Matthew 2:6 – 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 be the shepherd of my people Israel. (NIV – quoting Micah 5:2)
Micah 5:4a – He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. (NIV)
What if this Christmas we specifically celebrated Baby Jesus as the promised Shepherd and made shepherds our season's theme? What would that be like for you?
Here's what I imagine: I see a Christmas tree decorated with fluffy sheep, shepherds, crooks, and sheep gates. I see a manger with a crook lying across it. A silvery streamer weaves through the greenery like a bubbling brook in a green pasture. Angels hover on the top. Starry lights sparkle everywhere except the lower right. Here in the dimness, I see one pitiful sheep. It's upside down, entangled in a vine. Then far to the left, as if arising out of a bottom branch, I notice a shepherd figure. He appears to be pressing ahead with arms stretching out towards that troubled sheep. At the base of the tree, I see a skirt embroidered with, "Joy to the world, the Shepherd has come!"
Perhaps some might identify themselves with that troubled sheep — lost, broken, trapped in a dark lonely world. Perhaps they'd recognize the Great Shepherd as the Lord reaching out to them. Such a tree helps me to see Baby Jesus, not just as a newborn in a moment of time, but embodied in His destiny as the Good Shepherd of the world — just as He promised:
Isaiah 40:11 – He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young. (NIV)
This is truly a reason for Christmas joy! The nativity Child is my Shepherd! He has come straight for me, a vulnerable little sheep. I sense His strong arms holding me firmly. I hear His heart beating — strong and steady. I feel safe. Everything else is a distant muffle — all the ring-jing-jingalings and vexing cacophonies. Anxiety flees. I rest securely in His bosom. I can stop thinking about myself now. I am free to think about my Lord.
And so, I wonder what shepherding means for Him. The Christmas shepherds would know, and they'd say, "Shepherding is our life! We live with the sheep day and night. We hear every stuttering bleat. We smell their stinky bodies. Our ears stay tuned to the distant howls of predators. We suffer heart-wrenching concern over a lost sheep. We experience joy over contented sheep lying in the pasture. For us, nothing is more important than their well-being. We care."
This Christmas, I invite you to look at the Baby Jesus through that lens. Do you see His arms reaching out to you with a shepherd's love — protective, intimate, and ever-present? Does that not lift you far beyond the seasonal familiarities?
Prayer: Dear Lord, refresh our Christmas joy as we ponder the promise of Baby Jesus as the Great Shepherd Who has come to be present among us in the power of His love. Amen.
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Listen while you read: "Lo How A Rose" (Lyrics)