Lk.2:8 – In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night.
You ever take time to think about the Shepherds and sheep that the angels visited while announcing the birth of Christ? Were these random sheep and random shepherds or was there a point? I have heard grinches go on and on about how sheep would never be outside in winter and using this incredible God moment as some prooftext to discredit Christmas being on December 25. That’s not what this story is about. These particular shepherds and sheep were not random, these were sheep being prepared as temple sacrifices. They had to be raised somewhere and there were thousands of sacrificial lambs being offered in the temple. These shepherds raised lambs born for the altar just outside of Bethlehem all year long. These sheep were born to die. The real story was another lamb being born in Bethlehem that the angels were singing about that night. They were singing about the lamb of God that would take away the sins of the world. Charles Hutchins gives us a peek into the back story, why these shepherds and sheep were in Bethlehem.
“Mary and Joseph couldn’t get a room in the inn, but she was about to give birth. Where would be the best place to go? Where they knew other births were happening – albeit sheep. There were practical reasons for going there, but the simple truth is THAT is where God wanted His Son to be born. Why? Because the flock of Bethlehem, only a few miles from Jerusalem, were the sheep used for proper sacrifices at the Temple in Jerusalem. Those sheep born at Migdal Eder were destined to be slaughtered one day as part of the divine instructions for temple worship! They were born to die as sacrifices!
So there’s Mary giving birth to the Son of God, born as the one sacrifice for sins forever; chances were there were a dozen or so pregnant ewes also ready to give birth. And what did Joseph do? He took the new-born Child and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, the same clothes used to wrap those all-important new-born lambs. He laid Him in the manger.”
The angels came to these shepherds on purpose. This is what their lives had been about all along. They had known about a king, a messiah, and the restoration of their land. They knew about lambs and temple sacrifices. Now it was all coming together. This King, like David, would be the final sacrificial lamb.