July 23, 2017

Blessings for Christmas!

“The Lord is my Shepherd” are among the most recognized and comforting words found anywhere. They are used by pagan and Christian alike when mourning the loss of a loved one. The pagan does so by desperation, in dire straits, yet with hope that perhaps there is a Shepherd who cares. The Christian, in the same dire straits, is not desperate at all.

 In rebellion recently against my mostly mono-linguistic life, I decided to memorize favorite Scriptures in both English and German. Spanish and French may be next. In doing so I have found a treasure in those words, so familiar, so old, so comforting. Translated directly from German, the text is intimate to the greatest degree possible: “You, Lord, are my Shepherd,” in the way one informally addresses a friend or family member.

  What’s so amazing about that? Perhaps nothing more than the confident closeness between the sheep and the Shepherd. A Shepherd is not a Shepherd without sheep, just as there can be no Singer without a song. Sheep that do not have a shepherd are usually dead, or soon will be dead. It is the law of the sheep that they must depend on a shepherd and the law of the shepherd he must have sheep or he is not a shepherd.

The most attractive words of the universe include: “He shall feed His flock like a Shepherd. He shall gather the lambs in His arms and carry them in His bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.” Among the most beautiful Christmas images are those dowdy shepherds of Bethlehem finding the newborn Lamb of God. It was the night the Lamb became the Shepherd in our world, the night the shepherds became sheep, the night when God showed himself as a Child and put the world on notice there could and would one day be peace on earth. But we, the sheep, are slow to learn and love, so don’t hold your breath for peace just yet. 

What we could do while we still have breath is to become more familiar with our good Shepherd. We could lay aside our favorite anxieties. We could decide that wandering beyond the green pastures is better left for sheep more foolish. We could enjoy a more perfect love that casts out fear, and we could invite the Prince of Peace to shepherd us each day another step toward home.

 What is Christmas were it not for the Shepherd and the Sheep?

 - by Wes Yoder