Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Lowly Shepherds and the Good Shepherd

The Shepherds are actually really hard to write about when it comes to all the themes of Advent. These lowly laborers did a lot of waiting for their sheep, but they were not necessarily expecting a Messiah, and they certainly weren’t waiting for an angel chorus announcing His birth. But, what is special about these shepherds, is that even though they weren’t waiting for Jesus, they responded to him.

Sheep are probably the most recognized animal in the Bible, and we, the followers of God are repeatedly likened to sheep with Jesus himself as the Good Shepherd. On the flipside, Christ is called the my his cousin John, “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world!” If we are to draw applications from the nativity story, what comparisons can we see between the Bethlehem shepherds, the sheep, and us today?

I found inspiration in the words of Coptic Orthodox Bishop Youssef:

“The Lord Jesus Christ was not born within a royal palace, but within humble surroundings in a manger. His birth would be announced to lowly shepherds that sought Him out. He did not force His birth upon us. He did not coerce His way into our lives after His Holy birth. Rather He led the way to eternal salvation for those who would but follow. He compassionately taught through parables, miracles, and personal sacrifice introducing Christianity into sinful and troubled hearts. He was The Shepherd who went ahead of His sheep. He did not drive them from behind. He led them beside that which was good away from danger and sin. His birth would restore the soul of all and His earthly ministry would guide the obedient toward eternal righteousness. His birth would revitalize our souls and in times of darkness and trouble He will offer consolation to all the faithful. The Holy birth of the Shepherd of Shepherds would be the door which would permit us to enter and dwell in the House of the Lord forever.”

In this light, it is hard to accurately draw parallels between ourselves and the shepherds, or ourselves and sheep. Instead, the shepherds' very occupation and livestock are metaphors for what Jesus was to become for His people here on earth:

The Lowly Shepherds sought the Good Shepherd, and through humility and reverence became, themselves, sheep. The Good Shepherd so loved the Lowly Shepherds that He humbled Himself and gave up His life, as the perfect sacrificial lamb.

Only the Son of God could be both shepherd and lamb.

I don't do this often, but I'd love to hear your thoughts on this. I'm sure I'm not the only one who has questioned the relationship between the nativity shepherds and the Good Shepherd. Please post your comments on Facebook. 


1 comment:

  1. The shepherds were some of the most common of the population, smelly (from being out with the animals all the time), uneducated, unattractive, not as "low" as criminals, but definitely not high society. Rather than choosing royalty, professors or the well-to-do for His first earthly "audience," the very God of the universe chose these most common individuals to send His angelic host to, to announce His arrival in a barn (which might also have been a cave. The wise men didn't arrive til months later, when Jesus was a toddler.) Scripture is full of sheep and farm imagery that people of that day could relate to, certainly the regular working people.


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