Old time minor-leaguers were a special class of player.  Back in the day these farm hands were forced  to endure thousands of miles on buses; sweat through three- game weekends; tolerate truck stop pre-game meals; stomach the monotonous routine of packing and unpacking smelly hockey bags- dragging them back and forth from bus to locker room and absorb hecklers and mockers in opposing arenas. Pushing back hurt feelings of being snubbed by NHL managers and unrealized dreams these resilient, courageous men refused to give up on the game and tenaciously eked out a living in the rough and tough minor league system of their time. They were an extraordinary class of professionals, proud, hard as nails and willing to make great sacrifices to play the game they loved.   

     The Shepherds of Jesus’ day in some ways were not unlike the lunch bucket squad of hockey farm hands. They too put in long, lonely hours protecting and looking after the needs of their flocks. Surviving on minimal incomes and snubbed by the rest of society this hardened clan of sheep herders were made to feel like second class citizens. Their jobs called for robust men willing to be down and dirty and sweaty and smelly. They were uncultured and poor mannered and were treated as outcasts by the rest of society.

    Now consider this, when God broke his long silence by sending His Son to Bethlehem, He chose Shepherds. To them the Creator made the greatest announcement ever made. Remarkable!  Picture this group of back woods shepherds- some sleeping, others standing guard, a few telling stories or discussing the issues of the day, when suddenly out of nowhere an angel shows up. The shock had them frozen with terror. And with beads of cold sweat and wide open mouths they hear the angel: ‘Don’t be afraid ‘1(They must have thought, ‘easy for you to say’).The angel continued; “I bring you great news that will be a great joy to all people. The Saviour-yes the Messiah, the Lord-has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David.”2 And then “Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others-armies from heaven-praising God...”3

    Still in a state of shock and disbelief they race for the village where they found Joseph and Mary and the baby in the manger. Excited beyond measure they “told everyone what had happened”4. Why did God choose these lowly shepherds? Because He wanted the world to know that they were just as important as societies’ bright lights. He makes no distinctions. He wants everyone to know Him, and to tell others about Him. No matter one’s status or station in life, God has a plan for everyone.

    A number of decades ago a player was dispatched to the lowest league in the then known hockey world.  He fought through the disappointment and enjoyed a successful season on ice. But of greater importance during that experience deep in the minors he discovered Jesus’ heart for hockey players. Like the shepherds in the Christmas story he has been proclaiming the Good News of Jesus birth in the hockey world ever since.   

     “...all who heard were astonished-and they went back to their flocks with praise on their lips and in their hearts.”5.
    1. Luke 2:10; 2. Luke 2:11; 3. Luke 2.13; 4. Luke 2:17; 5. Luke 2:18.