A few things here about shepherds in Jesus' day that you might not know:
1. Shepherds may have had small landholdings but this income wasn't enough to support their families, their own agricultural pursuits, and the heavy burden of taxation.
2. They often hired themselves out for extra wages, i.e. self-employed
3. They were often akin to the peasant class of society, not having much in the way of power or privilege.
4. Yet, the Jewish cult and Jerusalem temple were heavily dependent upon them, for they brought some 30,000 lambs for Passover.
5. Though they were thought highly by the Jewish people, many in the Greco-Roman world thought of them as the dregs of society. James Jeffers contends that, "“In general, Greeks and Romans looked down upon shepherds, who were thoughts of as dirty and smelly, since they spent most of their time out of doors with animals. Aristotle said that of among men, the “laziest are shepherds, who lead an idle life, and get their subsistence without trouble from tame animals; their flocks having to wander from place to place in search of pasture, they are compelled to follow them, cultivating a sort of living farm (Politics 1.8). Many Romans believed that shepherds practiced highway robbery as well."
6. Yet, they were the first as recorded by Luke to go and tell Mary and Joseph the significance of the birth of Jesus.
7. The gospel message enters through the dirty fingernails and aching muscles of shepherds so that the lowly might be lifted up and that all people, including the least of these, might hear and proclaim the good news.
See also The comments regarding shepherds are based upon my research, looking @
Joel B. Green, The Gospel of Luke (NICNT), 130.
James Jeffers, The Greco-Roman World of the New Testament Era: Exploring the Background of Early Christianity, 21
Gerard Lenski, Power and Social Stratification, 1966, 266-281.