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27 Nov 2019

A few years ago, I was at a sheep meeting organised by a nat...



 

steve

27 Nov 2019

 

 

 

A few years ago, I was at a sheep meeting organised by a national livestock feed company. After very long deliberations about the benefit their brand “Ewebol”, a token farmer was there as a speaker to reinforce their message.  He stood up and said four words “You’ve gotta like sheep”. He was right! And those words sustained me over 40 years of shepherding 800 ewes.   You have got to like sheep because you think about them most of the time and have to look after and care for them every day.  Sheep need a shepherd, whether that is to help them lamb, roll them over when they get stuck on their backs, deal with their lame feet, shear them or find them when they get out.

The problems of keeping sheep have not changed from the time of Jesus.  Of course, then there were no fences and the sheep had to be protected from attack by wild animals. Shepherds lived with their sheep and each would have about 12 ewes in their care. It was highly likely that if your dad looked after sheep you would do the same.  He wouldn’t be able to read or write so neither would you.  Others in Jewish society looked down on you; you had a reputation for being dishonest, and were not allowed to testify in a court of law.  So why did Luke, a doctor and meticulous writer about Jesus in the Bible, rely so heavily on the evidence of the shepherds in his account of Jesus birth? Maybe they were the only ones out on the hills above Bethlehem, keeping watch over their flocks while everyone else was caught up with the noise and bustle of the town. Maybe they were simple men and boys who took the angel’s message at face value, “a Saviour has been born. He is the Messiah, the Lord.”  Maybe it was the skies ringing with a great company of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace to those on whom his favour rests”.  Maybe it was that they never stopped talking about that night when they found the baby wrapped in clothes and lying in a manger just as the angel had told them.  And Luke heard it from some of them 60 years later.

Maybe the whole purpose of that night was for Mary, a young teenage girl in disgrace.  In the eyes of others, she had become pregnant out of wedlock.  The message of the shepherds must have been so crucial in sustaining her belief over the years ahead that this child Jesus was the “Messiah, the Lord overall”, a message which is true for us today.

John Bishop