Approaching the Shepherd’s Fields in Bethlehem, there was a young boy holding a little lamb. Young animals undo me, and I was absolutely smitten. When I reached out to pet her, he lifted the lamb toward me and asked, ‘Want to hold?’ ‘Oh yes, oh yes!’ I took her into my arms and melted into the ground. A soft beautiful big-eyed lamb of brown and white, ‘Rosa’, just snuggled right in. (below)
There is something about being in Bethlehem, looking down the hillside of the Shepherd’s Fields. We oft talk about this area at Christmas time because it is where the Bible says, ----->
shepherds [were] living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them,
and the glory of the Lord shone around them,
and they were greatly afraid. (can you just imagine?)
Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold,
I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.
For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”1
Think about this-- it was to shepherds that God chose to announce Jesus’ birth--shepherds who had no social standing; they were dirty and smelled like the sheep they bedded down near. But God revered them. Clearly, he also had a thing for sheep because he talked an awful lot about them in the Word too--matter of fact, he referred to us as sheep more than 200 times.
The shepherd knows his sheep has to rest, but it is tough to get sheep to lie down. Everything has to be right in the world for the sheep to sleep--no fear, no hunger, no flies buzzing around his head and no friction in the flock. If any of these are present - no lying down, no sleep. A flock that is restless, discontented, always agitated and disturbed never does well.2
And the same is true for people. Rest is critical for us to THRIVE. Sabbath rest. Rest at the end of a good day’s work. Rest from the ever-present cellphone. Rest from social media. Rest.
Back to David’s hope-filled song: The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
Last briefing: ‘Contentment, Seriously?’ - https://conta.cc/3fpY4vH
He makes me to lie down in green pastures; God offers sustenance…
He leads me beside the still waters. refreshment and peace...
He restores my soul . . . God offers reconnection daily.
Our precious Shepherd invites us into rest.
‘Rest?!’ you ask, and a cacophony of worries floods your mind, robbing you of true rest.
Picture with me Jesus’ compassionate eyes as he gave this personal invitation to those he loved: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.3
Are you tired? Maybe even worn out for various reasons? Jesus invites you to take his yoke upon you . . . yoke? Yes, picture an ox yoke—if you get in the yoke with Jesus, he will do the heavy lifting. And you will find rest. ‘Casting all your cares on him because he cares for you!4
I think of that little lamb in Bethlehem that settled right down in my arms . . . our Good Shepherd’s arms are open wide to receive us. Rest now in his loving care.
1 - Luke 2.8-14
2 - A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, W. Phillip Keller
3 - Matthew 11.28-30
4 - 1 Peter 5.7