Someone had to abide in the fields, keeping watch over the flock by night. But in New Testament times, shepherds were viewed as a dirty, outcast lot. With no fences to cordon off pasture land, shepherds were often accused of taking their herds onto land not belonging to them. Therefore Jewish courts viewed them as too dishonest to sit as judges. Their lifestyle didn't allow for ritual bathing, and their job consisted of handling dirty, oily sheep wool and helping sheep give birth - a bloody icky business. As a rule, Jewish law required seven days away from blood before one could enter the temple and worship God. So these guys were not likely the church going type. Although some speculate this could be the very shepherds who cared for the temple herds, the very lambs offered for atonement of sins, they may never have entered the Temple grounds in their lives.
But on this night God brought the Temple to them.
These men would have known about perfect sacrifice. When a spotless lamb was born, surely they watched it carefully - looking deep into trusting eyes as they checked for blemish or bruise, carefully protecting the innocent lamb from broken bone.
On this night they met the perfect Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world.
These ordinary men were frightened out of their wits by an army of angels proclaiming glory to God in the highest, and peace for anyone on whom God's favor rests. And they chose to go check it out. They didn't miss the opportunity because they were too busy, or too normal, or not spiritually trained. They followed the angel's instructions and found the newborn Savior.Yes they went back to being shepherds, but as they went they were glorifying and praising God. They didn't consider their lack of synagogue training or worry that people would think they were crazy.
On this night they were forever changed by their worship.
I imagine their future lives in the fields may have seemed normal to most outsiders, but looking past the surface you would have heard words of praise and prayer on their lips.
Glory to God, peace for those on whom his favor rests - this is the message for the shepherds as well as us.
Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. - Hebrews 13:14