When the stars threw down their spears And water’d heaven with their tears: Did he smile his work to see? Did he who made the Lamb make thee? ~William Blake from “The Tyger”
His birth was attended by tears: The stars wept, knowing what gift had been given Shepherds wept, hearing the heavenly host proclaim, His mother and father wept, knowing Who lay innocent in the manger, they to be entrusted to raise Him to save the world.
A meek Lamb becomes both protector and sacrifice, forgiving the hand that wields the knife that slays Him.
The Lamb shares His name with us so we answer His call ~ we are His sheep we are His flock
He who made the Lamb made us and we answer weeping, knowing the cost.
Little Lamb, who made thee? Dost thou know who made thee? Gave thee life, and bid thee feed, By the stream and o’er the mead; Gave thee clothing of delight, Softest clothing woolly, bright; Gave thee such a tender voice, Making all the vales rejoice? Little Lamb, who made thee? Dost thou know who made thee?
Little Lamb, I’ll tell thee, Little Lamb, I’ll tell thee: He is callèd by thy name, For He calls Himself a Lamb. He is meek, and He is mild: He became a little child. I a child, and thou a lamb, We are callèd by His name. Little Lamb, God bless thee! Little Lamb, God bless thee ~William Blake “Little Lamb”
We were familiar with the night. We knew its favourite colours, its sullen silence and its small, disturbing sounds, its unprovoked rages, its savage dreams.
We slept by turns, attentive to the flock. We said little. Night after night, there was little to say. But sometimes one of us, skilled in that way, would pipe a tune of how things were for us.
They say that once, almost before time, the stars with shining voices serenaded the new born world. The night could not contain their boundless praise.
We thought that just a poem — until the night a song of solar glory, unutterable, unearthly, eclipsed the luminaries of the night, as though the world were exorcised of dark and, coming to itself, began again.
Later we returned to the flock. The night was ominously black. The stars were silent as the sheep. Nights pass, year on year. We clutch our meagre cloaks against the cold. Our aging piper’s fumbling fingers play, night after night, an earthly echo of the song that banished dark. It has stayed with us. ~Richard Bauckham “Song of the Shepherds”
There is no specific “song of the shepherds” recorded in scripture. They were unlikely people to be inspired to use flowery words and memorable turns of phrase. Scripture says simply they looked at each other and agreed to get to Bethlehem as fast as possible and see for themselves what they had been told by God. There was no time to waste singing out praises and thanksgiving; they “went with haste.”
Witnessing an appearance of the heavenly host followed by seeing for themselves the incarnation of the living God in a manger must have been overwhelming to those who otherwise spent much time alone and in silence. They must have been simply bubbling over with everything they had heard and been shown. At least scripture does tell us the effect the shepherds’ witnessing words had on others: “and all who heard it wondered…”
I don’t think people wondered if the shepherds were embroidering the story, or had a group hallucination, or were flat out fabricating for reasons of their own. I suspect Mary and Joseph and the townspeople who heard what the shepherds had to say were flabbergasted at the passion and excitement being shared about what had just taken place. Seeing became believing and all could see how completely the shepherds believed by how enthusiastically they shared everything they knew.
We know what the shepherds had to say, minimalist conversationalists that they are. So we too should respond with wonder at what they have told us all.
We stood on the hills, Lady, Our day’s work done, Watching the frosted meadows That winter had won.
The evening was calm, Lady, The air so still, Silence more lovely than music Folded the hill.
There was a star, Lady, Shone in the night, Larger than Venus it was And bright, so bright.
Oh, a voice from the sky, Lady, It seemed to us then Telling of God being born In the world of men.
And so we have come, Lady, Our day’s work done, Our love, our hopes, ourselves, We give to your son. ~Bob Chillcott “The Shepherd’s Carol”
The fence was down. Led by their bellwether bellies, the sheep had toddled astray. The neighbor farmer’s woods or coyotes might have got them, or the far road. I remember the night, the moon-colored grass we waded through to look for them, the oaks tangled and dark, like starting a story midway. We gazed over seed heads to the barn toppled in the homestead orchard. Then we saw the weather of white wool, a cloud in the blue moving without sound as if charmed by the moon beholding them out of bounds. Time has not tightened the wire or righted the barn. The unpruned orchard rots in its meadow and the story unravels, the sunlight creeping back like a song with nobody left to hear it. ~David Mason from “Mending Time” in The Sound: New and Selected Poems
How often do we, like sheep, wander astray – out of the broken down barn, or through the fallen fence, into the orchards of rotting delights?
And Someone, always Someone, comes looking for us, lost and always hungering and endangered.
We need our Shepherd and we know His voice. May we be ready to be led home.
“The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.5 But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.“
14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.
John 10:1-5, 14-16
of this wayward flock
each of us wanting to go
his or her own way
We know your voice
and listen intently
to follow you
where you know we should be
You lead us
to the green pastures
of The Word
to fill up full.
Alongside the still waters
we quench our thirst,
we are comforted
that you point the way.
If one has gone astray
we know you will come looking
until we are searched out
in our hiding place.
We rejoice together
of the lost
You know your sheep
through a full generation
of us thriving
in your love and care.
We know our shepherds.
We know your voice.
We know you were brought to us
through the loving grace of God Himself.
Amen and Amen again.
May my eyes see, my ears hear, my heart understand. He prepares me with parable.
12 “What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off?13 And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. Matthew 18:12-13
There is no greater fear than losing hold and sight of your precious child in a crowd; all you can see is a blur of heads and bodies that don’t belong to the one you love. You have no idea where they are or how to begin to find them.
Desperation grows by the second.
I’ve felt that panic and I’ve seen it in other parents’ eyes.
When we displayed our Haflingers at our regional fair year after year where thousands of people would pass by our stalls daily, we became unofficially designated as a “safe place” to go for lost children who knew their parents would know to look for them near the golden ponies with the snowy white manes and tails. We saw quite a few tearful reunions over the years and there is nothing like the relief and gratitude when the lost are found.
We are sought out when we wander; we are missed desperately.
We who are lost should seek out safe refuge with those who will protect us until we are found.
When found, we embrace and weep with the One who has risked all to look for us.
May my eyes see, my ears hear, my heart understand. He prepares me with parable.
We’ve never owned sheep in over 25 years of living on the farm, although we have considered it, even bought a book or two on sheep raising, and looked at a few heritage breeds. We haven’t bought one (yet). The downside of sheep is they are high-maintenance with a tendency to easily get into trouble , often have difficulty lambing so need to be watched and assisted if necessary, must have regular hoof and health care and most of all, are defenseless against predators. In other words, they require stewardship that we couldn’t commit to providing. Cows, horses, goats, chickens, geese, and ducks seemed like commitment enough.
The sheep herds of Bible times (and even these days in sheep country) have full time shepherds moving with the flocks, using dogs for predator control and flock management. The shepherd is essential for the survival of the sheep, as well as the well being of the entire flock.
Jesus is called the Great Shepherd not just because of his leadership, but because he is also the Lamb. He knows the vulnerability of having no means to defend oneself, being completely submissive to a greater will and plan than one’s own, having experienced the pain of sacrifice, and the rescue into the loving arms of the Lord after death. Knowing our weakness, Jesus carries us, his sheep, gently and lovingly on his shoulders, guiding us to the pathways where we will be safest, searching for us if we are lost, protecting us if we are threatened.
The shepherd, knowing the sheep, promises to be there, no matter what, no matter where. We who have gone astray, every one to his own way, will return to the fold, knowing he calls to us out of love.