And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.
Luke 2:8 (NIV)
Luke 2:8 (NIV)
With minimal fuss and minor commotion, 2009 played out the most recent scene in the story of the Schulte nomads.
Early in the year, my husband and I gathered our belongings, left Missouri, and headed to Pennsylvania. Our daughter stayed behind at the university she attends to continue her studies. We are thrilled to spend more time with our son as we now live just three hours from him.
Some 2,000 years ago, another real-life drama unfolded on the quiet hillsides of Judea. The fanfare and grandeur of that evening's event, however, caused a lot of excitement and to-do!
The region that surrounds Bethlehem is an area associated with shepherding since the earliest days of recorded history. Simple, pious shepherds live in the fields with a life weighed down by loneliness, danger, and poverty. They keep steadfast watch over their sheep throughout the long, cold night hours. With relentless courage, they guard and defend their flocks from wolves, foxes, and thieves common in the land.
Because of their proximity to the temple in Jerusalem, these Judean shepherds are very possibly responsible for delivering healthy, unblemished lambs to be offered on the altar of sacrifice for the atonement of sin. Ironically, their profession brands these men "ceremonially unclean"; and they, themselves, are excluded from the temple.
Perhaps the biggest irony of all, however, is that as these shepherds care for the very sheep intended for the daily temple sacrifice, unbeknownst to them the perfect, spotless Lamb of God lies in a manger a short distance away.
Abruptly, the stillness of the silent night shatters! In the air over the shepherds' heads as coming immediately from heaven, there suddenly appears an angel of the Lord with a Divine message. "Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord," the messenger solemnly declares. Perfectly on cue, the thick, velvet curtain of the black sky draws open revealing the brightness of the Lord's "Shekinah" glory! A multitude of the heavenly host appears with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests." (Luke 2)
Sure of what they see, certain of what they hear, the shepherds are not satisfied with spectator roles. They quickly get into the act and hurry off to find Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who is lying in the manger.
When they see the child, though, they see nothing in Him that should induce them to believe that He is the Christ the Lord. Yet, the circumstances are irrefutable. How mean soever they are, the shepherds believe the sign that the angel gave them. They are abundantly satisfied; and they spread the word concerning what was told them, both by the angels and by Joseph and Mary. This child is the Savior, the Christ the Lord! In Him there is peace on earth. In humility, the shepherds return to their work, glorifying and praising God for what they heard and what they saw.
I've heard it said that we are defined not by what happens to us, but by how we respond to what happens to us. With hearts bursting with joy, the shepherds' response was first to worship and, second, to tell what they had seen.
As I share these thoughts with you--2,000 years after the announcement of the Son of God was delivered to poor, forgotten shepherds--I pray each of us actively joins the celebration of the Lamb that continues today. For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
Merry Christmas, my friend, to you and yours.