Advent Reading #3: Shepherds

Imagine spending the night out in the fields with hundreds, maybe thousands of sheep. It may have been a bit cold, but it sure would have been dark! And why were you there? Maybe you were one of a special breed of shepherds whose job it was to care for the ewes who would give birth to the special Passover lambs.

In only a couple months people from all over Israel would come to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover, and each family would require a lamb, and only those born within a few miles of the Temple would be worthy of Passover. And so, the Levitical shepherds would be out in the fields, watching over their flocks at night.

But one night everything changed. An angel of the Lord wakened some shepherds on a hillside just outside of Bethlehem with the bright light of the glory of God. Suddenly the shepherds were filled with great fear. But the angel said “Don’t be afraid, for behold, I am bringing you the best news ever! God has kept his promise, and the Savior has come who is Christ, the Lord! Go and you will find him, wrapped in special linen clothes!” And suddenly the sky was filled with an angelic choir praising God.

But then silence and darkness recaptured the night, and the shepherds were left wondering about the message they had just heard. “Let’s go” they said to one another, “and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord God has seen fit to announce to us.”

And so they hurried away, and found Mary and Joseph and the baby lying in a feeding trough, inside a cave where many Passover lambs had been born throughout the years. And as they stooped to enter, it must have occurred to them that, on this holy night, God had sent the most special lamb, the one true Passover Lamb, the Lamb of God who was to take away the sin of the world.

And so, as we light the 3rd candle of Advent, we remember the shepherds, whose privilege it was to see Jesus at his birth. May we join with them, and the saints of all the ages in praising God for his magnificent gift!

Prayer: Gracious Heavenly Father, like the shepherds we have come to worship your Son, and our Savior; the Perfect Lamb, whose sacrifice for our sins has brought us back to you. As we gather, fill our hearts with the wonder they must have felt when the angelic choir lit up the sky, that our joy may be full, and our hearts enabled to sing your praises together, as the church you have built in Christ Jesus, Amen.

Photo credit: "Candle" by Arvind Balaraman;