Ever wonder why the shepherds, quietly keeping watch over their flocks at night, were the first people on earth that God choose to tell about the birth of his son? Why wasn’t the birth of Jesus announced in Rome, the capital of the empire? Or in Jerusalem, the center of the Jewish faith? Why wasn’t the birth of the coming king announced to the powerful or the mighty, or the well-connected? I suppose you could say it was, in that the Magi, kings from the East, read the stars and came to honor Jesus. But while they got a star, the shepherds received a declaration by an angelic mob. Heavens split open in joy.

The first to get to the manger? Shepherds, not Kings. Appropriate for a barn. God chose a group of smelly guys who made a living by watching animals to receive the greatest announcement in history, namely that God was born into flesh and the world will never be the same. After mom and dad, the first people to greet Jesus was a group of herdsmen.

This says a few things to me. First, God cares about everyone, rich or poor, powerful or weak, in or out of the right crowd. In fact, God often favors the weak and those outside the mainstream, which gives me pause. Second, God doesn’t tone down the show for the shepherds. He gives a lavish glimpse into heaven, a peek into a terrifying, otherworldly reality. Third, the shepherds run straight to Jesus, and then after meeting him go out and spread the word concerning this magnificent child. They were the first missionaries.

Why were the Shepherds first? Why not the Kings? The order should tell us something. God will use shepherds, God will use kings, God will use you and I, if only we’ll let him do so. Enjoy the Christmas holiday and as you gaze out in the night on Christmas, remember those shepherds who were watching in the dark as well.