"When [the shepherds] had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child" (Luke 2:17).
Luke tells us that the shepherds "spread the word." Shepherds generally came from the base elements of society. In that day, they were so little trusted that a shepherd's testimony would not be accepted in a courtroom. Most shepherds were considered on a par with Gypsies, vagrants, and con men. Add to that the fact that shepherds were on the lowest rung of the economic ladder and had little or no formal education. It is entirely possible that these shepherds who heard the angels singing were illiterate.
And that makes the story all the more remarkable. First, they heard and saw the spectacular angelic revelation. Then, when they went to Bethlehem, they discovered the Savior of the world in a feeding-trough in a rough, outdoor barn, perhaps a cave carved out of the rocky hillside. The birth and the revelation didn't seem to go together. Yet there it was—all from the hand of God.
And consider this. On that night in Bethlehem, outside of Joseph and Mary, the only people in the world who knew Christ had been born were the shepherds. After the "400 silent years," when God did not speak through prophets, he now speaks through angels to lowly shepherds on a remote hillside outside a tiny Judean village.
It wasn't a likely way to win the world. Certainly not the way we would have done it. If we had planned it, Jesus would have been born in Jerusalem, to a wealthy family, and attended by the high and mighty. That way no one would doubt that the Son of God had come to earth.
But God's ways and ours are not the same. He chose to reveal the news to the shepherds first of all. After their initial (and understandable) fear, they responded in faith. They believed the angel, they immediately went to Bethlehem, and they found the baby Jesus. Everything was just as the angel said it would be.
Excerpted from "'Twas the Day After Christmas" from Keep Believing Ministries (used by permission).