I SEEK THE GOOD SHEPHERD
“I am the good shepherd.
The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.” John 10:11
I’ve never given much thought to the first people to hear the good news of Jesus’ birth – the shepherds on the hillside. If ever, I’ve only thought about them when it’s time to put together the annual nativity play at the church. The shepherds have always been the starting roles for the junior children. As the years go by, they can aspire to playing one of the kings, an angel, or even Mary or Joseph.
No one is expected to remain a shepherd year after year because it’s such a small part in the pageant. First we see them sitting on the stage around the Boy Scouts’ artificial campfire, wearing someone’s old bathrobe and a tea towel headdress. If they’re one of the senior shepherds, they may have graduated to carrying a wooden staff. A little acting is required when the angels appear – surprise, fear, awe – an open mouth and widened eyes usually convey the message. Then, a scene or two later, the parade onstage again and stand in their appointed places around the manger.
Theirs is not a difficult part and certainly not a show-stopper. The Angels, the Three Kings and the Holy Family always draw the ooh and ahhs from the audience. Shepherds are…well, shepherds are just ordinary folk, not glamorous or exotic.
And yet, they were the first to hear the good news. God could have told kings, emperors, rulers, rich men, chiefs or priests, yet he chose the shepherds. I don’t know why. Perhaps it was because he wanted to make sure the news reached down to the lowliest of his people. Perhaps it was because he wanted to emphasize the humble state of his son on earth. Perhaps it was because the shepherds were there, unquestioning, obedient, willing to seek the new babe.
When Jesus speaks of himself as a shepherd, perhaps he is doing the same thing – emphasizing his humanity, yet at the same time, assuring us that he is our Lord and Savior.
MEDITATION: Lord Jesus, open my ears so that I can hear the Good News spoken to me. Open my heart to receive the message of the angels. Open my eyes so that I can see the road that leads to the manger. Amen.