If I Were a Shepherd

fred-nativityby Nancy Tichy, Author for KidZ at Heart International

Of all the characters in the familiar Christmas story, I identify most closely with Elizabeth, Mary’s relative.  Elizabeth’s first pregnancy came when she was well past childbearing age.  Like Elizabeth, I began a new career a decade ago, after Frank’s death, well past the usual time for such things.  Of course, it was not a newborn.  It was, however, a new relationship with a relatively young organization. After years of trying to convincingly share my passion for discipling children for God’s Kingdom advance, while they are children, I found a new ministry home and a new identity – writer.

I also feel a kinship with Mary.  I can easily imagine how desperate she must have felt when she realized the innkeeper could offer no room for her and Joseph.  Had not the birth pangs begun?  Rejected at such a critical time, how could they travel on?  We know, of course, that the innkeeper was not completely heartless.  He provided Mary with a safe place to birth her first child, away from the bustling crowds that jammed Bethlehem at that time.  Warmed by the bodies of animals attentive in the dimness of their shelter, she experienced the joy of giving birth, enough, certainly, to ease the pain of rejection.

I, too, have experienced rejection, although the Christmastime birth of our youngest fifty years ago was not it. Frank was not present.  He was desperately trying to reach us, red dust covering him as he raced along African, gravel roads, well beyond a safe speed.  But the way I identify with Mary is something quite different. It was an encounter I had less than ten years ago with a mission colleague who disregarded the growing excitement I was feeling. Within the organization I had served for nearly twenty years, a new entity was being birthed that encapsulated the passion I had been trying to share for so long. I so wanted to be part of this.

He gave me a bit of his time to share with him how I felt, this tall, genial man. Then, with a smile on his face and a pat on my shoulder, he said, “This will probably not be easy for you, Nancy, but I think it’s best that you retire from our ministry.  Find another place that suits you better and go, write.”  And, with that, he turned and walked away leaving me feeling crushed and abandoned.  The glad side of this incident, of course, is the satisfaction I now enjoy where I am and with what I’m doing.

So, here’s a final word. There’s no record that anyone in the inn – the keeper or his family, his guests or his servants – had any part in the scene in the animals’ shelter.  And it’s much the same today.  So many people miss out on celebrating this amazing event, their lives crowded with jostling commitments and complicated, demanding relationships. You, too, may feel conflicted trying to meet the challenges of modern life while finding room in your ‘inn’ to celebrate the birth of God’s great gift, his Son, Jesus.This suggestion might help.

  • Carve out of your schedule enough time to gather your family around the Christmas tree. Let each member tell what character in the beloved story they most feel similar to, and why this is so. There are many to choose from, apart from Elizabeth and Mary.  For instance, Joseph who carried the burden of so much responsibility.  The unschooled shepherds, with no training in rhetoric, who became bold bearers of a joyous message.  The magi who were far from home, on a risky journey and uncertain of their guidance system.  And don’t forget the senior citizens who waited so long in that cold, impersonal Temple for God to keep his promise.
  • After family members share, and you’ve turned this to prayer, let imagination – perhaps some recorded music – take you to that hillside outside Bethlehem, and listen, as shepherds did, to the angels’ glad tidings. May it warm your hearts this Christmastime. 

Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.  Luke 2:14

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