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By Pastor Overall
Runner for Christ Ministries 

The Birth & The Shepherds

Series: THE CHRIST-MAS STORY | Story 2

December 16, 2021

Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world in those days. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room

available for them. 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 16 Gerald M. Overall 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, "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 and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. Luke 2:1-20 Joseph and Mary have finally reached Bethlehem, and they are searching for a place to stay. They have sought refuge in what the Bible call's an Inn. The word Inn is a little deceptive. It casts a vision into our minds of what we call a hotel or motel today. It was hardly that at all. They were called caravansaries. They were a walled area for protection from the roving bandits and marauders in the surrounding hillsides and roads. It would have had three levels. The Lower level would be for the animals, their keepers, and poor folk. The second level was for those who could afford it. And the third level was more than likely for the caravan owners or the rich. They could put up a blanket for a wall of sorts and, in this way, have some privacy, not much but some. Joseph and Mary had only modest means, leaving them with the animals and poor folk on the lower level, and this most definitely was not a place for someone about to give birth. They finally ended up in a cave where the shepherds would house their sheep in the cold and wet rainy seasons. A shepherd's life was tough. They would live outside alone with the sheep for nine or ten months at a time. His weapons to protect the sheep from lions, bears, and other predators would have been a club studded with nails, and his shepherds' staff and a sling-like King David used against Goliath. His shepherds' staff had a hook on one end and a goad on the other 18 Gerald M. Overall end to rescue the sheep from cliffs and rocky places. It was also used to discipline the sheep and to keep them in line. This shepherd's staff could be used as a weapon against humans too. He would sometimes have to fight with other shepherds to protect his most valuable resource, water. At night to protect the sheep, he would herd the sheep into a makeshift walled in pen made out of piled-up stones for protection. To keep the sheep from jumping out of the pen, they would line the top of the wall with briers (prickly bushes). There was no gate for the pen because the shepherd was the gate. Our understanding of the life and habits of these shepherds is how we came to understand that Jesus was not born in December as many believe. We know this because the shepherds would have

most likely used the cave where he was born during the height of the wet, cold rainy season in December. We read in the Bible that the shepherds were out in the fields with their flocks by night.

The angels told them to go and seek the young child, and they did, and they found him just as it had been said to them by the angels. Most scholars believe he was born around the time we celebrate Easter today, late March or Early April around 4 or 6 BC. Whatever the time of year it was does not matter. All that matters is that the Lord of glory, Jesus Christ, has now been born into our time and space, and He has become a real-life human being. Fully God and fully man, modestly born in an animal feeding trough in one of those empty caves that littered the limestone hills of Bethlehem. After Jesus was born, he would have been washed, rubbed down with salt, and bound or rapped in swaddling cloths for six months to keep his body straight. Daily, he would be unbound, washed and dusted with powdered myrtle leaves, wiped down with olive oil, and rebound.

The shepherds found Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus lying in a manger just as the angels had told them. These lowly shepherds would be the first people on earth to see the Savior of the world. This revelation seems so fitting to me, seeing that Jesus Christ was descended from shepherds because, after all, King David was a shepherd before he became King. The shepherds did just as the angels told them, and they went to worship the child and returned to tell the story to all who would listen. They went and told it on the mountains, and everywhere they went that Jesus Christ is born and we should all do the same.

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