Featured Stories


What the Shepherds Knew

by Paula McBride

           

What would you write in your resume if you were applying for a job as a Bethlehem shepherd around 6 B.C.? Your chin might rise higher as you consider yourself better than the shepherds caring for the general flocks outside the area. They were uneducated and despised, after all. You write that you've had training in the Law, the Old Testament scriptures, and you have the necessary skills for keeping bouncing little lambs spotless and unblemished. You don't mind getting blood on your hands and manure on your feet that renders you unclean. You can worship just as well in the fields as in the temple. Oh, yes! You are willing to work twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, for the entire year. So, what if the common shepherds got to lock their flocks in a pen and go home to sleep in their own beds at night! Your job satisfaction comes in knowing you're raising perfect lambs for the sacrifices down the road in Jerusalem: two a day for morning and evening sacrifices all year except for Passover when tens of thousands of lambs poured out their blood for temporary forgiveness of sin.

   Sounds like a thankless job, doesn't it? Yet it was to Bethlehem shepherds that angel messengers brought a glorious and unique message meant just for them. What did the shepherds know that set them apart as recipients of a heavenly visitation?

   They knew God the Father has a heart for shepherds. Imagine the Bethlehem shepherds snuggling down with a tiny lamb and reciting Isaiah 40:11, “He tends his flock like a shepherd: he gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart.” Though smelly and unworthy of temple worship, God loves and identifies with them.

   The Bethlehem shepherds knew that the angelic message came to them first. Not to the high priest and certainly not to Herod. The announcement came to the lowly of society, those ready to recognize a Savior.

   Had the Savior been born in a palace or a temple, the shepherds would not have been welcome. The shepherds knew God made sure they would be comfortable when they reached the manger. The smells, the rough dress of the new parents, and the dim interior of the birthplace made them feel right at home.

   Most of all, the shepherds knew the significance of the swaddling cloths warming and restraining the limbs of the newborn child. It was the way they wrapped their sacrificial lambs. The angels announced a Savior for the world, and here He lay, Messiah as the prophets foretold. Born of a virgin, God with us, and yet destined to be led as a lamb to the slaughter (Isaiah 53:7), pouring out His blood for the forgiveness of sins.

   What the shepherds knew is that God had come to them. So close, in fact, that he looked just like them. So close these outcasts were the first to witness His arrival. So close they could embrace Him.

   And so can we. In our unworthiness, God announces the same message, and we find a welcome at the manger. In Christ, we are fully understood in all our smelliness and dirty rags. The King who became a Lamb died once and for all for our sin, so we have access to the throne of God where the risen Lamb waits for us as we once waited for Him.

Born for a Purpose

By Seth Halpern

  

   If you have read over this issue, you’ll notice one thing: CHRISTMAS!! I made a conscious decision to steer clear of politics and gloomy news for this issue. It was very tempting to talk about the daily sexual harassment/misconduct scandals, but the world and the devil will still be active come January. I felt impressed to simply focus on the most important birth of all time. We have previously published cover stories on the “War on Christmas” and other social and political issues having to do with our faith. This year, I felt we just need to celebrate. The War will continue, but for now let’s enjoy the goodness of the Lord and His Gift to us in the form of the One who came to save us. May the peace of God rest with you and your household as you lift your eyes and heart up to the only one who deserves the praise and worship. Look to Him this season and receive into your soul the most incredible, amazing, unfathomable act of sacrificial grace and mercy ever to be displayed. I know that talk of the sacrifice on the cross is usually reserved for springtime, but these two holidays (holy days) are more than related; they are in many ways, the same. We often think of Christmas as the time for gifts and lights and trees and a cute little baby. While Easter (if it’s not eggs and bunnies) is about death and resurrection. We often forget that He was born to die. His purpose in coming to be “with us” is in order to be the sacrificial lamb and die in our place, pay the cost for our sin and make a way for us to come before the Father. We may not think of that when we see the baby in the manger, but God did. I pray that we would too this CHRISTmas! I pray that you and your loved ones would enjoy a blessed Christmas season as you “unwrap” and ponder this wonderful Gift!