Luke in his Gospel starts the Infancy Narrative by giving a reason why Joseph, along with pregnant wife, had to go to Bethlehem to register for the census: he was of the House of David. That is important because through Joseph as Jesus’ legal father Jesus could trace his human lineage back to David who was anointed king by the prophet Samuel in his hometown of Bethlehem. As a result, Jesus is called “Son of David”.
Now we are all familiar with Luke’s account. Even young children can recite some or all the details, for instance the manger, no room in the inn, swaddling clothes, an angel being joined by a multitude of the heavenly host singing a hymn of praise, and shepherds keeping night watch over their flock. All those details are important as Luke continues his Gospel, but I want to concentrate on the shepherds.
Imagine you are one of them. It is a peaceful, quiet night, perhaps a bit chilly, and you are getting sleepy and are tempted to close your eyes for just a moment. Suddenly, out of nowhere, an angel appears and the glory of the Lord shines around you. Fear seizes you, as well as it might; and the angel speaks, “Do not be afraid” and delivers an astounding message about a baby, a savior being born, telling you for whom to look and where. In a manger? And this is the Christ and Lord? And then, out of thin air, a multitude appears. I don’t about you, but I’m shaking in my sandals and want to run away but my feet feel they are anchored to the ground. And then the angelic host went away as suddenly as they appeared.
Now what? Much discussion follows. Some say, “Let’s go to see what has been told to us”. Some say, “Let’s keep quiet. No one will believe us and say it was a hallucination”. However, the 1st group prevails. But, an objection is raised, “Who will watch our flock? At least one of us must stay to ensure nothing happens to them. Otherwise, if they become scattered or one of the flock is injured by a wolf, we most certainly would be fired for dereliction of duty, lose our livelihood, and forever be known as bad shepherds.” Question: Would you volunteer to be the shepherd left behind? Or would you prefer another shepherd, chosen by lot, to be on duty?
Eventually, the other shepherds return very excited because it was just what the angel said they would find. Something about them was changed. They would go on to tell everybody they would meet, and those people were amazed on hearing them. They became the first evangelizers. It didn’t make any difference if other people believed or not as long as they announced the good news of great joy. That’s our vocation, too.
By the way, David was working for his father as a shepherd when God called him from tending his flock to be a king responsible for God’s People.