David to be king, he was a young boy charged with looking after his father’s sheep. When Samuel sends news to Jesse, to gather all his sons, for the prophet comes to worship God with them, David – the very son Samuel is sent to anoint king – is overlooked. Out on the hills, watching over the sheep.
He must be summoned – and even then, he’s only recalled to mind, and recalled home, when every other son has been ruled out.
So when God sends news to David’s hidden son, Joseph, to gather his family at the ancient family home; in order that a son may be anointed king –
not crowned, not yet, for first will come the hidden years; the crowning will come after suffering, and in Jerusalem –
when God sends this good news, the shepherds of the town of David must be fetched home.
They are the guests of honour. Their presence represents David, some-time shepherd of Bethlehem, at the birth of the heir to his throne.
It could not be allowed to come to pass without them.