The Shepherds and the Shepherd King

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The Shepherds and the Angels

8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 2 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.–Luke 2 ESV

The Shepherds and the Shepherd King

The angel Gabriel told Mary, “you…will bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He…will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David….”–David, the shepherd Psalmist, who was chosen by God as king of Israel.

In Genesis, God himself is called “the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel”(49:24).

The Patriarchs—Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—were all shepherds. Moses, the shepherd, shepherded God’s people for over forty years.

The shepherd David’s most famous Psalm begins, “The LORD is my shepherd.”

The shepherd Amos ended his prophecy of terrible judgments with the promise that, “In that day I will restore the fallen house of David….”

How wondrous, then, that an angel declared this to Shepherds of Bethlehem, “…behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.”

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Still, today, in struggling with the existential conundrum of God vis a vis the Jewish people, a rabbi denotes ‘shepherd’ as “a root metaphor” standing behind the “community’s beliefs, values and behavior.”*

Modern attempts to dismiss the story of the shepherds as legendary propose motives such as this: “God’s grace is revealed to a group of people held in low regard (e.g. as thieves) by the Jews. But the evidence for this [low regard] is late…” (Luke, I. Howard Marshall).

Rabbi Michael Leo Samuel notes: “In a Midrash to the Book of Psalms, the third century [A.D.] Rabbi Yosi bar Hanina noted that there is no occupation more degrading than that of a shepherd who walks around like a beggar holding a staff and bag in hand.”*

Taking this later situation which followed the destruction of Jerusalem and the dispersion of Israel and applying it to the time of Jesus, the Good Shepherd (John 10), creates an anachronism.

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Making Christ Known

May we be mindful that we are called to respond to the Angel’s message just as the Shepherds did. For all who have “washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb….the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to fountains of the waters of life”(Rev. 7:17).

*Rabbi Michael Leo Samuel, A Shepherd’s Song: Psalm 23 and the Shepherd Metaphor in Jewish Thought (New York: Kodesh Press, 2014).

Advent, The Shepherds’ Candle

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“Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you, who is Christ the Lord.  This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

 “Glory to God in the highest,
    and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

 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.”

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So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.  When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.  But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.  The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.–The Gospel of Luke

It will be wonderful to be glorifying and praising God in our gatherings during Christmas week. In this very familiar passage of Scripture, there is one line that seems unfamiliar, at least if we judge by our actions.

“…They made known what had been told them about this child…”

How many have heard us during this Holy Season?(link)

 

We have many wonderful works of art depicting the Angels and the Shepherds, and of the Shepherds at The Manger Scene. But how hard it is to find just one that depicts the shepherds sharing the Good News of  our Saviour’s birth.

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Can we Christians be found in that picture?

Devotion for Advent: The Word Became Flesh

word became flesh“. . . And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1

An excellent devotion for Advent, is Athanasius On The Incarnation.

C. S. Lewis wrote the Preface for this edition, advising us to not read another new book until we have read an old one. And if we have not time for both, to read the old.

Improbable Advent: “Prepare Ye the Way…”

“The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined….  For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given…”–Isaiah 9

Before the bustle of the coming Holy Day consumes our time, now would be an opportune moment for us to pause and look ahead for opportunities to seize this time in order to share Christ with another.  How often are we given such a favorable time?

Most of our attention during this Season is focused inside the box, inside the four walls of our church and our home We rejoice in sharing Christmas through our church programs and presents; through worship and family gatherings.

Many churches follow the Advent calendar, seeking to prepare our hearts to celebrate Jesus’ birth, the Incarnation, the Light of the world. And we ought to remember His words to us: “You are the light of the world.”

What would this Christmas look like if every follower of Jesus Christ would prepare his heart to share this Light, this Story with one other person who is outside the box?…with someone who needs Good News?…with someone on the fringe of Christianity?…with some friend or co-worker or acquaintance who does not know Christ?

 

Such an event would be an amazing display of His lights in this world!

Such an Advent seems impossible, certainly improbable!  But it begins in each place with one person at a time.  Let it be you no matter what others may do.

Prepare your heart. Pray and seek God to guide you to that person.  Prepare to open the conversation.  Perhaps a Christmas book or video or cd can be the conversation starter.  Pray for God to guide you and to open the door.

Then, make a commitment to God to do it.  And ask fellow Christians to pray for you in this endeavor.  Trust in His strength and wisdom, not your own.  Leave the results in His hands.  All that any of us can do is to simply sow the Seed, give the Bread, shine the Light, and leave it in God’s hands as we remain open to whatever way He chooses to use us in this.

In this busy time of preparing for winter or for holidays or for travel and with so many heavy burdens, it would be easy for any of us to give up on such an idea.

But what if God had given up on us before that first Christmas?