Whisking over the glass-topped table in an attempt to displace a few dust mites, I should have realized that they only added to the authenticity of our Nativity scene. After all, what’s a little dust in the midst of a stable? Too late, I gasped in dismay as the hand-painted ceramic shepherd carrying a now-decapitated lamb met its demise on the cold, hard tile floor. Shattered into a dozen or so fragments, I thought woefully of passing by just the day before and thinking, “This one is my favorite: the shepherd carrying a lamb.”
Picking up the pieces and gingerly transferring them to the kitchen counter where reconstructive surgery would be performed, I began to reflect on why this figure represents the essence of Christmas to me. A shepherd…The Good Shepherd. A lamb…The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. The Lord who is my Shepherd became the sacrificial Lamb to remove the blight of my sin from the record and to wash me whiter than snow. He became like me so that I could become like Him.
Attempting to fit the pieces back together like a 3D jigsaw puzzle, I thought of the ancient legend of a shepherd who would break a wayward sheep’s leg with his rod and then carry the broken animal over his shoulders until it healed. Formerly disobedient, the sheep would grow to know its master’s voice and to respond to the sound. Once released, it would follow in obedience when called, just as Jesus said: “My sheep know my voice.”
When we serve communion in our church, I offer the wafers to those who come forward by saying, “This is the body of Christ, broken for you in His love.” His body was broken for my sin so that I could become whole by His love. “All we like sheep have gone astray; each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” This passage from Isaiah 53 which prophesied the coming of Christ sums up the Good News. As C.S. Lewis put it, “The Son of God became a man so that men could become sons of God.”
The greatest Sacrifice ever made. The greatest Gift ever given. For you, and for me. Thanks be to God for His indescribable Gift.