Formations Lesson for December 13- While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks
December 2 2009 by Victor Lyons, Academic Dean, Foothills Christian College, Wilkesboro; Pastor, Union Cross Baptist Church, Elkin

Focal Passage: Luke 2:8-20

The rural farmer was the backbone of America’s past. In 1935 there were 6.8 million farms in America. Today 2.1 million farms remain. 

Forty-six thousand farms account for 50 percent of agricultural sales.

In 1870 a single worker could tend 27.5 acres, while today the average farm worker tends 740 acres.

Likewise, the Palestinian shepherd was the backbone of ancient Israel.

One recalls the sacrifice of 120,000 sheep, as well as 22,000 oxen, at the dedication of the Temple (1 Kings 8:63).

That’s a lot of sheep! The shepherd was a part of Israelite history and ritual: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want” (Psalm 23:1, KJV).

John the Baptist declares, “Behold the Lamb of God” (John 1:36).

Jesus is called the good shepherd — the Messiah (John 10:10-11, 14-18, 26-30). 

Jesus challenges Peter to feed his sheep (John 21:15-17). The leaders of the church are called shepherds (Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:2).

This passage begins and ends with the shepherds in their fields, keeping watch over their flock.

Yet something wonderful happens between verse 1 and 20. Verse 1 underscores an ordinary day of work.

By verse 20 the shepherds are filled with joy, praising and glorifying the Lord. Why?

Because they had heard and seen something which moved them deeply! How long has it been since you were moved deeply to praise and glorify the Lord?

Fear is the first response to the angel. The coming of an angel may bring judgment (Gen. 18) or good news (Luke 1:13, 31). This coming means good news for everyone (2:10). 

The Messiah is born in Bethlehem! The good news echoes through a “multitude of heavenly host, praising God” (2:13-14).

Charles Wesley’s hymn, “Hark the herald angels sing,” recreates the scene in music.

Charles Talbert affirms, “When the angels sang of the benefits of Jesus’ lordship, they sang both glory to God and peace to men — one song, heralding a dual benefit of the Messiah’s birth” (Reading Luke. Smyth and Helwys, 36).

The discomfort of laying a new-born infant in a manger — an animal’s feeding unit, becomes a sign to the shepherds that this is indeed the Christ child (2:7, 12, 16). Bruce Malina and Richard Rohrbaugh suggest that “the manger would have been the normal place for peasant births” (Social-Science Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels. Fortress Press, 1992, 296).

“Swaddling refers to tightly binding the trunk and limbs of the baby in cloth . . . to keep their limbs straight” (296; Cf. Howard Marshall, The Gospel of Luke: A Commentary on the Greek Text. Eerdmans, 1978, 106).

The young mother Mary treasures the shepherds’ words while meditating on their meaning.             
12/2/2009 6:34:00 AM by Victor Lyons, Academic Dean, Foothills Christian College, Wilkesboro; Pastor, Union Cross Baptist Church, Elkin | with 0 comments

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