You like the sense of history you feel whenever you are tending sheep here. These are David’s pastures on the outskirts of his hometown. The shepherd who became the greatest king of Israel, was from Bethlehem. Called “A man after God’s own heart” (I Samuel 13:14), David had been the subject of many campfire discussions among you and your friends.
You play the same instruments David played to quiet the flocks at night. Like David, you fight off predators and pull back endangered lambs with the crook of your staff. You run to upright a sheep if it rolls over too far on its back, which all shepherds know as being cast or castdown. Sheep are not able to right themselves and can die if a shepherd does not notice and put them quickly back on their feet.1 You recognize the rich shepherd language in David’s psalm, as you recall his words, “Why are you downcast O my soul put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God (Psalm 42:5).
You believe David would have understood you. He cared for his sheep and his people. Did being a shepherd make him a better leader? It might have been a good training ground, but you wonder if he had to suffer the humiliations that you and your friends endure now. Shepherds are considered disreputable and unclean by today’s social standards.2
You lack credibility simply because your occupation is shepherding. Men in your line of work are not allowed to testify in court.
People believe all your time alone creates an unreliable storyteller. Shepherds are out of sight and out of minds, which is how most people prefer it. As you think about all of this, you remember a story of David being out of sight and out of mind too.
When David was a shepherd boy, his family forgot him! One day the prophet Samuel came to their house to anoint one of Jesse’s sons as the next king of Israel. After seven sons filed past Samuel, the prophet exclaimed “The Lord has not chosen these. Are these all your sons?” Finally, David’s father said, “There is still the youngest. He is tending the sheep” (I Samuel 16: 9–11). And Samuel anointed David, the shepherd boy, as king.
You look up at the stars. You wonder if you are forgotten and where you fit into God’s plan. Then you smile as you look down on the town of Bethlehem. You know the Messiah is predicted to come as a descendent of David, the shepherd king. After all, Bethlehem was the town of David. You say to yourself, “God decides who is important, not man.”
1. What do you abruptly see in front of you and
all around you in the hills of Bethlehem
Describe your first thought and response to
all you see.
2. Find five encouraging proclamations the angel
gives you (Luke 2:10–11).
Give the one that takes away your terror and
the statement that moves you to action.
3. List the three names designated to Jesus
by the angel and
they mean to you (Luke 2:11).
Describe the sign the angel gives you
(Note that shepherds frequently swaddle baby
lambs to keep their fleece
clean before taking them to the temple.)
4. How many angels arrive,
and what is their praise to God
and encouragement to you (Luke 2:13–14)?
5. What is your reaction and that of your friends,
after the angels leave (Luke 2:15)?
Explain the conversation between you and
6. Are you running through the streets,
knocking on doors, or
did you come upon the open stable
and spot the baby wrapped up in the manger
7. Describe the details you are telling
everyone and their responses (Luke 2:17–18).
8. How important do you feel tonight, being given
the only personal invitation from the God of the
universe to celebrate and see his new born Son
9. Step out of Scripture, and
come back to today for this question.
(This is a three-part question.)
Have you ever felt invisible?
Are you like the shepherds, excited about what you are discovering? If so, with whom do you want to share this?
You might be surprised as the shepherds possibly were, to discover you were never invisible to God. He will be your own personal shepherd today. Are you reluctant or willing to follow the Good Shepherd?
Step through a hole in time, and go into the future thirty years. Listen as Jesus, the long-awaited Messiah, the Lamb of God, also offers himself as the true shepherd of his sheep. Here is one excerpt from John 10.
The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out (John 10:3).
A LAMB’S LOOK AT THE SHEPHERD
I was in the sheepfold.
The shepherd called outside the door,
“I am going to take you some place.”
He called my name. Then called once more.
Reluctantly, I stepped outside,
And he pointed with his staff,
To a hill so far away from here,
Out of fear I almost laughed!
“I will not go out there alone.”
Though I want to be his lamb,
I shook my head and stood my ground.
Then he touched me with his hand.
He stepped out from behind me,
And began to lead the way,
And commanded, “Stay close to my footsteps,
With your eyes on me today.”
Before I realized, we were there,
And the hill was a luscious green,
With a view of all creation,
I might have missed this very scene.
I said, “Good Shepherd, when you tell me ‘go’,
I am sorry I’m so scared.”
“Then remember,” he said, “I never send you out.
When you go, I take you there.”