Monday, December 3, 2007

While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks

Come with me and imagine. Imagine yourself living in a world full of political unrest. A world where the ruling classes vie for power. But you are not of the ruling class so have no say in what happens. So, you live your life doing your best and working hard to provide for your family. When you were very young, you became an apprentice and worked hard to move up. Now, as a young adult you have been awarded a covenanted position.

It is a night in early spring, lambing season. This night, you have been promoted to undershepherd. Tonight you will stay with the other undershepherds and guard the flock from hungry predators wanting to feast on newly born lambs. This is a position of great trust. It is to you that the ewes look for help in birthing. To you that the Head Shepherd gives his trust to keep the flock safe and secure. You are truly honored to have reached this station.

The flock is secured in the fold, along with the other flocks from this area. You and the other shepherds have settled down after eating your ligt supper. You have seen the sun go down and divided up the hours of the night watch and you are now into the second hour of your turn. You sit on a small rise above the fold. From here you can see the fold and the surrounding area. There is brush and shrubs where predators can hide as they slink toward the fold. You must be ever vigilant, just as the other sheperds on similar knolls around the fold.

The night is dark and still. There is a coolness to the night air, but not cold. The stars shine brightly in this darkness. Tonight, for some reason, they appear even brighter than you remember. Suddenly, one star seems to explode into a greater light than you have ever seen before. You rub your eyes and when you take your hand away you see that it was not a star, but a heavenly being.

Your heart is gripped with fear. You have prepared yourself to defend your flock from many things, wolves, bears, other men, but how do you protect your flock from this? Your shout for help is echoed by the other watchmen around you. The quiet fold explodes with men spilling out to fight the danger.

Then the being speaks:

"Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger."

The heavens open to reveal an orchestra and the beautiful strains of Herald trumpets are heard. The orchestra is joined by choirs of angels singing songs of joy and exhaltaion and Glory to God. You are filled with joy and rapture along with wonder that the Father would trust you with this joyous news of hope and salvation.

After the orchestra and choir leave, you and your fellow shepherd sit and ponder for a few minutes. You then divide responsibilities among you, those to stay and guard the sheep and those to go and find the baby and proclaim the news to others. And you ponder in your heart all the wonderful things to come and thank the Father for allowing you the opportunity to be here on this night of nights.

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