I’ve been preparing the lessons for the coming Sunday School weeks and am struck by the symbolism of the shepherds being the first to receive the announcement of the Savior’s birth. What I am drawn to this year is that Jesus is our Good Shepherd and surely that is why these men were the first to hear this joyous announcement.
I have heard diverse theories on who these shepherds were: were they simple men in the fields or were they the priests charged with swaddling the unblemished lambs at the moment of their birth in preparation for the Passover? I’m not sure it matters if they were educated priests or poor men of the fields. Today I am struck by this strong indicator toward the Shepherd of our lives.
Anyway, in preparation of these Sunday School lessons, I’ve been researching the job of a shepherd, long lost in today’s modern world – at least to me. Many I knew and understood from studies of Psalm 23, but this time I see a stark contrast between the shepherd who knows the animals personally, with rod he defends and protects, with staff he leads and keeps from harm, anointing head with oil to keep healthy and parasites off the skin – doctoring. The emotion with which I view this work stems from the love that I know Jesus has for me, otherwise it seems like dirty, lonely work. Recently I have had the image of cattle versus the image of sheep, more specifically the movement. Cattle are driven from behind while sheep are led from the front. Jesus goes before us. It is the relationship that draws forth the sheep while it is the noise and drive that moves the cows.
So, I have been challenged to consider if I drive or go before in my leading. Do I show the way, or do I say to go without me? Do I see the pitfalls and go around, or do I hope that others do? This kind of leading requires me to know where I am going to end up. I suppose this ties in with anew start of the new year, too. It is a time to ask God for that kind of vision and to trust that He leads me as I, in turn, lead others. Admittedly, I do not have a formal leadership role – but I have come to understand that as a Christian, I am always an example and conduit of Christ and therefore leading others to Him.
The challenge remains to seek to be more like Jesus in every way – today it is in leading.