|Nativity Alphabet by Krista Hamrick|
Krista Hamrick's beautiful original art print, Nativity Alphabet, has so inspired me. Each of the 26 words in the Nativity Alphabet are so intricately painted, almost like stained glass windows. My heart has been drawn to write 26 Devotions Focusing on Christ in the Nativity Alphabet.
Luke 2:8 In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping (phulasso = to guard or protect. Present tense = continual vigilance) watch (phulake = act of guarding) over their flock by night. (Literally - "keeping the night-watches.")
Remember now, Bethlehem is about six miles south of Jerusalem. The rabbis had made a rule, it's recorded in the Mishna, in the codification of Jewish law, that any animal found between Jerusalem and a certain spot in Bethlehem was subject to be used as a sacrifice in the temple. Now there were sheep grazing in that area purposely to be used as sacrificial animals. But the rabbis reserved the right in the event that there were more people than available animals to literally commandeer any animals in the area and take them and use them as sacrifices. And if we remember history, we remember there could be as many as a quarter of a million animals slain around the Passover season. The rest of the year there were thousands upon thousands upon thousands of animals slain. So they went through sheep rather rapidly and they had the right to go into that area, between Jerusalem and a certain spot, take any sheep if necessary to be used as a sacrifice in the temple. Interesting thought, these shepherds may well have been caring for sheep that would be offered as sacrifices.
How interesting that the announcement of the final and full sacrifice, the Lamb of God slain from before the foundation of the world, the Savior of the world, was made to shepherds, who very likely who took care of sheep who were offered as pictures of that coming sacrifice. They were out there and it was a night like any other night. It was the very same period of time, the very same 24-hour period as the child had been born in Bethlehem, they were outside town in this field and it was just a night like every other night. They were doing what they had always done, telling their normal stories, playing their little flutes, doing what shepherds did. "And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them." The angel of the Lord suddenly, instantaneously, immediately with no anticipation, he's standing near them. Now as if that's not enough, the text adds, "And the glory of the Lord shone around them." Now we read that and we've heard that and we perhaps haven't thought about it very deeply—this is one of the high points of all of history.”
Jesus is concerned about all of us “sheep without a shepherd.” He speaks directly to the need for workers for His fields in Matthew 9:35-38…Wherever [Jesus] went, he healed people of every sort of disease and illness. He felt great pity for the crowds that came, because their problems were so great and they didn’t know where to go for help. They were like sheep without a shepherd. He said to his disciples, “The harvest is so great, but the workers are so few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send out more workers for his fields.” Jesus saw the people not just as a whole massive group but as individuals suffering from pain, sickness, and grief. And while he felt deep compassion and healed them of every kind of disease and illness, he also enlisted his disciples to pray for more workers, for the harvest was ready, the kingdom was at hand, and the workers were few. People are no different today. Many around us are lost and lonely. Their problems are great, and they don’t know where to get real help and restoration for their broken lives. So the Lord of the harvest is imploring us to join him in the great commission by praying for laborers who will be his hands and feet on this earth, those who will bring lost sheep home to the Shepherd.
Lord Jesus, just like the lowly shepherds in those fields outside Bethlehem, I stand amazed at the miracle of Your birth, Your perfect life, and Your finished work on the cross for me, a lost sheep. I am so grateful that you heal every disease and illness that afflicts people. I pray that You will send laborers who will bring Your healing and transforming power to the lives of people who don’t yet know You. And while I am praying for workers, please make me willing by Your Spirit to join You in the harvest fields. You and You alone are Lord of the harvest. Let Your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven! In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.
Look In—as you meditate on Matthew 9:35-38 … pray to see how you might apply it to your life. Be propelled to ask galvanizing questions about your discoveries: "Because God is_________, I will_____________."
Look Out—as you meditate on Matthew 9:35-38 …pray to see how you might apply it to your relationships with others. Let the nature of God impact on every relationship, for your good, and for His glory.
* If you liked this post, you’ll love this book – Name Above All Names Devotional: Focusing on 26 Alphabetical Names of Christ