The Christmas story is one we all know by heart. We have it memorized. You could probably recite it out loud for the rest of us, stumbling over the word “Quirinius” as everyone does, and get it pretty much word for word. We’ve heard it all before. But does that mean there’s nothing new to “muse” over?
Bob Ladendorff asks good questions. He asked me the other day if the shepherds left their sheep behind when they journeyed to Bethlehem. I had never thought about that. So let’s play it out.
It says they went “with haste.” I don’t know how you move a herd of sheep “with haste.” So they did leave their sheep behind?
No, I doubt that. Caring for these sheep and keeping them from harm was their one and only duty. These were responsible shepherds. They couldn’t just run away.
So here is Bob’s theory. One shepherd stayed behind with the sheep. The others hurried to Bethlehem to see the Christ child.
Was it a volunteer? Unlikely. Would you have volunteered to stay behind? You have just seen an angel, then a whole “heavenly host of angels.” You have been given this incredible “good news of great joy.” Why you of all people? Because you are supposed to go, not stay, but go to “see this thing that has happened, that the Lord has made known.” There is no way you would choose to stay behind!
So who stayed? Maybe the youngest. Or the oldest. The one no longer capable of moving “with haste.” Who knows?
In any event, we now have one shepherd left behind.
Remember the parable Jesus told about one sheep? The 99 were right where they were supposed to be. The one had managed to get lost. And remember that in this case the “responsible” shepherd chooses to leave the 99 behind, risking their well-being, and go to seek and to find the one?
The lesson is that God cares about the one. Each and every one. Especially the one who is lost and in danger.
So here is my theory. I haven’t run this by Bob yet. It’s a bit wild. But see what you think. The shepherds find the “babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” It’s the greatest moment of their lives. But then they remember the one they left behind. How can he miss out on this?
So one of them runs back to the sheep. Probably their fastest runner. This one stays with the sheep so the other is now free to go see Jesus.
Then and only then, after they all had been to the manger, “the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen.”
Night before Christmas Eve service tonight. Christmas Eve service tomorrow night. Both at 7 pm. And Sean Rogers on Christmas morning, 10 am.
Christmas blessings to all of you, my dear friends.