Thursday, December 24, 2015

Tending the Sheep


It is an ancient profession, this job of being a shepherd.

Someone has to tend the sheep.
Someone has to keep the flock together; to chase away the predators.
They have to keep the little lambs from wandering off and getting lost.
They have to keep moving sheep to different pastures, searching for fresh grass.

Fresco by Taddeo Gaddi, Basilica of Santa Croce, Florence, Italy, 1332-1338

In the days when believers read Isaiah and waited for the promise, there were many shepherds. The job sometimes fell to single men who had no family responsibilities, who could stay with the sheep day and night. They moved about with the sheep, living in tents or wagons.

Being a shepherd was a mundane, lonely job with little to eat and none of the comforts of home.

Throughout time, God has used shepherds for his purpose.
Before he became the Father of Nations, Abraham tended sheep.
Jacob and Isaac were shepherds.
Moses spent his time in exile tending sheep.
David, who had God's heart, was with his flock when he was called to service.

Then the day came.
The day God had known about since the beginning, the day that would change us forever.
Heaven trembled with excitement.

The angels might have gone to the east, where wise men studied the skies and knew.
The angels might have gone to Herod's castle, or to priests, teachers, or leaders.
The angels went to the shepherds.

The birth announcement that the prophets had yearned for was made to lowly, coarse shepherds....
doing their jobs on a night like a thousand nights before, not expecting this night to be any different,

not expecting to be surrounded by a multitude of angels and the glory of God, not expecting to be chosen to announce the greatest event since the creation of the world.

An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he 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 to whom his favor rests." Luke 2:8-14