The Good Shepherd
“But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel” (Matt.2:6). God’s first invitation to visit his beloved son was given to shepherds out in their fields, watching over their flocks by night. All throughout the Old Testament reference is made to shepherds who leave their flocks open to slaughter. In contrast, God promises to establish a good shepherd forever from David’s line. Jesus is that shepherd.
Luke 2: 8ff
8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13 The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.
David had a lot of time on his hands while he tended the sheep. That is likely where he began to write poetry (Psalms). He was in touch with nature, and the sounds of the birds and insects and wind and water accompanied his instrument as he set the words of his heart to music. He was a faithful shepherd, so when he wrote the 23rd Psalm, “The Lord is my shepherd,” he was fully aware of all that it meant. Jesus described himself as that good shepherd. He is trustworthy, looking out for his flock and seeking those who stray.
Isaiah describes another scene, where the shepherd goes ahead of the sheep, preparing a way for them. “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. . . Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, I will give men in exchange for you, and people in exchange for your life. Do not be afraid, for I am with you. (Isa.43:2-5)
I miss being a child, particularly at Christmas time. I liked having adults look after the decorating and baking and gift giving. I enjoyed being surprised by events such as family gatherings, church choirs, viewing Christmas lights or visiting live manager scenes. My parents looked after me and made sure that I enjoyed the magic of Christmas. Now the roles are reversed and I am the one who has the responsibility to create magic for others. In the evening, when everyone is gone, I like to sit in front of the fire with a cup of tea and fresh baking listening to the words of the “Messiah”. “He shall feed his flock like a shepherd,” sings the choir. And in those quiet moments, I, like David, sense the presence of the good shepherd, inviting me to lie down in green pastures and restore my soul.
” Lord, you invited the shepherds to come to the manger and see Jesus. Humble folks, who understood the meaning of caring for the sheep were themselves included under the care of the good shepherd. It is comforting to be invited to trust in your love and care as you stay close to us, leading us, protecting us, and preparing a way for us through the dark valleys. Thank you for your love.” Amen