That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:8–12 NLT)
The straightest path is not always the most efficient or best route. For example, there is a special type of brick wall, such as you might find separating a rose garden from the walking path at a local park; this kind of wall appears to be a wasteful use of bricks but is actually much more efficient. Crinkle crankle walls – also known as a serpentine, sinusoidal, or ribbon wall – weave back and forth across the landscape, undulating a foot or two in each direction as they separate the edge of one area from another. It ends up looking like a horizontal wave or a long snake slithering across the landscape.
Most brick walls need at least two layers of bricks or the occasional buttress to ensure stability; a typical stack of bricks in a straight line lacks the strength to withstand more than a few seasons. In contrast, a crinkle crankle wall is resilient due to the arches formed by the wall weaving back and forth. One of the oldest crinkle crankle walls still standing was built during the Napoleonic Wars, more than 200 years ago.
When the angels announced the birth of the Messiah, the logical place – from a human standpoint – would have been the Temple. For hundreds of years the Temple, preceded by the Tabernacle, had been the physical representation of God’s presence among his chosen people. Announcing the birth of Immanuel at the Temple just makes sense. Instead, God chose the less direct route of sharing this good news with shepherds guarding their flocks at night.
Jesus did not come to Earth to perpetuate the current power structures. In fact, it was the religious leaders of the day who most often came into conflict with Jesus and his teachings, both during his years of ministry and after his ascension. Instead, God chose this group of shepherds, in part, to emphasize Jesus’s role as the Good Shepherd and to make it known that this Messiah was not just for the elites; Jesus is for all people.