Summary: A look at the shpherds in the Christmas story and Chrsit as the Good Shepherd.
“Lessons from the Field”
December 10, 2006
Intro: Sheep are sometimes wild and crazy animals. They are often lost, they smell bad, and they are not particularly smart. Sheep, for all of their quirks and peculiarities, make for some great stories.
Take for instance the story of Shrek. Now this is not about an ogre who is friends with a talking donkey, but about a wild sheep in New Zealand. Shrek was a young sheep when he escaped form his shepherd. This is not an uncommon occurrence, because sheep are notorious for wandering off. What is unusual is that Shrek stayed lost for six years.
Most sheep could not survive for that long on their own. The threat of wild animals and the lack of being led to food and water all make it very difficult for sheep to survive on their own. Not only did Shrek survive, but he also grew a very impressive coat of wool.
When Shrek was finally captured, it was decided that he would need to have his fleece trimmed. In New Zealand they made his haircut into a televised special. Tens of thousands of people tuned in to watch Shrek be freed from his 60 pound coat.
There are a lot of goofy TV specials on, but I cannot imagine watching a sheep get his fleece cut.
Today, I want us to look at some lessons we can learn from sheep and shepherds to help us understand better the deep meaning of the Christmas story.
“That night some shepherds were in the fields outside the village, guarding their flocks of sheep. 9 Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terribly frightened, 10 but the angel reassured them. "Don’t be afraid!" he said. "I bring you good news of great joy for everyone! 11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born tonight in Bethlehem, the city of David! 12 And this is how you will recognize him: You will find a baby lying in a manger, wrapped snugly in strips of cloth!" 13 Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God: 14 "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to all whom God favors.” 15 When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, "Come on, let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this wonderful thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about." 16 They ran to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. 17 Then the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. 18 All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, 19 but Mary quietly treasured these things in her heart and thought about them often. 20 The shepherds went back to their fields and flocks, glorifying and praising God for what the angels had told them, and because they had seen the child, just as the angel had said.” Luke 2:8-20 (NLT)
Some thoughts about the passage:
Why did the angel appear to shepherds?
Shepherds were considered untrustworthy members of society.
They had a bad reputation as men of low morals and low quality. They were not highly regarded at all.
Shepherds were ceremonially unclean for worship.
Because of their occupation and work with animals, they were considered unclean to go into the temple without ritual bathing and sacrifices.
Last week we discussed how the “wisemen” or visitors were not Jewish. They were not a part of the expected religious class to welcome Jesus. Now we see the same kind of arrangement made when the announcement of the Messiah is made to the shepherds.
The gospel of Jesus first came to the social outcasts of the day.
One of the major themes in the book of Luke is that the gospel is for all mankind regardless of status and social acceptance. It is a principle that we need to forever hold in front of us to remind ourselves of the saving work of Jesus.
The implication is that we do not have to be “right” in order to come to Christ.
Scripture is filled with images of shepherds and sheep. Almost always Jesus is referred to as our shepherd and we as his followers are referred to as sheep. The only exception is when Jesus is pictured as the lamb of sacrifice for our sins.
Some lessons about sheep.
Sheep are notoriously stubborn creatures.
One of the reasons they require so much care and attention is that they are stubborn to the point of harming themselves. That wouldn’t describe any humans would it? We aren’t stubborn or set in our own ways are we?