The Shepherd, the Sheep, and the Sacrifice
(Reflection on Matthew 2)
Light and darkness fill the canvas.
It was a dark time for the Jews, as a people.
Dark, not simply because they felt themselves beneath the heel of Rome. But dark, too, because their own leaders, spiritual and political, painted with a black brush across each of their lives.
Instead of defending the people, encouraging the people, leading the people in righteousness, the populace lived moment-by-moment under a reign of terror initiated by their own king.
None knew safety. Not family. Not friends
Herod, aligning himself with Rome, was evil personified. Not because of his alignment, but because of the blackness of his own nature.
And the religious leaders of Israel?
By choice, they had aligned themselves with darkness. The very ones God intended to shepherd His flock were the ravenous wolves devouring His sheep.
It was upon this bleak canvas … where the blackness of the enemy's brush painted horror upon horror on every life … light fell.
In the form of a star.
In the form of a babe.
In the form of seeking hearts from the East.
I can't help but wonder what the chief priests and their minions felt when these people of the Book reported the LORD’s words to Herod:
" ... out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel."
Did the words pierce their hearts at all?
Were they a mirror in which they beheld their own lives, from God's perspective?
Were they so given over to darkness, they had no room for the light?
King Herod, and all Jerusalem with him,was disturbed by the light breaking in upon their darkness.
What a contrast to the magi's response, who were overjoyed at the light piercing the darkness of their night. Whose response to that light was worship … by gifting the King their own hearts and their own offerings.
A canvas holding light, holding darkness, also holds sacrifice.
That's always the result when the two entities meet.
I knew it. I've read the account of Herod’s response to the light numerous times.
But today I read with my lap still warm from holding my 25 month old and 5 month old grandsons.
Suddenly it wasn't words on a page.
Heart wrenching pain spilled from my soul with a throbbing reality.
Were I in Bethlehem on that day, my arms would be empty.
My heart bleeding at sacrifice’s cost.
That shadow of what thirty-three years later would spill upon Golgotha’s soil, was tasted first this night ... by these little shepherds-to-be ... and the hearts loving them so.
Bethlehem's shepherds, the very ones who heard the angelic proclamation, "Peace on earth, good will to men" ... whose hearts joined the angelic chorus ... who came and worshiped this little babe who was their own long-awaited Shepherd ... who spread the good news to all in Bethlehem who would listen ... these same shepherds now, with bloodstained arms, had to find their way to keep worshipping the King … while holding ravaged wee bodies.
Sacrifice, unexpectedly, became their portion ... their personal window into the future Father sacrifice of a Beloved Shepherd Son.
Today, it all seems so much more real to this heart. To these arms that can still hold that future hope that all sons are ... can still tuck them in at night ... can tell them the wondrous story of the Shepherd, the sheep, and the sacrifice.
And how, when light pierces darkness, the canvas turns scarlet.