The nocturnal evening was clear, cold, and quiet. Except for tiny specks of twinkling light, nothing else disturbed the patent leathered sky. Bleats filled the air as shepherds made their way to hillsides to begin their watch. Just before darkness consumed the earth, shepherds inspected the herds one last time then resumed their position. With a staff firmly placed in one hand, each shepherd wore a turban and a long robe, along with a scarf tucked close to their neck to shield from the cold.
Their only job: guard and protect the sheep.
The life of a shepherd isn’t easy. He must be alert, ready at all times to ward off the enemy. And with certainty, he must place the sheep above himself.
Long before his birth, the Good Shepherd made careful preparation to protect his flock. Through Abraham he promised a nation, not of Israelites, but of aliens, the children of promise(1). As he carefully laid out his plan, he gave us a set of rules to live by so we would neither die before our appointed time, or give into temptation. He warned us to worship him in spirit and in truth, not with the aid of objects we can see and touch.
If you’re not in the habit of studying biblical history, it may seem as though some events happened by chance, or that others had complete control. But upon further examination and meditation on the scriptures, we find that the seemingly meaningless rule to impose a census by Caesar Augustus was all orchestrated by God to move Joseph and Mary from Nazareth in Galiee to Bethlehem where our savior was born.
For centuries, God had his people kill a sacrificial lamb, knowing full well that it was a foreshadow of what was to come. When the true lamb arrived through the womb of a virgin, who were the first to hear of it? The shepherds. God didn’t choose the religious (Sadducees or Pharisees), or kings and statesmen. He chose men who worked for a minimum wage.
From the beginning, God planned for Jesus to live so he might die. Instead of sending him as an angel or as a full grown human being, he reduced Jesus Christ to that of a baby. This lamb had to drink milk first before allowed to eat meat. He lived among us and had his patience tested. He endured ridicule, bullying, and slander. He was called an imposter. They talked behind his back and said he performed miracles because he was of Satan(2). For forty days and nights, he wandered the wilderness hungry, listening to the evil one tempt him in every way.
Like the shepherds, Jesus Christ had options. To stand ready to fight the enemy in order to protect his sheep, or cry out and be rescued by God, leaving his flock to fend for themselves.
Jesus Christ chose to live among a chaotic people. Then he drank the bitter cup of death.
The closest I can come to that kind of love is the love I have for my children. I’d do anything for them. But can I? I can’t rescue them from sin, though I want to. I can’t forgive their sins and wash them clean, though I want to. I can hold them. Rock them. Sing them a song. Read scriptures with them. Pray endlessly for them. But I can’t save them.
I’m not the Good Shepherd.
Sometimes when I reflect on the birth of Jesus Christ, I find that I get so caught up in the manger that I don’t see the tortuous ordeal our Lord and Savior lived through. I’d be angry if someone tried to bait me into an argument like the Pharisees and Saducees did Jesus. I’d definitely not spare my wrath when the disciples wanted to know who was going to be the greatest in the kingdom. And to have fed the five thousand and the disciples turn around and not be able to heal the sick boy(3) after witnessing such a miracle, I’d be furious.
He specifically chose the twelve. Lived with them day and night until he was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane. He revealed himself to them in ways he never shared with the world. Such faithlessness had to weigh on him. To come down to earth and show himself in the form of a man and witness such humanity had to cause him concern.
Then again, hadn’t Jesus witnessed such weakness since man’s fall from grace in the Garden of Eden?
We greive our Holy Father today with the same worldly way of thinking. I, for one, constantly beat myself up for not reaching my goals, or consume myself with my inabilities rather than devoting myself to prayer for all that I need.
Many of us have the tendency to separate his birth from his death, compartmentalizing Jesus Christ in tiny Christmas wrappings and silly Easter bunnies then have the audacity to call it a Passover celebration.
God Almighty is Holy! We can in no way contain him in pretty wrappings than we can restrain him to particular times of year. God is forever. God is here and now. He’s not someone to be worshipped only on a festive holiday. He’s not someone to be worshipped only when we decide we need him. He’s not an insurance policy to be pulled out only in disastrous times. HE IS forever. Amen!
We don’t have the right to live frightened, doubtful lives. Jesus Christ freed us with his death. No matter how much I love my children, or my family, I could never give them that kind of freedom.
After examining the story of baby Jesus, I find that I can no longer look at Christmas as a day to celebrate the birth of our Lord. I’m drawn to the life in his death. Hidden beneath the downpour of blood and water is my life. I’ve been made clean by his death and given hope through his resurrection. The manger isn’t the beginning of Jesus Christ. He has and always will be the Alpha and Omega. Time can’t contain him. Death can’t hold him. Holidays can’t resurrect him.
I see how Jesus Christ puts up with my foolishness every single day. How he endures my doubts, my fears, my carelessness, my struggles to worship him in spirit and in truth. Every day I’m repenting. And every moment of the day he is forgiving.
When you serve a God who loves you as deeply as he does, is it really possible to wait for a festive time of year to fall on your knees and worship him? I can’t contain myself that long. His love is too overwhelming.
How about you? Can you wait?
Donna B. Comeaux
Freelance Writer, Poet, Novelist
1 Romans 8:9-18 – “(8)That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants. (9)For this is the word of promise: ‘AT THIS TIME I WILL COME, AND SARAH SHALL HAVE A SON.’ (10)And not only this, but there was Rebekah also, when she had conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac; (11)for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, (12)it was said to her, ‘THE OLDER WILL SERVE THE YOUNGER.’ (13)Just as it is written, ‘JACOB I LOVED, BUT ESAU I HATED.’ (14)What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! (15)For He says to Moses, ‘I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOM I HAVE MERCY, AND I WILL HAVE COMPASSION ON WHOM I HAVE COMPASSION.’ (16)So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. (17)For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, ‘FOR THIS VERY PURPOSE I RAISED YOU UP, TO DEMONSTRATE MY POWER IN YOU, AND THAT MY NAME MIGHT BE PROCLAIMED THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE EARTH.’ (18)So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.”
2 Matthew 12:22-28 – Jesus and Beelzebub – The Pharisees Rebuked – “(22)Then a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute was brought to Jesus, and He healed him, so that the mute man spoke and saw. (23)All the crowds were amazed, and were saying, ‘This man cannot be the Son of David, can he?’ (24)But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, ‘This man casts out demons only by Beelzebul the ruler of the demons.’ (25)And knowing their thoughts Jesus said to them, ‘Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and any city or house divided against itself will not stand.’ (26)’If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then will his kingdom stand?’ (27)’If I by Beelzebul cast out demons, by whom do your sons cast them out? For this reason they will be your judges.’ (28)’But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.’ (29)’Or how can anyone enter the strong man’s house and carry off his property, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house.'”
3 Matthew 17:18-21 – Healing of Boy with a demon – “(18)And Jesus rebuked him, and the demon came out of him, and the boy was cured at once. (19)Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, ‘Why could we not drive it out?’ (20)And He said to them, ‘Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.’ (21)[‘But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.’]”