I love the Christmas story. No, I’m not referring to the one about visions of sugarplums (though that is a favorite as well). The biblical Christmas story fascinates me. It so beautifully captures so many messages and themes that foretell and sum up Jesus – his ministry, his purpose, his legacy, and is role in our lives still today. It is truly a masterpiece. And each character’s roles are much more complex than a Christmas play might let on.
This year, we focused on the shepherds. There is more to the shepherds than is depicted in your run-of-the-mill Christmas pageant. The fact that God chose shepherds to be the ones to be told of the Christ-child’s birth should be comforting to us. First century shepherds were not rockstars. They were the young and the very old - men who couldn’t do anything else. They led lonely, dirty, uncomfortable existences, spending 7 days a week, 24 hours a day outdoors with their flocks. Yet, the angels appeared to them telling and celebrating the good news.
And, of course, all this took place in Bethlehem – the City of David. David was a great king of the Jews. He was the first to unify the 12 tribes. Yet he started as a mere shepherd boy. How fitting for Jesus to be born there.
While we might relate to shepherds how more similar are we to sheep? Sheep go through the motions of their lives without much thought. They eat, sleep, and, well, you know. They stick together, following the flock. They do that for protection though it doesn’t necessarily offer them any. And the group doesn’t know any better than they do individually what is best for them. Hence the need for shepherds. Sheep are certainly our kindred spirits especially in the spiritual sense.
And, of course, Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Jesus – the Great Shepherd.
The most important aspects of the shepherds' roles were not just to be recipients of the good news, no they acted. They went to see this child as they were told. And that wasn’t easy. They disrupted their routine and yet somehow managed the sheep. They did this by faith. And that wasn’t all. Then they went and told others what they had heard and seen. Shepherds. Stinky, lonely, unpolished, disrespected shepherds went and told the good news. And people listened and believed.
Can we admit that we are sheep? Can we appreciate that we need a shepherd and that our best bet on one is Jesus?
Can we seize the opportunities presented us to be shepherds? Do our lives serve to guide others? Can we by faith step out of our comfort zone to share the good news of what we have experienced in our relationship with God that Jesus has provided?
Christmas is a time to listen, learn, and love. It is also a great time to act.