THE SHEPHERDS & THE LAMB OF GOD
The Shepherds were out in the fields watching their flocks by night.
Read Genesis 35:19-20. It tells how Rachel died "and was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem)" and how Jacob went on and "pitched his tent beyond the tower of Eder."
Then read Jeremiah 31:15-16. It tells about "Rachel weeping for her children". It is at Ramah that the people of Judah were gathered, chained and roped together, and led off to exile in Babylon. But verse 16 says, "Keep your voice from weeping . . . they shall come back from the land of the enemy."
Putting those two passages together (1) God gives hope for the mothers of Bethlehem whose children were killed by Herod -- "they shall come back." But also (2) the Rabbis expected that the first announcement of the coming Messiah would be at "Migdol Eder;" the "tower of Eder." Eder means flock (as in flock of sheep), so "Migdol Eder" means "Tower of the Flock." Look up Luke 2:8-11 and see if they were right.
Why were the shepherds out in the fields at night? Most sheep are brought into the sheepfold where they are safer. But Bethlehem is close to Jerusalem. Sheep that were destined to be sacrificial sheep at the Temple had to be kept outside, in nature not in buildings all the time. Shepherds built towers to more easily watch their sheep.
So the angels went to shepherds watching over sacrificial sheep to tell them about the One Lamb, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. This is amazingly appropriate, isn't it?
We begin with the one truth that is at the center of all we say and do as Christians. Christ is risen! Jesus is the living one and He is with us. He hears our prayers. He rules His Church. He guides our lives. We worship and pray to Him. This changes everything, because we are not talking about ideas, theories, or simple knowledge. We are talking about the relationship we have with a living person.
Scripture is the living Word of the Living God. So the Bible is God's word to us, where God calls us to know Him and live forever. The reason we believe the Bible is because we believe in God and know Him in Jesus Christ.
There is a two-way relationship here. We believe the Bible because of our relationship with God and we have that relationship in, through and because of Jesus Christ. Secondly, the Bible is the living word of the living Lord, so it has the power to create faith. We do not simply jump in and believe whatever is written because it is written. We believe because of the work of God. So how does it all begin?
Our encounter with God begins as God comes into our world. It is Christmas and Easter. It is Jesus being born, living, dying and rising for us. That is where our knowledge of our Triune God begins, with knowing Jesus.
John 1:18 No one has ever seen God; the only [begotten] God, who is at the Father's side, He has made Him known.
So God comes to us; and we begin learning about God as we come to Jesus and learn about Him.
Rev. Mark Willig
Pastor Willig is pastor emeritus of Friends in Christ Lutheran Church.