And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”
Have you ever wondered why a bunch of Shepherds were the audience of the very first declaration of the Good news of the redemptive Gospel of Jesus Christ?
The fields outside of Bethlehem, the scene of the shepherd’s angelic encounter, have been linked to a unique biblical location called Migdal Eder, meaning tower of the flock. According to ancient Jewish writing this area was deemed holy and consecrated with the lambs raised there only being used for sacrifices at the Temple in Jerusalem. Everyone in Israel recognised Bethlehem as being synonymous with sacrificial lambs.
The shepherds who worked in these fields were not ordinary shepherds but Rabbinical shepherds who were trained and served in raising the sacrificial lambs. The requirement for lambs without spot of blemish brought with it specific treatment of the lambs as they were born. During the lambing season the sheep were brought from the fields to the tower of the flock. The lower level served as a birthing room for the lambs. As soon as they were born the lambs were laid in a hewn depression in limestone rock known as a manger and wrapped to prevent them thrashing about and harming themselves while they were inspected for signs of defect.
“And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”
Scholars believe that the shepherds may have known where to find Jesus because to them all these signs could only point to the tower of the flock and the very process they were so familiar with.
There are many aspects of the Christmas narrative that we can skim over as a result of familiarity and even embrace popular tradition rather than the biblical account.
Our God is incredible in His detail, even this glorious interaction with seemingly simple shepherds is a powerful prophetic picture to all mankind of the birth and mission of the Messiah. The picture of a Lamb without spot or blemish indicating the perfection and sinless nature of Jesus, the purpose of these lambs birthed for sacrificial offering and atonement, His very mission. From the moment of His birth the ultimate reason for Jesus’ coming is alluded to. He would be wrapped and laid in a place cut in stone once more as the lamb without spot or blemish who died for our sins. (See Luke 23:53)
As we anticipate the celebration of His coming during the season of Advent, let us embrace the good news of great joy and remember Our God was wrapped in human flesh for us.