Friday, December 21, 2012

The Shepherds

Song: "The Sheperds Carol" (Children's Songbook 40) or "Far, Far Away on Judea's Plains" (Hymns 212)

What kind of men were the shepherds?

"In the fields of Bethlehem, not far from Jerusalem and the Temple of Jehovah, there were shepherds watching their flocks by night. These were not ordinary shepherds nor ordinary flocks. The sheep there being herded—nay, not herded, but watched over, cared for with love and devotion—were destined for sacrifice on the great altar in the Lord's House, in similitude of the eternal sacrifice of Him who that wondrous night lay in a stable, perhaps among sheep of lesser  destiny.... As there were many widows in Israel, and only to the one in Zarephath was Elijah sent, so there were many shepherds in Palestine, but only to those who watched over the temple flocks did the herald angel come; only they heard the heavenly choir." (Bruce R. McKonkie, Mortal Messiah, 1:347)

These Shepherds were in spiritual stature - they would have to live worthy of the calling of watching over the temple lambs. 

Show GAK 202. On the night Jesus was born, there were shepherds in the field watching over their flocks. The responsibility of their assignment did not end when the sun went down - they tended the flock all day and their watchcare extended through the night. Then came that special night when an angel of the Lord appeared and the shepherds were frightened, but the angel said:

"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... ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger" (2:10-12)

Thus, when these shepherds were personally invited to undertake a search for the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in the manger, did they concern themselves with the security of their possessions? Did they procrastinate their search for Jesus?

When the angels had gone, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us now go...unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us" (verse 15). Hurrying to Bethlehem, the shepherds found Mary and Joseph, and the baby Jesus lying in a manger (verse 16).

Later, as the shepherds returned to their flocks, telling the people abroad what the angel had said about Jesus, they glorified and praised God for all they had heard and seen (verse 17-18).

They were so excited, they couldn't wait. And they didn't share this great news with just their friends. They shared their testimony with all they met. They didn't keep the joy to themselves: they shared it.

Christ is the Good Shepherd.

The Shepherds
In the well-known verses from Luke 2, we learn significant facts about those first witnesses of Christ’s birth, the shepherds in the fields near Bethlehem. When “the angel of the Lord came upon them, . . . they were sore afraid” (verse 9). But they heard “good tidings of great joy” that the long-foretold Savior, the Messiah, the Christ, had been born (verse 10). They listened to know the sign by which they could recognize the Savior, that He would be “wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger” (verse 12). When the heavenly host had concluded their joyful proclamation, the shepherds responded immediately, saying, “Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass” (verse 15). They came “with haste” (verse 16) and found the Christ child just as the angel had said, and then they “returned, glorifying and praising God” (verse 20). Wanting to share the glorious news of the Savior’s birth, “they made [it] known abroad” (verse 17). 

Their love of God and reverence for his word are clearly indicated by their actions (Luke 2:10). Of them, Elder James E. Talmage observed, "The trustful and unsophisticated keepers of sheep had not asked for sign or confirmation; their faith was in unison with the heavenly communication; nevertheless the angel had given them what he called a sign, to guide them in their search." 

What can we learn from the shepherds? 
Like the shepherds, we must respond immediately, with haste, whenever the Spirit speaks to us. In the words of President Thomas S. Monson, we must “never, never, never postpone following a prompting.” Sometimes after heeding a prompting, we cannot clearly see why we have been guided by the Spirit to act in a certain way. But often, like the shepherds, we see miracles occur, and our faithful response to a prompting is confirmed. We can then take opportunities to share our joy and our witness with others. Doing so can strengthen others’ faith and hope, further confirming our own testimonies and bringing us closer to the Savior and His ways.  ("Come Let Us Adore Him" by Elder Patrick Kearon, Ensign, December 2010.)

Activity: Candy Cane Cookies
Ahead of time, make the cookie dough for candy cane shepherd staff cookies. Invite each of your family members to shape their own shepherd staff while you explain the symbolic meaning of the colors and shape. White represents the purity of Jesus; He was, and would be perfect His whole life. Red represents His love, and the blood he spilt for each of us in Gethsemane. We shape them like a shepherd's staff so we can be reminded that Jesus Christ is the Good Shepherd looking after each of his brothers and sisters like a shepherd would watch after his flock of lambs.

Activity: Testimony Meeting
Gather together and have a mini testimony meeting with your family. Everyone gets a turn to share just like the shepherds shared their testimony with everyone they met on that special night of Christ's birth. 


For a list of the rest of my Christmas Devotionals, see this post.

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