“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2.8-12
I don’t build jigsaw puzzles that often these days. However, when I was a child, there was usually a jigsaw puzzle to piece together on Christmas day.
There are certain things you need to complete a jigsaw puzzle. A picture of what the completed puzzle is like is always helpful. Having all the pieces of the puzzle helps greatly as well. And of course, the expert jigsaw builders usually begin by building the pieces around the edge.
The stories of the shepherds watching over their flocks in the fields and the kings coming from the east have become so familiar that we can fail to recognise their significance in the Christmas story.
Both of those stories help us to construct a picture of the God who is revealing Himself in the person of Christ.
Shepherds in first century Israel didn’t have a very high social standing. In fact it was quite the opposite. They were at the margins of their society. A shepherd’s testimony wasn’t even admissible in court such was the lowliness of his profession.
Yet it was to shepherds that God sent His angels with news that Christ had been born in Bethlehem. And according to Luke 2.17 when they left Mary and her baby they went and spread the word of the birth of the King. How astonishing that God would entrust the great news of the birth of His Son to people whose testimony was usually regarded as wholly unreliable!
As we join together the various pieces of the nativity, we begin to build up a picture of a God who works beyond the social and religious boundaries of the day.
Like the pieces around the edge of a jigsaw puzzle, they create a context in which we begin to understand something about the God who is revealing Himself in Christ. A God who includes some of the most unlikely people in the story of redemption.