Meet Bernie- the good Shepherd- as He Tells His Version of the Christmas StoryWed, 24 Dec 2014 05:31:28 CST
Christmas from a Shepherd's Point of View
When you google The Christmas Story from a Shepherd's point of view- you get 30,000 hits- but one that was close to the top of the list when I googled that today was a narrative written by a Pastor by the name of Bruce Goettsche of Union Church of La Harpe, Illinois. (Click here for his complete narrative about Bernie the Shepherd )
You can also click on the LISTEN BAR below and here our audio version of Bernie's story as heard on the Radio Oklaoma Ag Network on this Christmas Eve.
Here's a few highlights to help us understand Christmas from a livestock producers point of view some 2,000 years ago in Bethleham:
The shepherd's name is Bernie- and he says:
"Most people stay away from us because we aren't thought of as being as good as everyone else. You see, we aren't able to observe all the prescribed ceremonial washings that the religious elite observe. We can't maintain that sense of purity they insist on. So, we are disqualified from many of the religious opportunities. This doesn't make us pigs! We can't help our situation. . . we're Shepherds. What are we supposed to do?
"Most of the people think we are odd. The truth is, we Shepherds probably are a different breed of person. O.K. maybe we are a lot different. Our closest friends are sheep! They are special to us. We are committed to protecting them. (Haven't you ever had a pet?) Sheep are very vulnerable, you know. They are easy prey to wild animals and they aren't very smart. If you don't keep an eye on them, they'll wander off before you know it. They need us.
"When I say we are committed to our sheep you need to know what I mean. A good Shepherd would not only risk his life for his sheep, he would give his life for his sheep.
"Most of the time we work alone. So, we talk to our sheep a great deal. We develop a relationship with the sheep
"We talk to our flock so much that it gets to the point that our sheep recognize our voice. All I have to do is call the name of one of my flock and he or she responds instantly. (SURPRISED) You mean you didn't know we had names for all our sheep? We do. You could call their name and you wouldn't get any response at all. They don't recognize your voice. They will respond instantly to my voice. That's why at night I can combine my flock with several other flocks and can take turns at watch. In the morning we simply call for our sheep and they follow their own shepherd.
"Well, anyhow, the night Messiah was born we had combined our flocks and were taking turns at the watch just outside of Bethlehem. A few of our group were already asleep. I and a couple of others were sitting by the fire enjoying a late night snack of cheese and lentils and swapping a few sheep stories. What happened next is something I will never ever forget.
"Suddenly, standing before us was a figure that was radiant and unlike anything we had ever seen before. Instantly, we knew it was a messenger from God and just as instantly we were all petrified. We didn't have to discuss this . . .we just knew. We couldn't even swallow. I think we may have been holding our breath!
"We were afraid we were going to be destroyed. Everyone of us knew that no one can see God and live. It was as if we had been turned inside out. Everyone was fully awake and we were so afraid we couldn't move a muscle.
"The angel spoke and said, "Don't be afraid! I come to bring you good news, news which will bring joy to everyone. Born to you today in Bethlehem is the Savior, he is Christ the Lord and you can find this baby wrapped in cloths and laying in a manger."
"Born to us?" the Messiah? Was this some kind of Heavenly message to the wrong address?
"The sky was suddenly filled with angels who were chanting, "Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests." It was incredible. I'm sure we all stood their with our moths open and our eyes as wide as saucers. I'm still not sure any of us had taken a breath. It was unbelievable, and yet none of us doubted it was really happening.
"We could have sat mesmerized all night, and yet, at the same time (PAUSE) it was so intense it was almost painful. And just as suddenly as the angel had appeared the host of Heaven retreated into the sky.
"For several minutes we were silent. No one spoke, no one looked at each other, we were all numb and completely absorbed by what had just happened. We were all standing close to each other and felt warm, wonderful, loved and . . . . changed.
"I spoke out next and said, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see the Messiah. I think that is what the angel wanted us to do." And we began walking. It wasn't at all strange then, it was the natural response to what had happened. But looking back, we realize how out of character it was for us to just get up and leave our sheep. Normally we would never leave our sheep without someone there to protect them; but we weren't worried about that then. Maybe we knew instinctively that the God who summoned us, would protect our flock.
"It was late at night but we found the manger with little difficulty. It was strange, as if someone was guiding us to the child. I suppose that is exactly what was taking place.
"When we walked into the stable there was a strange sense of God's presence in the place. It looked like an old dirty stable but it was also like stepping into Heaven itself.
"We were startled in some respects by Mary and Joseph. They seemed so young, so ordinary to play such a prominent role in such an awesome event. Mary looked tired. Joseph was beaming. The baby had just finished nursing and was now asleep. In so many ways the baby was ordinary: rosy cheeks, little tiny fingers, eyes unfocused and seldom opened, arms stretching. But at the same time, we sensed that this was something beyond an ordinary birth. I can't explain it.
"I don't know how long we were there. It seemed like minutes, but I'm sure it was hours. All I remember was the profound reluctance to leave.
Later- Bernie says that he thought a great deal about that night- about the Angels, about the Baby and about God. "Hundreds of times I've asked myself: "Why me?" "Why a Shepherd, out in a field?" The Messiah should have come to a palace. He should have been greeted by priests, royalty, religious leaders - people who were more fully aware of the law. Some who believe He really was Messiah say He came to us first because He wanted to show that He was the Good Shepherd; ...Why me? Why did God reach out to me in such a special and life transforming way? I'm nobody exceptional. Most people walk by me like I don't exist and yet God sought me out specially."
"I don't know, I think the Lord wanted the world to know from the very first moment that the Messiah was for all.
"And as the Angel said- For Unto You- A Savior is Born- A Savior...for You."
And that's how a simple livestock producer of that day- a Shepherd- might explain that night near Bethleham.
Merry Christmas- to you and to yours.
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