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Christmas and Shepherds

“Christmas and Shepherds” (Luke 2.8-20)

The 13th Day of Advent

December 9, 2022

In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flocks by night” (Luke 2.8).

(This picture of the shepherds is perhaps my favorite of the shepherds, painted by our daughter, Bethany, at 7 years of age )

Every story of the Christmas narrative is my favorite, and every story has unique and special truths and characters. Not only do I love the shepherds because of the truths of their story, but perhaps I love the shepherds perhaps because I grew up on a farm in Pennsylvania where we usually had sheep. Perhaps it’s because one of my spiritual gifts is being a pastor. A pastor is a “shepherd” – one who cares for Jesus’ sheep. Being a spiritual shepherd has always been and always will be a very high honor. Jesus defined Himself as being the good shepherd (John 10.11). Like king David, I love thinking about Jesus as my shepherd (Psalm 23).

Shepherds are simple folk with a simple, single-minded task – care for the sheep. Care for them during daylight, and care for them at nighttime. It was a 24/7 job. Consider just some of their defining traits as we think about them.

  • They lead the sheep – sheep have to be led – shepherds lead.

  • They lead the sheep to food.

  • They lead the sheep to water.

  • They lead the sheep to safety.

  • They lead them away from danger.

  • They care and heal when the sheep get hurt.

  • They defend the sheep from attacks of wild animals.

  • They serve without being thanked. When is the last time you heard a sheep saying “Thank you” to their shepherd? In all my years as a pastor, “Thank You” notes are rare.

  • Their lives are uncomplicated.

  • They are always on the move – they cannot stay at the same place.

  • They were not city people – they loved the fields and the undistracted nature of God’s world.

  • Following Christ’s birth in the stable, they were the first to hear the message of God’s redemptive love – through an angelic heavenly host no less – they were the first evangelists of the Christmas story (Luke 2.17,18).

Perhaps God appeared to them first through the angelic host because God sent His Son to be the perfect Lamb of God (John 1.36), slain before the foundations of the world (Revelation 5.12,13; 13.8).

Because of Bethlehem’s proximity to Jerusalem, some have suggested that their sheep might have been what we would call “temple sheep” – sheep raised and destined for sacrifice in the temple. If this were true, these shepherds would have been reminded every day of the perfect Lamb of God who would come and be sacrificed for the sins of the world.

For me, all of these thoughts make the shepherds special, but I have one final comment.

The shepherds did not keep this wonderful night for just themselves and their own families. According to Luke, “they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child” (Luke 2.17), and they returned to their job, “glorifying and praise God for all they had heard and seen” (Luke 2.20).

I pray that this Christmas (and every day thereafter because Christmas is 365 days/year) we will follow the shepherds to the One who gives life, that we never stop telling the Good News, and that we will never stop “glorifying and praising God” for all He has done for us.

To whom will we tell the story of Jesus this Christmas? To whom will we remind others of the love Jesus has for them?

In this world, plagued by so many, many challenges, let’s see to it that we continue to herald that same message of the shepherds – the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ.. It’s more important than ever before.

Happy 13th Day of Advent!

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