How many of you are the first born in your families? Go ahead, raise your hand. Never let it be said that Lutherans don’t raise their hands in Church. J Now how many of you are second born? And how many are third born? Any fourth? Any fifth? Any sixth borns? Any beyond that? God bless your mothers. I’m a first born. Our Old Testament text speaks about firstborns. “You shall set apart to the LORD all that open the womb, that is every first born that comes from an animal which you have, the males shall be the Lord’s. . . . And all the firstborn of many among your sons you shall redeem.” The first born sons were to be redeemed with a Lamb. And their mothers, who were unclean because of the flow of blood in childbirth were also to be presented and cleansed by sacrifice. The sons redemption was to be a reminder of the LORD’s deliverance of Israel at Passover and the cleansing of the mothers was to be a reminder of both the curse upon Eve and her daughters as well as the promise that the Messiah would be born.
These shepherds weren’t anyone special according to the world’s definition of special. They didn’t dress in fine cloths. They didn’t frequent the hot spots of Jerusalem on the weekends. They weren’t chic, or hip, or trendsetters in any way. Nor were they pretending to be. They weren’t worried about their self-esteem. They didn’t doubt their purpose in life. They were simple keepers of sheep, watchers of the flock, defenders of animals too stupid to know the difference between a hill or a cliff. In many ways they were a lot like parents . . . and like parents today these shepherds weren’t much appreciated. They were despised. They were poor. They were unclean. And they shared the same fears that you and I suffer. They were afraid of failure – of losing their sheep to lions or wolves, or gravity. And like all men, they were afraid of death. Nevertheless these shepherds were keeping watch over their flocks by night. They were doing their job, keeping their vocation, working the work they had been given.