This afternoon, at my grandparents’ place, a second cousin was his usual hyperactive self, and in a moment of play, took two sheep from a Nativity scene and made them run around, banging their plastic legs on the floor. At some point, he placed the sheep on top of the crib, in a gesture I thought strange but had no cause for reaction.
As I was about to head out from the room where the scene was, I heard him saying, “Jesus is the sheep, and the sheep is Jesus.” He was trying to explain his gesture. Then it dawned on me that the plastic sheep were lambs after all—and my six-year-old cousin had managed to figure out the meaning of the Incarnation almost inadvertently. And he continued, “Jesus is the shepherd, and the shepherd is Jesus.” I wondered where he heard that. He also managed to figure out, in play, what else the feast of Christmas reminded us too.
Christ loved us until death, his death much like a lamb meant for the slaughter. And Jesus the Christ is the good shepherd, not only in that he leads us on the paths to life, but also because in assuming humanity, he saw in his calling the life of a shepherd. We now romanticize the whole thing, but being a shepherd in Roman-occupied Palestine at that time was as close to being nobody. If that image is meant to signal something to Christians, it is yet another reminder of how difficult the Christian message is.
Anyway, I would recommend that you read this piece by Simon Barrow of Ekklesia and I hope you will have a very good Christmas!