Today on our first day of the Advent Journey this December, Baby Joey opened box #1 and the word we found was “Shepherds”.  What a perfect word to begin our adventure, discovering and re-discovering the wonder and mystery of Christmas this year.

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger.
(Luke 2:8-16)

Shepherds. An unlikely, rag-tag group of men and even boys to be the first to receive the news of the newborn King, but isn’t that like God to work in unlikely, unexpected, mysterious ways! I think it is so beautiful that the Lord picked Shepherds to be the first ones to hear that the Messiah, Christ, was born! I love it, because God Himself is portrayed as a Shepherd throughout Scripture countless times.
As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land. And I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the ravines, and in all the inhabited places of the country. I will feed them with good pasture, and on the mountain heights of Israel shall be their grazing land. There they shall lie down in good grazing land, and on rich pasture they shall feed on the mountains of Israel. I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord God. I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice.
(Ezekiel 34:12-16)

He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.
(Isaiah 40:11)

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.
(Psalm 23:1-2)

Shepherd your people with your staff, the flock of your inheritance, who dwell alone in a forest in the midst of a garden land; let them graze in Bashan and Gilead as in the days of old.
(Micah 7:14) 
The Lord our Shepherd is our leader, our protector, our guide, our helper, our provider, and so much more. When we are lost, He finds us. When we are under attack or in danger, He rescues us. When we are hungry, He feeds us. When we are afraid of alone, He is ever-present and never leaves. When we are confused, He gently shows us the way. When we make silly mistakes or commit terrible sins, He restores us and lifts us up with His strong, gracious hand.  I am so thankful to have a Shepherd constantly watching over my life- my security is in Him alone. What a beautiful paradox on that first Christmas night that the Shepherds in the hillside outside of Bethlehem went to bow before the a baby who would become the ultimate, eternal Shepherd of all humanity- the lost sheep of Israel as well as Gentiles from every land. My heart is stirred to bow down and worship the Shepherd along with those shepherds long ago. 

I want to end this first day of our Advent journey together by quoting the lyrics from Amanda Cook’s worship song “Shepherd”. The morning of my brain surgery, I woke up before dawn with this song running through my head. In the greatest challenges and most daunting days of life, what hope we have in knowing that our Shepherd is watching over us and caring for every detail of our lives- both the physical and spiritual. 

In the process, in the waiting
You’re making melodies over me
In Your presence is a promise
For I am a pilgrim on a journey

You make my footsteps and my path secure
So walking water is just the beginning
Cause my faith to arise, stand at attention
For You are calling me to the greater things

And You will lift my head above the mighty waves
You are able to keep me from stumbling
And in my weakness
You are the strength that comes from within
Good Shepherd of my soul
Take my hand and lead me on