"Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night...."
I have read that in Jesus' time shepherds were social outcasts. This has puzzled me. Sure, shepherds tended to be paid minimum wage. There's the odor problem. I can't imagine a parent being thrilled with little Amos or Anna saying, "Dad, Mom, when I grow up I want to be a shepherd."
But shepherds had opportunity for advancement. Get a ram and ewes of your own, put on some Barry White, profit! You could diversify into wool, mutton, or the shofar industry. The big figures of Bible history began as shepherds: Abel. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob. Joseph and his brothers. Moses. King David! Shepherds all.
So why couldn't shepherds get more respect?
I pondered the life of the shepherd. There they sat on that silent night. They watched their sheep sleep. If these were cold, low-grade sheep, they watched their heaped cheap sheep sleep.
Perhaps the shepherds told each other jokes to pass the time. What kind of humor would a first-century Seinfeld present? What material presented itself?
(To see a response to the following, rest your mouse pointer over the question.)
Now you know why the people of Bethlehem groaned when the shepherds came to town.
(These baaad bits were inflicted on residents and visitors during our recent caroling at Powhatan Nursing Home.)