"But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect." 1 Peter 3:15

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Shepherd and the Lamb

It’s a cool evening.  You are sitting on the gentle slope of a hill overlooking your flock of sheep.  You hear the soft murmur of an occasional sheep’s bleating, there is a slight sent of sheep manure in the air, but you are used to it.  You warm yourself by a small fire, the flames cast a gentle dancing glow in the star light as you and your friends share stories and laughter around the fire…

  I shared this story with the youth group my first year here at the church.  It was right at this point of the story that I screamed.  Everyone jumped.  Startled, they wondered what was going on.  Even so, I’m sure it was only a fraction of the fright and confusion the shepherds faced that first Christmas when all of a sudden an angel of the Lord appeared to them!  

 … “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people.  The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!  And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”

Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in highest heaven,
    and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”
Luke 2:10-14 

                Why did God send Angels to the shepherds as the first proclaimers of the Messiah?  I think God can relate pretty well with shepherds.  In fact God calls several shepherds in the bible into places of leadership.  God calls Moses, a herder of sheep to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt.  God calls David, a protector of sheep to rule over the nation of Israel.

We are a lot like sheep…and that’s not a flattering comment.  I’m not talking about how cute and gentle we all are!  Sheep are dimwitted, vulnerable animals that would run to their deaths if it weren’t for their shepherds watching them.  No one ever talks about the great authority and power of a sheep.  They just weren’t created that way.

God can understand shepherds, because he is a shepherd.  There is a reason the bible refers to us as sheep. We, like sheep have gone astray.  That’s what Isaiah 53:6 says.  We are foolish people who run to our own deaths without the saving grace of Jesus Christ, our Great shepherd. 

I wonder—did God first announce the arrival of Jesus to these Shepherds, because Jesus would be our shepherd?  And not just that…Jesus would be our sacrificial lamb!
The Jewish people would sacrifice lambs for their sin.  It’s interesting to think that perhaps even some sheep in those very shepherds’ flocks would be used as offerings.   Jesus Christ became the perfect offering—once for all—the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world, so that when we believe on him we are saved!

I think that’s why the angels came to these poor, lowly shepherds—because Jesus is the great shepherd and the sacrificial lamb.

Look how the shepherds responded to the angel’s message! 

When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger.  After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child.Luke 2:15-17

They ran off and told everyone!  Their Messiah had been born.  He had come at last!  Who was watching there sheep? 

I’m guessing they didn’t care.

What can we learn from the shepherds?  Does the truth— that Jesus has come and died for us, and that our messiah reigns on the thrown of heaven—does that excite us?  Are we sharing this with the excitement and vigor of the shepherds?  Do we recognize Jesus as our shepherd?  Are we following his leading as our authority?   May we be filled with the excitement and joy of an angel-startled shepherd this Christmas season!

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