Extreme Shepherding: Seeing and Believing like the Shepherds

Have you watched the “Extreme Shepherding” video that has become so popular in the past few days?  Take a look…..

Every time I watch that video I’m amazed.  And, I can’t help but think of the first “Extreme Shepherding” that occurred in the first-century.  It didn’t involve LED lights, video cameras or any other technology, but I can imagine the sight was even more impressive.  Read what Luke recorded in his gospel about the experience.

(While I prefer the more traditional translation of Luke 2 – the version that Linus recited on an empty stage explaining the true meaning of Christmas to Charlie Brown – I’ve used The Message below.  Sometimes when a scripture becomes so familiar to us, we read it too quickly and miss out.  I’ve found that by reading a familiar passage in a different version, I tend to slow down and savor the words.)

8-12 There were sheepherders camping in the neighborhood. They had set night watches over their sheep. Suddenly, God’s angel stood among them and God’s glory blazed around them. They were terrified. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid. I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David’s town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. This is what you’re to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger.”

13-14 At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God’s praises:

Glory to God in the heavenly heights,
Peace to all men and women on earth who please him.

15-18 As the angel choir withdrew into heaven, the sheepherders talked it over. “Let’s get over to Bethlehem as fast as we can and see for ourselves what God has revealed to us.” They left, running, and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. Seeing was believing. They told everyone they met what the angels had said about this child. All who heard the sheepherders were impressed.

19-20 Mary kept all these things to herself, holding them dear, deep within herself. The sheepherders returned and let loose, glorifying and praising God for everything they had heard and seen. It turned out exactly the way they’d been told!  (Luke 2:8-20, The Message)

Shepherds by martcatnocThere are so many great take-aways from the shepherds’ story.  Lessons of openness to unexpected messages, of responding with immediate obedience, of excitedly sharing truth, and of worshiping unashamedly.  One also cannot overlook the improbability of Jesus’ birth announcement being first delivered to some of the lowest, poorest individuals in society or the significance of a large, singing choir of angels, or their proclamation of peace.

But more than anything the simple statement, “Seeing was believing” stands out to me.  At first glance the statement appears exclusionary because after all, we weren’t there, we didn’t see, so however can we believe?  But I think we’re intended to think about it quite differently.  While we weren’t present at the manger on that first Christmas morning, we are continually offered glimpses of “God sightings” that can move us to belief.

Hoar Frost by Douglas Brown

* Brilliant colors painted across the horizon as the sun sets in the west.

* A child who spends his own allowance to buy a blanket for the man standing on the corner with a cardboard sign.

Northern Lights by Image Editor

* Hoarfrost shimmering on a tree branch in the early dawn’s light.

* The encouragement of an unexpected phone call “just to say Hi” on a day when it’s most needed.

* Dancing lights in the northern night sky.

* True tales of selfless heroes and guardians of justice and hope.


Perhaps you judge these things as insignificant, especially compared to seeing the King of Kings and Lord of Lords majestically lying atop a mound of hay in a manger.  But really the scene the shepherds saw was hardly majestic.  They rejoiced and believed simply because they found what they had been told to look for.

We too have been told what to look for –

In nature: The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. (Psalm 19:1)

In conduct: The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul.  The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple.  The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart.  The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes. (Psalm 19:7-8)

And in people: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.  (John 13:34-35)

Like the disciples who saw and believed, we too can believe when we see what we’ve been told to look for – beauty, purity, wisdom, and self-giving love.  Now that’s “Extreme Shepherding”!


Where have you seen and believed this Christmas season?  How do you plan on doing your own “Extreme Shepherding” this season?