Part One – Contrast of Social Status
The lowly shepherds who were keeping watch over the sheep were some of the most desperate in society. They were considered among the social outcasts, mistreated, dishonest, crafty, and unscrupulous, whose testimony was not even allowed in a court of law.
In today’s society they would be on the same social ladder as the homeless, the beggars, the abandoned, and the forgotten. The shepherds of old came from the base elements of society. Most shepherds were considered on a par with gypsies, vagrants, and con men. It is possible that the shepherds mentioned in the gospel of Luke were illiterate men.
In the Old Testament during the time that Joseph was prime minister of Egypt, the shepherds of Israel were despised by the Egyptians (Gen. 36:34). We also see in 1 Sam. 16:11 that Jesse, the father of David, when questioned by the prophet Samuel about any other children said, “There is still the youngest, but he is out in the field watching the sheep.” That is to say, David has the lowliest job of all my seven sons.
In spite of their low esteem and position in society, these lowly shepherds were given the task of providing green pasture and protection for the sheep, making sure the one year old male would be keep healthy and pure for the family to offer as their sacrificial lamb.
In contrast to this scene, we see the wise men in an entirely different light. It is like the difference between day and night. Their social status was viewed as an extreme opposite. They were men of influence, highly respected, and high on the ladder of success. When they came to Jerusalem looking for the birth of the King of the Jews they didn’t stop at a gas station for directions. They went straight to Herod’s palace and were received as VIP’s and given a red carpet reception. A state dinner was held in their honor in the red room of Herod’s white house.
The wise men remind me of Daniel’s status while a captive in the city of Babylon. He was a young Jewish teenager when taken by Nebuchadnezzar and through his ability to interpret the king’s dreams quickly climbed the social ladder until he reached the position of favor next to the king. No one was held in higher esteem than Daniel.
What this contrast shows you and me is that God is no respecter of persons. He came to reach out with the Good News, to both the great and the small, the lowly as well as the mighty. No one is too far down the ladder or too far up the ladder that he cannot receive the gift of salvation that comes through faith in God’s son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
I pray that this Christmas each one of you reading this will either accept the gift of salvation that Jesus has offered, or your will re-commit your life to him.