The Shepherds, Bethlehem, and the Lamb
But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from old, from ancient times. ~ MICAH 5:2 (NIV)
I will place shepherds over them who will tend them, and they will no longer be afraid or terrified, nor will any be missing,” declares the Lord. ~ JEREMIAH 23:4 (NIV)
Why was Jesus born in Bethlehem? Only in Bethlehem were lambs raised pure and special enough for sacrifice in the temple. Seven hundred years before Jesus’ birth, Micah prophesied Bethlehem would be the birthplace of God’s Son.
The Bethlehem shepherds were no ordinary shepherds. The shepherds for these sacrificial lambs were educated in the Law of Moses. They were trained to keep the temple lambs pure and perfect in every way.
At their birth, the lambs were examined to be sure they were flawless and without fault. The perfect lambs were wrapped in swaddling cloths. This certified they were a “holy birth.” We have never read that Mary packed a diaper bag when she and Joseph traveled to Bethlehem. Yet we read in Luke 2:7 that “she wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger.”
Mary must surely have used what was available. She wrapped Him in strips of cloth. Her precious baby boy, the Perfect Lamb, born to save the world. As the lambs were wrapped in swaddling cloths to signify they were of holy birth, so was Jesus.
The shepherds lived out in the fields, keeping watch over their flocks by night. To them was delivered the message of the holy birth. They were told the baby could be found wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger. The shepherds understood the meaning of this message more than most.
Because of their profession, this group of shepherds would not have been permitted to take part in any ceremony or worship at the temple. Their worship was an individual act. Yet, God chose them to offer praise to One who would be called the Good Shepherd. They were the first to see and worship the Lamb of God.
This perfect Son of God came for all people. He was born to give His life as a sacrifice to save the world.
O Heavenly Father, who sent your Son, your Only Son, to be a sacrificial lamb for all mankind, let us live our lives worthy of such an awesome love.
DOLORES DANIELS, TRINITY UNITED METHODIST CHURCH