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This Christmas, Discover the One True Shepherd

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Photo by Flickr user Suicine

[Editors' note: This Advent season, we will be running a series of reflections on the Bread Blog from members of New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, DC. The lectionary reading for this post is Luke 2:8-20. Keep reading the Bread Blog for more Advent reflections.]     

“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’ … 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.”

Imagine yourself as a shepherd, living near Bethlehem, where King David was born. You know your flock and they follow you as you lead them to pastures where they can forage for greens and water to drink. You sleep in their midst; you protect them from wolves; you even know their names. They know the sound of your voice. 

One evening, just as you and your flock have settled in for the night, you look up. The sky is full of stars, including an especially bright one nearby. All of a sudden, a creature comes out of the sky, in brilliant raiment, and talks to you and the other shepherds. And if that were not enough, the winged creature was joined by a chorus of other brilliant creatures praising the birth of a new king.

Frankly, I would have been scared – my fear and unbelief would have taken hold of me. Why would strange creatures with wings want talk to me? But the angels did not scare you and the other shepherds – most likely your brother and other relatives -- that night. Instead you overcame your fear and, curious, decided to find out the truth.

True enough, there was a baby in a manger, wrapped in swaddling clothes. Amazed, we told our families, friends, and neighbors – literally broadcasting Jesus’ birth.

As I re-read this passage, I was struck by how appropriate it was that the shepherds were the first to be told of Jesus. Shepherds were, after all, the mainstay of the pastoral economy during those ancient times. Wealth was counted in terms of the number of sheep your family had. The more sheep you had, the more milk, meat, and wool you could produce. 

Indeed, shepherds and sheep figure prominently in the Bible. Many of the prophets in the Old Testament were also shepherds – Abraham, Amos, Jacob, Moses, and David. Just like them, Jesus was referred to as a shepherd – a good shepherd; the chief shepherd; the great shepherd; and the one shepherd. Like a shepherd, Jesus feeds the flock, gathers the lambs in his arm and carries them in his bosom.

That fateful night, we who were shepherds became the sheep for we had found the One Shepherd who would lead us through life.

Prayer: Help us to be like the shepherds of old, dear Lord, who overcame their fear and believed in the infant Jesus. Help us to be like sheep faithfully following the Great Shepherd throughout our lives.  Help us to proclaim God’s love today and forever. Amen.  

Adlai Amor is a member of New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, DC, and director of communications at Bread for the World. Visit New York Avenue Presbyterian Church's website at www.nyapc.org.

 

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