I have a friend who feels offended that Christ-followers are likened to sheep. “They’re such stupid animals,” he frequently says. To which I retort, “At least we’re not called chickens . . . or slugs.”
But the fact is I love sheep and I love being called a sheep of Jesus’ own flock. There’s something soothing and restful about the bucolic imagery of a lone shepherd leaning on his staff, tenaciously guarding and tenderly caring for his animals, leaving the flock to search for the one missing lamb. Chugging across Europe by train, I often encountered the beauty of green pastures dotted with puffy white creatures. I love sheep so much I even keep a fleecy stuffed lamb in our guest room for kids to cuddle as they sleep.
We read in the Bible that Jesus is the Good Shepherd, we’re the sheep of His pasture, and if we’re in the practice of listening to His voice, we’ll be able to distinguish it from the one who comes to steal, kill, and destroy. Jesus is the Agnus Dei, the Lamb of God without blemish, sacrificed for our sins once and for all.
In Romanian, the word “pastor” is literally translated “shepherd.” King David started out as a shepherd who led his people Israel “with skillful hands, according to the integrity of his heart.” This time of year, we’re reminded that the very first people – besides Mary and Joseph, of course – to see Jesus with their own eyes were lowly shepherds.
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
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.”
So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.
No, I do not mind one little bit being counted in the company of shepherds and sheep.