“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David. (Isaiah 55:1-3 ESV)
Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. (James 4:8-10 ESV)
And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” (Luke 2:8-15 ESV)
Shepherds do not leave their sheep. Sheep are dumb you see. If left on their own, they will wander wherever their stomach takes them, even if it be towards mortal danger. Sheep are also slow and tasty. Wolves think so, as do bears, lions, and well, you get the point. This is why shepherds must stay with their sheep – to keep them safe. They use their staff to guide them and their crook to rescue them. Shepherds do not leave their sheep.
Unfortunately, in the story of life you and I are the sheep. It’s as though we invent new ways each day to demonstrate our ineptitude. So often we let our desires determine our destination, and it leads us on a path to destruction. We find our friendships, families, marriages and careers teetering on a cliff, one bad decision from their certain demise. There are wolves everywhere. Waiting to devour us if only we are dumb enough to wander into their domain. Often we do, and the gnawing begins – because we are sheep, we are simple, we are stupid, we need saving.
You’d think that shepherds would get sick of looking out for their sheep, the way we do for each other. You’d think things like “If you’re dumb enough to do that again,” or “I’m not coming in there after you this time” would be common place in the fields – but they’re not.
Because shepherds do not leave their sheep, they love them instead. The sheep are a vital part of the family, with important roles to play, and so the shepherd continues to call them home.
You and I have a shepherd. He came on a night much like this one, to a world not so different from our own. A night filled with silence and darkness. A world filled with sheep wandering and wasting away, who needed someone to guide them and to keep them safe. His coming meant leaving behind the home that He knew and the sheep that He had, to keep safe those who were incapable of doing so on their own. We could not go to Him, and so He came to us. To rescue us from ourselves, to save us from our enemy, to call us back home. THIS CHANGED EVERYTHING. For us, our Shepherd came.
On this night the shepherds cannot leave their sheep fast enough. Angels have brought them a message of joy. The promised peace of God is here, He has arrived and He is close. Light has broken into their world, hope is renewed. And although He has barely taken His first breath, although He is but a baby, although He is lying in the food trough of the very animals they are in their fields protecting, although they both HAVE and ARE sheep – the shepherds hear and heed the words of the angel – even so, come. For the REAL shepherd has arrived.