When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us." So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. [Luke 2:15-18, NRSV]
Maybe you don't identify with the angel [see Thursday's posting]. Perhaps this time of year leaves you feeling like you're outside of the circle; slightly detached from the events and festivities happening around you. If this is the case then you probably identify most strongly with the shepherds. Shepherds, as many of you know were considered to be heathens and rogues, outcasts in first century Jewish society. It was not considered to be a noble profession.
Part of the reason for this is that shepherds, because of the kind of work they did, were unable to fulfill all the requirements of the Jewish Law. They had to work on the Sabbath. They could not always follow all the ritual purities of the day. Therefore, shepherds were considered to be people outside of the religious circle; heathens and outcasts.
Placing this in a modern context those who identify most strongly with the shepherds are those who feel like outcasts in church and society; people who don't always fit the mold of what others think they should be; people who feel somewhat detached from others for a host of different reasons. Needless to say, there are many in the LGBT community who feel or have felt this way because they have been rejected by their church, their families or both.
If you identify most strongly with the shepherds, I have some good news for you. The shepherds were Jesus' first worshiping community. The heathens and the outcasts were the first to hear the angel's song and run into Bethlehem to find the babe lying in a manger. It wasn't the kings and societal elite. It wasn't the upstanding, synagogue-going religious folks. It was the shepherds who first worshipped our Lord.
This is most certainly good news indeed. It reminds us that everyone is welcome at the manger. No matter who we think is worthy to receive God's good news, it is offered to all. Everyone is welcome to see the babe; to hold the Christ Child in their arms, and sing him a sweet lullaby. This is what the shepherds' story tells us. It is most certainly good news for outcasts like you and me.