The Leftover Shepherd
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 that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,What if one stayed? After all, what kind of shepherds would they be if they left their flocks untended in the middle of the night? Not good shepherds, that's for dang sure. Good shepherds stay. Didn't David, the future king of the Jews, get left behind to tend the sheep when good news came to town? So here's what I'm thinking: X - 1 shepherds ran off, in the wake of the heavenly host, to welcome the Son of God to the world. One shepherd stuck around. What must he have been thinking? He was probably the youngest, the shepherd of no account. He probably knew that to be the case, as much because the other shepherds would regularly remind him as because the culture of the day was accustomed to pecking orders. There would have been no question of who got stuck with the sheep while the others got face time with Messiah. That doesn't mean that this good shepherd of no account resented his position or his fellow shepherds or even the heavenly host that left him with the work of multiple men. It does mean he made a sacrifice of himself, missing out on the big good news in order to do his little good work. I imagine that one of the host of angels stayed behind too. Because angels are a little like shepherds, if you think about it. But there's more: Here, on this lonely field at night, far removed from the shaking of history somewhere in Bethlehem - here was something worth seeing. To tend the sheep so that others may fall at the feet of the God of all mercy is a sacrifice of the highest order, the kind of thing that angels long to look on. I imagine that lone shepherd, left alone by his friends in the stark silence of a holy night, might actually, finally, feel seen by the God who sees.
“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off.