Saturday, December 24, 2011

What Happens to the Sheep?

Luke 2: 9-10
9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.

Terror gives way to great joy. That is what Christmas is about. I think complete faith casts out fear, because we know who holds us in His grip. I also think complete faith is probably impossible this side of Heaven. And when doubt enters, so does fear. I suspect most of us no matter what our spiritual inclination, ask now and then, "What if I am wrong?" Maybe there are people who have never felt that way. I am not one of them.

I find it so amazing that the terrified shepherds keeping watch over their sheep should be the first witness that the Savior was born.
The Bible oftentimes describes us as sheep waiting for the Good Shepherd. In that beautiful passage in Luke, the staff is passed. The earthly shepherds bow down before the Heavenly Shepherd. A star, never before seen, moves across the sky and leads them to the little manger. The angel has forewarned them that they will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes, the Messiah.

The Bible doesn't recount much of what the shepherds say upon hearing this astonishing news. But surely they must have discussed this as they were following the star. And by the way, we are also not told what happens to the shepherd's sheep which they were supposed to be watching. Did the whole herd traipse after the star with them? God commands them to do the one thing they should never do...leave their sheep. What happens to the sheep?  I like to fill in gaps. Here is what I think may have transpired: (ps- this is not recorded in scripture and the names are not known. this is called imagination gone amok.)

"Did you see what I think we just saw, Maliphosphor?" He rubbed his eyes.
Maliphosphor's eyes darted back and forth as he leaned in to Arpamismael, "What did you see?"
"That was an angel...and he was talking to us. And telling us strange things. What I don't get is why the sheep weren't frightened cause I was ready to pee in my cloak."
"Oh yeah! The sheep! What do we do with the sheep?"
"I don't know...but we can't disobey the angel. Do you think the Messiah really comes to us as a baby?"
"Do you think stars really move and angels really appear? Look Mali, none of this makes sense...but I have this very strong conviction that we need to check out this baby."
Maliphosphor sighed deeply, nodding, and turned to the sheep, commanding, "STAY!"
The sheep bleated and then lay down.
"If this is not the Messiah, we are risking our job security for nothing," said Arpamismael, as they set off after the star.
"Why a baby? The God who created the Universe could certainly have come up with a more dramatic form for the Savior, don't you think?" Maliphosphor cried out.
Arpamismael glanced back at the flock. One sheep was watching him, getting ready to stand.
"Lie down!" called Arpamismael. The sheep lowered himself again.
"Don't you read your Bible? We knew this was coming. Isaiah told us, remember, unto us a son shall be born, and the government shall be upon his shoulders. and we shall call him wonderful counselor, mighty God, prince of peace.... This is no ordinary baby."
"Do you think it is true? Could it really be the Messiah?"
Mali took one last look at the sheep as they crested a hill. They all were watching after the shepherds, disappearing into the distance. Their ears stood out in the moonlight as they huddled obediently and waited.
"It better be...or that flock is wolf bait."
"You know... I think we are doing the right thing...I mean it is God's messenger who told us to do it...but have we taken leave of our senses? We are shepherds. It's not rocket science, but it is an important duty in an agrarian society. We have one duty: watch the sheep."
"Maybe there is a duty more important."
Maliphosphor looked again over his shoulder. The night enveloped the horizon and he could no longer see the sheep, but as he looked ahead, the star shone like a flashlight on a little manger and there was singing as though all the stars had voices.

Isaiah 9: 6-7
6 For to us a child is born,
   to us a son is given,
   and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
   Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
   Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the greatness of his government and peace
   there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
   and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
   with justice and righteousness
   from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the LORD Almighty
   will accomplish this.

Luke 2: 8-20

 8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
 13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
 14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
   and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
 15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
 16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

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