JOY – the Shepherds

    Searching His Word, Seeking His Heart

Shepherds? Dirty smelly shepherds? What are they doing in this story of the birth of the Son of God? After all, they’re not even fit to testify in a court of law.

Of course, Temple leaders were glad to purchase their sheep for Temple sacrifices—and earn money in the process when they sold the sheep.

Yet, these keepers of the flocks are the very ones to whom the angel appeared to bear the news of the Savior.

Imagine the shock of those shepherds when they were aroused by the brilliant light of the angel on that dark, sleepy night. Like other angelic visitations, the shepherds were startled.

“Do not be frightened,” the angel said. “I bring you good news of great JOY. Today in the town of David [Bethlehem] a Savior has been born to you. He is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:10-11

“Christ” is the Greek word for “Messiah.” This is big stuff, my friends. The shepherds may not have been learned men of the ancient texts, but they did know what this meant.

Now just to make a more human connection for them, they were given a sign to help them see for themselves. (Note—it was not the star. That was given to the Magi.)

“You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:12

As if they weren’t totally awed by this angel, a heavenly host of angels appeared, filling the skies with more brilliance, declaring their praise to God and peace to those who believe.

We don’t know if the angels suddenly disappeared or flew away a few at a time. But when they were all gone and it was a dark night again, I wonder if the shepherds sat stunned for a few moments wondering if they really saw what they thought they saw. 

A light bulb may have flipped on in one of their minds as if suddenly remembering the sign. “Let’s go down to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened.” Imagine their hearts pumping as they took off in a run.

Where would they go? I’d say manger to manger, looking for a baby. No one else would put a newborn in a feeding trough. So, if they found a baby in one of these stables, that would definitely be the one.

When they tip-toed quietly into the stable, they told their story. This wasn’t the dazzling JOY they had experienced on the hillside. No, this was heartfelt, fall-to-your-knees kind of JOY that brings tears to your eyes.

They left the stable and spread the word of all the things they had seen and heard.

. . . and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. Luke 2:18

God sent the news of His sacrificial lamb to the shepherds of lambs. Years later, Jesus declared himself the good shepherd.

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” John 10:11

The shepherd to lead you, the sacrificial lamb to save you. Blessed be his holy name. Merry Christmas.

~ Joyce ~

A Shepherd’s Story – Part 1

Searching His Word   Seeking His Heart

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

“Martha, I’ll be out in the lambing barn. Lily is about to give birth.”

“Oh, Papa, can I go too? I never seen them sheep give birth. I just see ’em when they’re already here.” Amos tugged on his Papa’s big arms as he begged and begged.

“Well, now, let me see,” said Ariah, as he gave a wink to Martha, “how old is this boy of ours?”

“I’m eight, Papa, eight years old!” Amos stretched his back to make himself as tall as possible.

“Eight, you say?”

Amos bobbled his head up and down.

“Well, I guess it’s about time for you to witness the miracle of birth.” Young Amos clapped his hands and bounced all around. “But you must sit still and not make the sheep nervous.”

“Oh, I will. I’ll be so quiet.”

 Martha smiled and reached for Amos’ woolly, sheep skin coat.”Put your coat on, Amos. It’s cold out there in the barn.”

Amos followed Papa out to the barn, taking at least two steps for each stride of Papa’s long legs. Ariah slowed his pace at they drew near the sheep pen.

Four other baa-ing mammas were sauntering around Lily, their tummies bulging but not quite ready to deliver.  Ariah motioned to a little stool for Amos to sit, while he sat on another larger stool close to Mama Lilly, positioning himself so that Amos would have a full view of the “miracle.”

After a short time, Lily pointed her nose in the air and emitted strange bleating sounds. She paced around in a circle as her bleating grew louder.  Finally, she collapsed on the straw. 

“Hm, she’s struggling; I may need to help her a bit.” Ariah reached down and eased a hand into the birth canal, clutching the lamb and gently pulling. Lily’s body contracted in and out, attempting to birth this new life. Little by little, Ariah pulled in time with the contractions.

At last the soppy little lamb was born. Amos’ eyes grew big as donkey hoofs. He held his breath as the new lamb lay motionless on the straw. Is he alive? he wondered.

Finally the lamb wiggled around and made a feeble attempt to stand, but fell back on the straw. Lily looked around at her little prize and nudged him with her nose. The new lamb responded and they rubbed noses with each other. Amos sighed a hushed, “ah,”  mesmerized by the natural way they connected. The ewe began licking her lamb.

“Why’s she doing that?” Amos whispered.

“That’s Lily’s way of cleaning up her lamb.”

“Cleaning up fer sure,” Amos chuckled. Lily licked the newborn’s nose, and legs, and whole body. Then she urged the little one to suck.

Ariah slipped over to Amos and squatted down beside him as they watched mother and child. “I’m always amazed at the new life God brings us—the miracle of birth. Blessed be the name of the Lord!”


What will happen next to Amos? Tune in next week for Part 2.

~ Joyce ~


Two days until Valentine’s Day. Have you connected with your loved one this week? Figured out something that would mean a lot to a friend? In order to have genuine relationship, we search for ways to connect with those we love.

It works in the business world as well. If we have a product or service, we try to connect people’s needs to what we have to offer. Networking. Connecting.

We can apply this to life lessons. Let’s suppose your 16 year old seems oblivious to the seriousness of the speeding tickets he is receiving. Then one day his good friend is killed by a another teen in a speeding accident. Suddenly, your teen sees the consequences of speeding because it has entered his world of experience. He has connected.

This is probably a long way around to where I’m trying to “connect” you, but I find that Scripture makes more sense to me when I see the connections between the characters, the traditions, the way of thinking, the habits, even the geography. For instance, when Bible characters are going (down) south from Galilee to Jerusalem, they say they are going up to Jerusalem. They don’t mean north, as we would think, they literally mean up as in “up the hill,” because Jerusalem sits on a raised mound.

So, before we leave Nicodemus, there are a couple of “connections” I want you to think about. Early in the story of A Heart for Truth, we hear of a report from Bethlehem shepherds who say they saw a vision of angels. The angels told the shepherds that the Messiah had been born. Sure enough the shepherds search out the stables and find the baby just as they were told. They were excited to share their good news.

17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child. Luke 2:17

Since Bethlehem and Jerusalem are only about 5 miles apart, the news could have easily reached the Temple area where Nicodemus might have heard the report. Connection. We discover then the low opinion Pharisees and other Temple leaders have toward shepherds. This helps us to understand Nicodemus’ attitude later in the story when, in Nicodemus’ time of need, he is rescued (heaven forbid!) by a shepherd . Connection.

Another example of connecting scenes is when Jesus comes to the Temple as a twelve-year-old boy where he is:

46b …sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking questions. Luke 2:46b

We hear the teachers’ reactions to Jesus.

47 Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his questions. Luke 2:47

Rather than seeing this as an isolated incident, we can surmise that very likely Nicodemus could have been one of those teachers who heard Jesus’ questions and answers. Connection.  Could Nicodemus have reflected years later on this incident, remembering some of the things that were said? Possibly.

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As you study the Bible, I encourage you to look beyond the immediate passage and see how it fits in the totality of the passage. Who is around around to hear or see what is going on? How does it connect to verses in another book of the Bible? Scripture is seldom isolated passages. One thing connects to another and another. It all fits together to bring the whole message. Seek out these connections. I’d love to hear some of your discoveries.

Meanwhile, think about your friend or loved one this week. Share your love with them in surprising ways that will connect you to each other more deeply.

~ Joyce ~

Testimony of a Bethlehem Shepherd

One night I was out in the field near Bethlehem helping my nephew and uncle with their flock. We had settled the sheep down for the night in the pen. I walked up the hill playing my flute over this peaceful scene, when out of no where a bright light appeared and a man startled us. The light glowed all around him. We could see each other plain as day. My flute went dangling at my side and I fell to the ground, covering my face. We were scared half out of our wits.

The strange man said, “Do not be afraid, because I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” I looked out carefully from behind my hands and thought I must be dreaming or something. I blinked my eyes, trying to get use to that light.

The man in the light was excited, so I tried to listen real careful knowing this must be something very important. The man said, “Today in the town of Bethlehem, a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” Then I knew it was important! By this time I figured he was an angel of the Lord. Who else could he be?

The angel said, “This will be a sign to you. You will find the baby wrapped in clothes and lying in a manger.”

Before we could take all that in, suddenly there was a great company of the heavenly host appearing with the angel. It nearly took my breath away. The whole sky was lit up with all of them singing and praising. They said, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests. Glory to God. Glory to God!” We were absolutely awestruck.

When the angels went back into heaven, we stood there in amazement. We couldn’t speak. We couldn’t move. Finally, my nephew said, “Let’s go Bethlehem to see this thing that has happened that the angel told us about.” We didn’t stop to think about the sheep. Guess we thought the Lord would take care of them since he gave us such important business.

Well, we hurried off down the hill and around the bend. We couldn’t believe any mother would have her baby in a stable, but we looked in every stable in town. They were all full because of the census, you know. When we ran to the last stable, we saw a lantern light. Sure enough, there was the baby all swaddled up tight in strips of cloths lying in a manger of straw. His mother and father were sitting beside him.

In the quiet, we realized how loud our panting sounded. We finally caught our breath and whispered, “Shalom.” The baby’s mother invited us to come closer. Can you believe a nice lady like that would let us dirty old shepherds get close to her new baby?

Her husband welcomed us, too. We spoke real soft to them because we didn’t want to wake the baby. We just looked at the baby a long time. Kind of like looking at a newborn lamb – all full of life. We knew deep in our hearts that this was a special baby. After all, the angel said “He is Christ the Lord.” You don’t get any more speacial than that.

We told the mother and father about the angel and what he said and the host of angels and their song and the light and everything.

But, you know, the parents didn’t seem the least bit surprised. I guess it was because somehow they knew it was all true.

~Merry Christmas from Joyce~