Several years ago I went on a CHRISTmas tour of homes. One home in particular has remained in my memory.
It was a large home, beautifully decorated throughout. As you entered the home, you were in a large foyer with a winding staircase to the second floor...very elegant.
An enormous CHRISTmas tree filled the foyer. But as I looked closer I realized very quickly that this was not your ordinary CHRISTmas tree. This tree was beautifully decorated with symbols of the names of Jesus.
There were small baskets of bread, symbolizing Jesus as the Bread of Life; wooly sheep representative of His being Our Shepherd; beautiful pink roses for the Rose of Sharon; small nosegays of lilies of the valley because He is called the Lily of the Valley; shining stars for He is our Star and on and on.... It was, without a doubt, the most beautiful, most impressive tree I'd ever seen.
We often get so familiar with Bible stories that the details are overlooked. We all know the CHRISTmas story of Jesus being born in a manger in Bethlehem. We see countless nativity scenes throughout the holidays, we decorate with them. There is nothing wrong with that. In fact, it is a wonderful way to keep the focus on Christ during the holidays.
But, maybe we need to take a moment to really think about what the symbols of CHRISTmas are really all about. So for the next few days I want to draw your attention to the names of Jesus, to some of the very symbols we decorate our trees with.
Today let's begin with the sheep. In every nativity we see sheep. The shepherds who came to worship Jesus the night he was born may have been followed into town by a few of their sheep. In my nativity, a shepherd is carrying a lamb. Shepherds often do that if the lamb has been injured. Scripture does not tell us whether the sheep came with the shepherds, but it does tell us about the shepherds. I do believe it is significant that the angels made their first announcement of the Savior's birth to a group of lowly shepherds out on a hillside. Jesus did not come just for the rich and powerful. He came for the common man as well. He came for all.
Shepherds were held in low esteem in Jewish society. They lived out away from everyone. They lived WITH their sheep. No one lives with cows or horses. But because sheep are so dumb and require constant care, a shepherd must stay with his sheep. Interesting, isn't it, that God compares US to sheep?
Jesus is referred to in John 10:11 as the Good Shepherd, "I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd gives his life for the sheep" and in verse 14 He says "I am the good shepherd and know my sheep and am know of mine".
A shepherd cares for his sheep with a watchful eye. "All we like sheep have gone astray" Isaiah 53: 6. Without the constant attention of the Shepherd, the sheep will stray into dangerous territory or become pray to wild animals.
He provides for their needs. Psalm 23 says "The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want. . He makes me to lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul." A shepherd must constantly be moving the sheep to where there is grass. Left on their own, a sheep will just continue to graze right down to the dirt. He must be taken to clean, pure water. Drinking from a stagnant pond could mean death to a sheep. And, sheep will not drink from a moving stream. It must be still water.
Yes, sheep require a lot of care and attention....just like we do. And, the shepherd must be constantly at their side. Jesus is our Good Shepherd. He provides and protects. He leads us, He guides us, He tenderly cares for us.
This CHRISTmas as you view the sheep and shepherds in your nativity, recognize the meaning behind the symbol and thank God for your GOOD SHEPHERD.
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