It is cold tonight, cloudless with stars so bright I can easily see the flock bedded down in the pen and the shadows of Bethlehem lying peacefully below. My family has tended sheep here for generations. I am the smallest and most insignificant of my brothers, responsible for the smallest of our flock, the unblemished lambs. They are too much trouble for my brothers, but I love them. These lambs are the ones set aside for the important sacrifices in Jerusalem, so I think this must be an important job. I cradle a spotless lamb in my arms tonight as I think about the great shepherds of my people – Abraham, Moses, and King David. My grandfather told me the prophets said Messiah will be a shepherd who will come from Bethlehem, and I love to think about that.
A Shepherd Ruler
Grandfather taught me the words of the prophet Micah, which I now recite nightly as darkness closes around me: “ But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days. And he shall stand and shepherd his flock…” Bethlehem, small and insignificant, is like me and my little lambs.
Suddenly, I jolt from my reverie, blinded by an intense light. I fall on my face in fear before an angel who proclaims, “Fear not! I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
The sky instantly fills with multitudes of angels, and as I race toward Bethlehem, the hills ring out with their praises, “Glory to God in the highest.”
Breathless, I find Him lying in a feeding trough in an old cave used as a stable. There with my spotless lamb in my arms, I kneel in awe. The only sound in that cave is the praise echoing from the hills. Even the animals are silent as we gaze into the face of this tiny baby. He looks at me then as if He knows me, and I suddenly realize I am looking into the face of God. His mother smiles at me. She knows too. My brothers will soon tumble through the cave opening, but this moment of worship is mine alone.
A Shepherd’s Prayer
I lay my lamb in offering next to Him in the manger and softly pray His words back to Him:
“And [You] shall stand and shepherd [Your] flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD [Your] God. And [I] shall dwell secure, for now [You] shall be great to the ends of the earth. And [You] shall be [my] peace.” (Micah 5:4-5a)
In that moment, I realize I am no longer a small, insignificant shepherd from a small, insignificant town. I am the first shepherd to worship the Messiah, Immanuel, the One who will shepherd His people. I have seen the face of God, and I am known by Him.