Luke 2:8-12 "And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
One of the distinctives of Luke's gospel is how many details he includes regarding Jesus' birth. Luke's gospel shows Jesus reaching out to the marginalized in his world. There are many differences between Luke and Matthew's birth stories including: the genealogy of Jesus (Matthew - Joseph's family; Luke - Mary's family), Luke focuses on women (Elizabeth and Mary), and the first to visit Jesus in Luke's gospel were Jesus. (Matthew has the story of the Magi)
Luke shares the story of the shepherds, who were out at night watching their sheep in the fields. Why? Because it was easy to lose the sheep at night. Sheep were not very smart animals, so they didn't obey very well, and wandered off frequently. But tonight was a night unlike any other night. In the midst of the dreary evening hours, an angel appeared in a brilliant light. Understandably they were terrified. But the Angel calmed them down and said, "Don't be afraid, I bring you good news of great joy!" Later we learn that the shepherds hurried to Bethlehem to see if what the Angel said was true. I wonder who stayed with the sheep?
We see right away that Luke is showing us how the gospel is inclusive of all people. It is not ironic that the angel appears first to shepherds, as they would be the least likely candidates. We see however that they were a good choice. Not only did they run to check out the good news, but when they found the report to be true they shared the good news with others. You see the shepherds were just smart enough to go see the evidence for themselves.
And the shepherds were rewarded with being the first to witness the Christ-child wrapped in cloths, and lying in a manger.