And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people…” (Luke 2)
The angel of the Lord appeared to shepherds who were considered unclean because of the nature of their work. The ‘good news’ was proclaimed to them and, although afraid at first and after satisfying their inquiry about what had happened, they received the news with great joy and praise for God.
The angel of the Lord did not appear to King Herod or the religious leaders of the day.
On reading Matthew chapter 2 verse 14-22, we see that Herod did not receive the news of the birth of the King of the Jews with great joy. He was disturbed. Herod’s consternation was so great it ultimately resulted in the slaughter of many innocent children.
When we read the Gospels, we learn that the Jewish religious leaders did not receive Jesus the Messiah with great joy. They wanted to kill him. When Pilate commissioned the inscription ‘Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews’ to be placed on the cross of Jesus, the Jews protested and wanted the sign changed because they recognised no other king but Caesar (John 19:16-22).
Jesus said in his sermon on the mount:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven…Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth…Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God… (Matthew 5)
King Herod never got to see God. The Jews in their blind hatred of Jesus did not see their Messiah.
And the shepherds? They saw God!