A Visit

In two days, many of us will be celebrating the Birth of a Child. We will attend church, hear or read the familiar story, sing the familiar hymns, and then go home to open presents and enjoy a holiday dinner. The story is so familiar that even children can recite it.

The events described in that story changed the course of human civilization. Every detail in that story helps us to understand the enormity of the change. But over the centuries the meaning of the details has been lost.

So in preparation for the celebration, let us take a moment and examine a few of those details.

We know He was born in a stable. Did we know that a stable was the only place that was actually accessible to everyone, from shepherds to kings?

In the case of the kings, it didn’t matter. Kings could go anywhere.

But in the case of the shepherds, it was critical. In first century Israel, shepherds were considered unclean because they slept with their sheep. They were not allowed to enter a dwelling.

So if the Child had been born in the famous overly-crowded inn, the shepherds would not have been allowed to visit Him. It was only in a stable that the One Who came to save us all could actually be worshipped by all. The stable was a symbol of the fact that there was no soul too “low” for His love.

On the other hand, the entry to the stables was deliberately small. No one could enter without ducking down, or bowing. Here the situation was reversed. The shepherds were quite used to bowing — they bowed to everyone.

For kings, however, the situation was quite different. Everyone bowed to them. But the kings could only enter that stable if they bowed their heads — a posture that represents humility. So the same stable that welcomed all also required that that all who desired to enter be willing to bow — because the real King was inside.

The stable was not an accident. It was a setting. And like all good settings, it helped to explain the message the Child came to share.

We also know that He was laid in a manger. Did we stop to think about the fact that the first place the One Who described Himself as the “Bread of Life” laid His head was in the very place where the master put food for his creatures?

The manger was also not an accident.

manger1.jpgThe message of that setting is as real today as it was two millennia ago. Every single one of us is offered a welcome by the Child, no matter who we are or what we have done. To receive that welcome, every single one of us will have to be willing to approach and bow in recognition of His lordship over our lives and hearts. And if we accept the welcome He offers and become His, He promises to feed our souls now and forever.

So this Christmas, let’s recognize the stable as more than a decoration. Let’s recognize it as the setting for our celebration — a setting that changed the world.

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  • noelfitz

    I was very interested to read:

    “In first century Israel, shepherds were considered unclean because they slept with their sheep. They were not allowed to enter a dwelling.”

    Thus was it considered an insult to consider a person a shepherd?

    I read in the OT:

    The Lord is my shepherd,
    I shall not want.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures;
    He leads me beside quiet waters.
    He restores my soul;
    He guides me in the paths of righteousness
    For His name’s sake (Ps 23:1-3).

    He chose his servant David,
    and took him from the sheepfolds;
    from tending the nursing ewes he brought him
    to be the shepherd of his people Jacob,
    of Israel, his inheritance.
    With upright heart he tended them,
    and guided them with skillful hand. (Ps 78:70-72).

    Like a shepherd He will tend His flock,
    In His arm He will gather the lambs
    And carry them in His bosom;
    He will gently lead the nursing ewes (Isa 40:11).

    Then I will set over them one shepherd, My servant David, and he will feed them; he will feed them himself and be their shepherd (Ezek 34:23).

    Jesus considered himself a shepherd:

    And Jesus said to them, “You will all become deserters; for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered’”(Mk 14:27).

    “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (Jn 10:11).

    God bless,

    NoelFitz.
    _________________________________________________

    In necessariis, unitas; in dubiis, libertas; in omnibus, caritas.
    _________________________________________________

  • elkabrikir

    noel,
    like many symbols in Sacred Scripture “shepherd” has multiple meanings and layers of meaning. All are accurate and relevant for the given situation.

    To illustrate my point, “water” and “serpent” and “blood” are all biblical symbols.

    Water: washes one clean in baptism, but also drowns the people of Noah’s age.
    Serpent: A sign of power but also of evil. Moses held up the serpent on a staff to save all who beheld it. In the Garden, conversely, the serpent was the Evil One.
    Blood: Flowed from Jesus’ side and we were “washed clean by the blood of the Lamb” ,however, blood also made one unclean (eg menstruating women or postpartum women).

    Here’s an Advent symbol.
    Stump: Jesse’s Tree of Life sprang from a stump which is also a symbol of death.

    Paradox’s proliferate in the Bible. The greatest one is the event of December 25: A virgin,a girl of common birth, gave birth to a king.

    God uses the unexpected, in part, I think, because he transcends the bounds of human intellect. Paradox illustrates succinctly that we’re not God.

    Hope this helps.

  • elkabrikir

    The Cross gets a post for itself!!

    The Cross is the ultimate Biblical paradox. It is a symbol of sandal, of shame, of punishment, of torture. Yet it is the symbol of our salvation and we must embrace it if we desire eternal life.

    Jesus came to fulfill the meaning of all things. He came to perfect the material world in Him.

  • noelfitz

    elkabrikir,

    Thank you for your reply.

    Do you consider that shepherds were considered unclean?

    If so please give reasons for your view.

    God bless,

    NoelFitz.
    _________________________________________________

    In necessariis, unitas; in dubiis, libertas; in omnibus, caritas.
    _________________________________________________

  • elkabrikir

    Noel,
    I am a city girl, therefore, I have no direct experience with either sheep or shepherds. I must accept what the experts say on this subject. My thoughts are that the very characteristics of people who excel as shepherds makes them distasteful to “civilized society”. But, Christians are NOT civilized society. We are sheep. Specifically we are Christ’s sheep.

    The following is taken from http://churchgrowth1.blogspot.com/2007/10/good-shepherd-and-his-sheep.html
    A good shepherd always knew the habits and characteristics of his sheep and could predict their behavior and understand their peculiarities. The shepherd knew the characteristics of his sheep so well that he was never surprised or caught off guard by their actions.

    A good shepherd was always at ease with his sheep, comfortable with their company, and enjoyed the responsibility of taking care of them. But, the life of the shepherd was extremely hard; never off duty and never any time off from his shepherd responsibilities.

    A good shepherd would sometimes have to discipline his sheep. Because fields of grass were sometimes hard to find, the sheep were prone to wander looking for grazing opportunities.

    Therefore, the shepherd had to keep constant watch over his flock. One rebellious sheep could lead the other sheep astray. So the shepherd would break the legs of the wayward sheep to prevent it from straying away from the flock and leading other sheep astray.

    After this disciplining process, the shepherd would then carry the sheep on his own back to teach the sheep that, even though the sheep needed discipline from the shepherd, the shepherd still loved the sheep deeply. Being carried on the back of the shepherd, the sheep developed a more intimate relationship with the shepherd.

    The shepherd’s task was not only constant but also dangerous because he had to guard his flock against wild animals and against thieves and robbers. Constant vigilance, fearless, courage, and patient love were necessary characteristics of the shepherd.

    Lastly, the shepherd was responsible for taking care of the physical diseases that his sheep might contract.

    A good shepherd’s responsibility, then, was to provide for all the needs of his sheep. Food, water, direction, protection, and healing were all his responsibility.

    And what was the responsibility of the shepherd’s sheep? To have a relationship with the shepherd, and to follow him and to obey him. As long as the sheep maintained its relationship with the shepherd, followed him, and obeyed him, then all of the sheep’s needs were met. Should a sheep rebel and go off on its own to get its needs met (food, water, etc.), the sheep could expect the discipline of the shepherd (the breaking of its legs) but could also expect the love of the shepherd and a more intimate relationship with the shepherd by being carried on the shepherd’s back.

    What’s the point in all of this?

    Jesus uses the illustration of the good shepherd and the sheep to explain spiritual truth.

    Jesus is the Shepherd and we are His sheep.

    Jesus is the Good Shepherd. He is not just a shepherd. He is not one among many shepherds.

    There is only ONE Shepherd and His name is Jesus.

    I am a sheep and you are a sheep.

    I am not the only sheep in the flock.

    You are not the only sheep in the flock.

    There is only one Shepherd but there are countless numbers of sheep.

    Jesus, the Good Shepherd, loves His sheep: He lays down His life for the sheep.

    Jesus, the Good Shepherd, intimately knows His sheep and He knows us as intimately as the Father knows His Son (John 10:15).

    Jesus, the Good Shepherd, provides for His sheep. His responsibility for His sheep is to provide food, water, direction, protection, and healing.

    What is our responsibility as His sheep? To have a deep and intimate relationship with the Shepherd, and to follow Him and to obey Him. As sheep, our relationship with the Shepherd must be maintained and must continue to grow. As long as we do this, Jesus will provide everything we need.

    But, some of His sheep rebel and stray away. Therefore, He has to discipline them because He loves them and because they might lead other sheep astray. Sometimes, the Shepherd has to “break the legs” of His rebellious sheep. Because they belong to Him and because of His holiness, He has to discipline those who are rebellious because His primary concern is for their spiritual health.

    And then, as the Good Shepherd, He carries the disciplined sheep on His back to demonstrate His love and compassion for them. His discipline is evidence that the rebellious ones belong to Him and but it also teaches them that He will not tolerate their rebellion. Carrying His sheep on His back teaches disciplined sheep that He still loves them. (Hebrews 12:7-11)

    Making It Personal

    Where do you find yourself today in your relationship with Jesus? Are you maintaining a deep and intimate relationship with Him and trusting Him to supply all of your needs? Or do you find yourself rebelling against Him and trying to get your needs met outside of your relationship to Him?

    If I could talk to you today and ask you, “Tell me about your relationship with Jesus today.” What would your response be?

    YBH: Yes, but how?

    Do everything you know to do to maintain and develop a more intimate relationship with Jesus. At all costs, pursue Him no matter what your circumstances are. Seek to follow Him and obey Him with everything you’ve got. And I suggest you pray the following:

    “Dear Jesus, You are the Good Shepherd and I am one of your sheep. Jesus, please teach me more about my relationship with You. Reveal to me the areas of rebellion in my life that hinder my relationship with You. Then, Lord, teach me more about Your responsibility as my Shepherd. Teach me more about how you will supply every need I have. And, Lord, teach me how to take care of my responsibility as one of your sheep to have an intimate love relationship with You.”

    Psalm 100:3-Know ye not that the LORD, He is God: it is He that hath made us and not we ourselves; we are His people and the sheep of His pasture.

    Psalm 95:7-For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.

    Responsibilities of the Shepherd:

    Lead the sheep
    Provide for the sheep
    Discipline the sheep
    Responsibilities of the sheep:

    Relationship with the Shepherd
    Follow the Shepherd
    Obey the Shepherd
    One final point: On The Abundant Life “… I came that they may have life and have it abundantly”. (verse 10).

    The potential of abundant life for each of us is only fully experienced in our relationship with Jesus. When we rebel, we miss out on the kind of life that only Jesus can give. The abundant life can only be realized in a personal, intimate, love relationship with Him.

    Posted by Kenny Corn at 1:44 PM
    Newer Post Older Post Home

  • noelfitz

    elkabrikir

    Many thanks for your thoughtful reply to me. I appreciate it that you took the time to reply at this busy time of the yrar.

    I hope you and your family have a great Christmas and 2009.

    God bless,

    NoelFitz.
    _________________________________________________

    In necessariis, unitas; in dubiis, libertas; in omnibus, caritas.
    _________________________________________________

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