Advent 3: the Shepherds

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. (Luke 2:15-16)

The child predicted by prophets and announced by an angel was welcomed into the world by a band of Judean shepherds.

These shepherds were out in the fields that night because that’s where their sheep were. Good shepherds made the welfare of the flock their first priority. A single flock might number as many as several hundred sheep. The shepherds Luke mentions were watching to make sure that none wandered away and that wild animals didn’t harm them.

It is significant that these humble herders were the first to view the One who would someday refer to Himself as the Good Shepherd. And it was our Good Shepherd who became like a lamb led to slaughter and a sheep silent before His shearers, so that we, who were like sheep going astray, could return to the Shepherd of our souls (Isaiah 53:6-7).

Perhaps it is ironic that the modern American Christmas season finds us wandering so far from the Christ child. Surrounded by “holiday trees” and Santa bell-ringers, we race from store to store, from party to party, from freneticism to exhaustion, without ever stopping by the manger to “see this thing that has happened, that the Lord has told us about.”

If your Christmas traditions include Advent readings and candle lightings, let this be a time of peace and focus. Re-light the first candle to remember the Angel’s invitation to participate in God’s plan. Re-light the second candle to symbolize busy-ness of Bethlehem. And then read Luke’s account of how heaven’s highest angels and earth’s lowliest fieldhands shared the experience of welcoming the newborn King. Light the third candle to represent the shepherds, and make a promise to yourself to let God interrupt your routine this Christmas.

Further Advent and Christmas readings—

Advent 4: Mary and Joseph

Advent is over: Jesus is here!


This post is part of a series that originally appeared as Advent bulletin inserts for a small church in Hammond, Indiana. If you’d like similar materials for your church or ministry, email Lifelines.