Guest Post

By: Kendra Broekhuis

I feel it important to admit that I’ve often found Luke 2 to be old hat.

Be it that I’m far removed from ancient Middle Eastern culture, or that I’ve heard this story as many times as “pumpkin spice” is hashtagged on Instagram in the fall, or that I’ve read too many sanitized versions of the story – it’s easy to forget all that was so wildly unexpected about the way Jesus entered into this world:

A tiny baby, growing within the womb of a virgin.
A carpenter from the insignificant village of Nazareth, His earthly father.
An outwardly scandalous union between said virgin and carpenter.
A 100 mile trek from village to hometown during the last months of pregnancy.
A messy birth in plain sight of the animals inhabiting this couple’s temporary quarters.
A feeding trough for His very first bed.

This? This is how the Son of God, the Savior of the world, Christ the Lord would come to us?

But the unexpected didn’t stop there. Beyond the wild details of our Messiah taking on human flesh, there was another set of characters invited into the story: “Shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.” {Luke 2:8}

When I come to that scene, I tend to picture a bunch of five-year-olds dressed in tunics and holding oversized sticks, struggling to land Stage Left during their Christmas dramatization. But although my mind’s picture is utterly adorable, major pieces of history and culture go missing. The actual drama unfolding throughout Christ’s birth becomes, as mentioned, sanitized.

So I read Luke 2 again, also scrounging the extensive notes in my study Bible. And what I discovered in regards to these “shepherds out in the field” completely rocked me:

“Despite the dignity bestowed on shepherds through God’s anointing of David and through His application of the title to Himself, shepherds were a despised class by the time of Christ due to their transience and their work, which often rendered them ceremonially unclean. According to later sources, they were considered too unreliable to give testimony in the courts.”1

Despised. Unclean. Stereotyped as unreliable. Other sources referred to them as rough around the edges; marginalized by general society.2 And while these descriptions don’t harmonize with the bright faced five-year-olds I mentioned, it reminds me of a revised version of that tune often sung about my neighborhood on the north side of Milwaukee: uneducated, unemployed, homeless, incarcerated.3 #TheStruggleIsReal isn’t just a sarcastic way to end a social media post on our block.

And because of our address, we’ve had many modern day shepherds sitting around our table – those who have truly been left on the margins. Some are the kids “giving their teachers a run for their money.” Some have relatives in jail. Some have been evicted and uprooted multiple times. Some are struggling to find work, scraping by to make the rent. But all have endured enough pain in their lives to have their starting lines moved miles behind the rest of ours in today’s rat race.

Meanwhile, I’ve been told by people from the other side of town that they don’t dare drive down my street in the daytime. But just as the note in my Bible didn’t stop there, neither should our view of shepherds – whether New Testament or modern day – because a bad reputation or short-sighted stereotype didn’t didn’t keep God from bestowing His favor on them:

“Yet, it was to the shepherds that God first chose to announce the Christ’s birth.”4

This is one of the most common themes throughout Scripture – a theme heavily portrayed again in Luke 2 with the people chosen to be Jesus’ earthly mother and father, and especially the people chosen to herald His birth. God didn’t choose the educated, or the wealthy; nor those in power. He didn’t choose the religious elite, nor the socially acceptable – not even the “Insta Famous.” As perfectly described many years after-the-fact in 1 Corinthians 1:27-29:

“God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, 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.”

The best part is that the shepherds did a bang up job as heralds. They followed the angels’ instructions to seek out the baby lying in a manger, and then they told everyone. These shepherds, who were not even allowed to bear legal testimony in court, immediately bore testimony to their Savior. {Luke 2:17-18, 20}

Can I – the educated, wealthy, and religious – even say the same about my own fervor to share the Good News?

A modern-day shepherd showed up unannounced at our house a week ago. He said he’d been feeling depressed and was having a hard time signing up for temp work. Having been through my own season of depression before, it was easy to imagine the “I don’t want to get out of bed” feeling.

Sitting on our couch, he said he felt the Spirit moving him to call the temp agency to attempt to secure work for the following week. He insisted on calling over speakerphone so that we could listen in. The agent on the phone was not only able to find him a couple days of employment, but was able to secure him the next three weeks at the same location – a truly rare gift in his line of work.

Immediately, our friend said, “That’s the Holy Spirit moving! Did you see that, guys?!”

A modern day shepherd – heralding Christ’s power that is not only a comfort to him in the valleys, but is the giver of every good and perfect gift on the hilltops too.

Jesus was nothing anyone expected, but He is Good News for all. And He demonstrated that so well through the unlikely characters invited into the story of His birth.

May we go and welcome likewise.

Grace and Peace,




  1. Note on Luke 2:8, The Reformation Study Bible, English Standard Version, R.C. Sproul, 2015, page 1786.
  4. Note on Luke 2:8, The Reformation Study Bible, English Standard Version, R.C. Sproul, 2015, page 1786.