The heavenly host that we heard about on Sunday made their declaration of praise (“Glory to God in the Highest”) to a bunch of seemingly ordinary shepherds.
But the oral tradition of the Jews (the Mishnah) and other extra biblical sources confirm that these shepherds were no ordinary group of men. They were not watching out for an ordinary flock of sheep. No, their lambs were born to die.
That is why the angel appeared to them, and the sign he gave resonated in their hearts: “You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger…” (Luke 2:12).
Those were special “fat-tailed sheep” (See Exodus 29:22 and Leviticus 3:9). They were raised to be offered as sacrifices. They were “holy” or consecrated for a very specific purpose.
These sheep were birthed at a place known as “the Tower of the Flock” or Migdal Eder, which was first mentioned in Genesis 35:21 as a kind of military tower. That term is used again to identify where Rachel delivered Benjamin and died. Eusebius, a 4th century historian, later locates Migdal Eder about one mile outside Bethlehem on the road to Jerusalem.
It was a perfect location for lambs to be raised and ultimately offered as perfect sacrifices at the temple.
These fat-tailed sheep were very carefully birthed in the tower with shepherds in attendance. They were immediately wrapped in soft cloths known as swaddling clothes. Strips of white cloth just like those were used to help wrap a body in perfumes after death. Quite literally, they were grave clothes.
The cocooned lamb would then be gently placed in a feeding trough to protect his young body. Each perfect lamb was raised outside for one full year, a perfect lamb without blemish, set apart for the sacrificial system.
Jesus was a lamb set aside for our sins. “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance, Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the worst” (1 Timothy 1:15).
Our reaction to the message given by that host of angels ought to be the same as those faithful shepherds. After they got a chance to see that baby, ”… they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child” (Luke 2:17).
Let’s consider the glory of God this week and go tell folks about that child!