Merry Christmas…You Filthy Animal!

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. LK 2.8-10

“In Christ’s day, shepherds stood on the bottom rung of the Palestinian social ladder. They shared the same unenviable status as tax collectors and dung sweepers.” – Randy Alcorn

When Jesus was born God didn’t send angels tell Caesar or the High Priest or the religious leaders in Jerusalem. He sent them to shepherds. Maybe there were no dung sweepers up at that time of night.

German theologian and Bible scholar Jeremias says that according to Rabbis of the day “most of the time [shepherds] were dishonest and thieving; they led their herds onto other people’s land and pilfered the produce of the land.” “…the pious were warned not to buy wool, milk, or kids from shepherds on the assumption that it was stolen property. Shepherds were not allowed to fulfill a judicial office or be admitted in court as witnesses. A midrash (Jewish commentary) on Psalm 23:2 reads, ‘There is no more disreputable occupation than that of a shepherd.’ Philo, a first century Jewish philosopher wrote about looking after sheep and goats, ‘Such pursuits are held mean (contemptible, inferior) and inglorious.’”

When these unsavory guys came bursting in the door of the stable looking for the baby, Joseph probably grabbed his money bag. He may have grabbed a walking stick to defend his family. And after they told Mary what happened she may have pondered this: Why would God announce this wonderful, glorious news of great joy to these lowly shepherds? Because God loves the lowly.

God loves the lowly

For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 1 CO 1.26-29

God loves the lowly. God saves the worst of sinners. Do you feel like you’re a loser? Or maybe you feel like you are too wicked for God to love. Or too weak to be able to live the Christian life. Maybe you’ve done horrible things in your life. Well, you are the kind of person God is drawn to. The kind he loves to save. He saves the foolish, the weak, the low, the despised. God chooses “the things that are not.”

Why? One reason is because he gets more glory by saving and transforming the wicked and weak. The worse off a person is, the more obvious God’s power is when he changes that person. The more glory God gets. So don’t despair if you’re weak. If you struggle. If you have no strength in yourself. God wants to display his power and strength through you.

God gets more glory by saving and transforming the wicked and weak

I was a mess when Jesus saved me. I was a slave to all kinds of sins. Immoral. A drunk. Selfish. Disrespectful to my parents. Proud. Arrogant. In fact, I didn’t even realize how desperate I was. But I called out to God to change me – I didn’t even know to ask that he would save me. But he had mercy on me.

Years later when I became a pastor, then later a Senior pastor, I had no idea what I was doing. I tell people the fact that our church still exists after all these years at me at the helm is proof there’s a living God.

God chooses the weak. The lowly. Dung sweepers. Shepherds. Those who are on the low rungs of the social ladder. Filthy animals. Have you called out to Jesus? Don’t let your sins and failures keep you from asking him to save you. And if you are a believer in Jesus, rejoice this Christmas that God saves the lowly. And welcome the weak and the worst to your church. Jesus does.

Mark Altrogge

I’m a pastor at Saving Grace Church in Indiana, PA. I’m married to Kristi, have 5 kids, and a growing number of grandkids. I enjoy songwriting, oil painting and coffee, not necessarily in that order.