Back then shepherds were on the lowest rung of the social ladder. They were uneducated, untrained and unskilled. They were considered rough characters. In fact, you would never buy something from a shepherd because it was assumed that whatever they were selling had probably been stolen. They were considered unclean because their occupation prohibited them from worshipping in the Temple and obeying many of the burdensome laws that the religious leaders had thrown on the Jewish people. They were considered to be so unreliable that they were not allowed to testify in court. When the Pharisees spoke of "Tax Collectors and Sinners," shepherds would have fallen into the category of "sinners." Yet, when Jesus is born, God chooses to make the announcement first to shepherds and they become the first witnesses of the birth of the Son of God.
Jesus is resurrected! And who was the first to hear the announcement of His being risen and become the first witnesses of Easter? Women! Today in our American culture that would not seem out of the ordinary at all. But if you were living in Israel back in the day of Jesus, it would have been very out of the ordinary. In the culture of that day women were treated and viewed like property. Much like the shepherds, women were not allowed to testify in court either and they could only go so far into the Temple area. Yet, when Jesus is resurrected, God chooses to make the announcement first to women and they become the first witnesses of the resurrection of the Son of God from the dead.
What can we learn about God? He loves the outcast. While religious leaders wrote off shepherds as unclean and pagan, God revealed His truth to shepherds. While society wrote off women, God revealed His truth to women. What a God!
Shepherds were the first witnesses of Christ's birth even though they were not allowed to testify in court! That was strange! Women were the first witnesses of Christ's resurrection even though they were not allowed to testify in court! That was strange! But what is even more strange is that today God has made you and I who have put our faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus His witnesses to our world. It's true! God still loves the outcast! And you and I who realize how unworthy we are to know Jesus and to be His witnesses ought to be the ones who can best understand and most fully celebrate the message of the Christmas angels to the shepherds,
"Fear not! I bring you good news of great joy that is for all people. For unto you (the outcasts) is born today in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord!"