"And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger."
Everything God does has a purpose, including the Angel's announcement of our Saviour's birth to a group of shepherds in the Bethlehem countryside.
This was not just any ordinary group of shepherds, however. These were priestly shepherds overseeing the birth of lambs to be sacrificed in the Temple. In fact, in his book, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Alfred Edersheim writes in Chapter 6, The Nativity of Jesus the Messiah,
"That the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem, was a settled conviction. Equally so was the belief, that He was to be revealed from Migdal Eder, 'the tower of the flock.' This Migdal Eder was not the watchtower for the ordinary flocks which pastured on the barren sheepground beyond Bethlehem, but lay close to the town, on the road to Jerusalem. A passage in the Mishnah leads to the conclusion, that the flocks, which pastured there, were destined for Temple-sacrifices."
This is because of a prophecy in Micah 4:8, which says, "And thou, O tower of the flock, the strong hold of the daughter of Zion, unto thee shall it come, even the first dominion; the kingdom shall come to the daughter of Jerusalem." The "tower of the flock" in Micah 4:8 refers to the Migdal Eder outside of Bethlehem, which Micah 5:2 identifies as the birthplace of the Messiah:
"But thou, Beth-lehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting."
It was at Migdal Eder that the priestly shepherds oversaw the birth of lambs to be offered up as sacrifices in the Temple. As the lambs were born the shepherds carefully inspected them and then, if they were acceptable, wrapped cloths around them and laid them aside in manger to protect and calm them and while setting them apart from the other lambs. Imagine then the significance or the angel's announcement to the shepherds in Luke 2:11-12:
"For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger."
These shepherds, more than any others, could appreciate the significance of Baby Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes and laying in a manger. Because He was, after all, set apart to be our Sacrifice.
And that is the greatest Christmas gift of all.