“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 they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord’” (Luke 2.8-11).
This week, with our Christmas decorations still up, I’ve found myself thinking about the sheep in our nativity set. I’ve thought how very “like God” it was of God to include disrespected shepherds and their not-particularly-smart sheep in His advent here on this planet. The shepherds were among the first to learn that something wondrous was happening in a Bethlehem stable, and they came (with their sheep traipsing along) to see a newborn whose birth had been foretold in ancient scriptures: “For to us a child is born.…and he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9.6).
Sheep are mentioned quite a lot in the Bible. Most memorably, people are compared to sheep—lost if without their shepherd, sometimes wandering and astray. When he grew up, Jesus called Himself the good shepherd. When I see that little porcelain lamb peering over the manger’s edge at baby Jesus, this is what I think: Like that lamb, I would be lost without my shepherd, Jesus. What a perfect object lesson God provided when He invited the sheep to the stable.