It happens every Advent. I begin peaceful and calm, resting in the start of the season of joy and peace. I pace myself. Then I look at the calendar and realize the time is passing and I still have things to do. A few presents to purchase. Cookies to bake. Letters to write. I begin to wander off in my rush and the frenetic pace to December 25th beckons me to stray. Even in worship, I still have things to do. Things to think about more deeply. Things to ponder over and over in my heart.
I turn to Isaiah 53. It is about the serious role Jesus would play in our lives. There is nothing about silent nights or peace or beauty or calm; instead Isaiah points to the future about an unattractive man who people will despise. Isaiah writes about people who will hate so much they will kill the man and sell his clothes. Even friends will desert him. Isaiah brings it closer to home and points to the reader and says that all of us, like stupid sheep, wander off and this man – this Jesus will be the one who will take our wanderings and stupidity, forgive us and perfect us.
Hard things to think about at Christmas time. We’d rather bake the fruitcake and wrap presents than consider the cost of Christmas in God’s economy. And yet, He came. He took thirty years from His reign in Heaven and humbled himself to be Jesus, the one who would love perfectly. The one who would offer his life so you and I might live forever. He comes today as the good shepherd looking for his lost sheep.
I remember the music of Handel’s Messiah proclaiming the very words:
“And He shall feed his flock like a shepherd; and He shall gather the lambs with His arms, and carry them in His bosom and gently lead those that are with young.” (Isaiah 40:11)
You have experienced more than I can comprehend,
and here you are this Christmas – feeding me, gathering me, carrying me.
Lead on, Gentle Shepherd.