The sheep aren’t in charge. In fact, they have no say in what they eat, where they sleep, how long they stay. They’re vulnerable to wolves and bears and weather. They have to trust their shepherd to keep them safe.
We know God as the Good Shepherd, the One who laid down His life for His sheep. The one who leads us by still waters and walks us through valleys and sets our feet on high places. Just like sheep, on our own, we are helpless.
In this season, we remember that Jesus comes as a Lamb. Jesus enters into the world in a stable; a place for sheep. And the Lamb’s first visitors? Shepherds. Sheep caretakers.
What does this mean?
It means the Savior doesn’t storm the walls we carefully build or slay the giants of the things that tempt us most. He doesn’t rush in like a roaring wind or rattle the foundations of the planet when His fist drops in a proclamation of justice.
Mercy takes its time. Grace gestates. Salvation slips in quietly and unexpectedly. He comes like a gentle Lamb. He comes small.
The Infinite becomes an infant. The Most High becomes the most helpless to show us something that goes against all we know and strive for: It’s good to be vulnerable, helpless, weak. To cry out to the night sky and be susceptible to Someone bigger than ourselves. To live in the chaos and darkness and noise and yet still find rest.
Because there’s something wonderfully sacred in smallness. In recognizing we can’t make it on our own. In knowing we need to be cradled and protected and held close to His heart.
Striving and trying and reaching is exhausting and leads us to believe we can do life on our own. But then when best efforts fail, we’re left holding the shards of a broken life, our mistakes cutting our hands and causing scarlet shame to drip down our fingers.
Maybe this has been the most difficult year of your life. Maybe you did the unthinkable and feel unredeemable. Maybe grief is thick and sorrow comes in salty waves. Maybe faith feels like a fairytale; hope like make-believe. Maybe rather than a calming Christmas spirit, you feel the ghost of failure lurking in the shadows of your heart. Or maybe you’re just so worn and weary.
If any of this describes the state of your soul, remember what happens at Christmas:
Into our brokenness and balancing and bleeding comes breathing.
Into our darkness and depravity and dying comes deliverance.
Into our helplessness and heartache and hiding comes hope.
Into our grieving and grasping and groaning comes grace.
Into our lying and longing and laboring comes life .
Into our flesh and failing and falseness comes freedom.
Into our reaching and roaming and regret comes redemption.
Into our sadness and sickness and shame comes salvation.
Into a manger comes mercy.
Unto us a Child is born. A Child. A tiny, warm-skinned human with a pitter-patter heartbeat, sticky lashes, and puckered mouth. With fingerprints unlike any other. The same fingerprints pressed into each of our carefully-sculpted souls; an imprint of eternity in our wayward hearts.
Unto us a Son is given. A Son. Skinned-knees and relay races and obedience to His Father; the Father of faith and time and life and us.
A Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. All of this swaddled in tattered cloth, rubbing tired eyes with a tiny fist, yawning, and drawing breath in a barn.
Brand-new limbs stretch in a bed of straw. Limbs that, thirty-three years later, will be stretched out on a bloody cross, spanning the chasm we can’t cross on our own best efforts and attempts at righteousness.
The little head sinking into a halo of soft hay will one day be bruised and shredded beneath a crown of thorns and shame and the sins of the ones He made to live in close community with Him.
The hungry whimper of a Baby Boy will one day become a last-breath declaration: It. Is. Finished.
Eyes that glisten with newborn gloss will one day shine in victory as death dies and He emerges from a tomb, bringing life eternal and love unrelenting and salvation unending.
But for now, the Bread of Life fills a feeding trough and says, Come close. Draw near. Be filled.
The Shepherd becomes like His sheep, showing us we must—absolutely must—cling to the Shepherd in all our messy vulnerability. If Creator God incarnate must cling, oh how much more we must cling.
This Christmas, let’s model Jesus. Let’s embrace smallness and weakness and humility. Let’s know the value of slow and still. Let’s cling to the hand of our Creator as we inhale His nearness and exhale His goodness.
There is sacredness in smallness and stillness. There is rest found in the presence of our Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
In the middle of the rush and busyness and endless to-do lists this season, may His Spirit remind you of the manger. May it remind you that Heaven came close, salvation came small, and grace showed us how to be still in the presence of our Almighty God.
O come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord.