Advent Themes and Resources
I like walking in the countryside. You might have worked
that out by now. It’s a multi-sensory thing. I enjoy the sounds,
sights and smells that you can’t experience just by looking at a
picture in a magazine or book. No words can describe the beauty of a blackbird’s
call or an orchid’s flower, you have to be there to see and hear
it - and understand as well. For nature has a lot to teach us, not only
about colours, sounds and smells but also how we should interact with
our world and its Creator.
Even non-Christians tend to agree that in the three years or so that he was actively ministering in this world, Jesus Christ was superb at taking the ordinary things of life and weaving from them a message that ordinary folk could understand. People lived close to the land, understood the natural rhythms of nature and loved the pictures that Jesus painted with words.
On a recent walk some words of Jesus came to mind as I took in the view from a hillside. There were three fields below me and in them sheep and lambs were doing what all sheep do so well on a hot summer’s day - just sitting around chewing grass! The sun was shining, birds were singing and all was calm and tranquillity. Then I saw a tractor and trailer approaching the bottom field. For a few moments there was no reaction from any of the sheep, then a few must have heard the approaching vehicle because first one, then gradually the whole flock and their lambs got to their feet and made their way very noisily toward the gate.
There was no doubt about it, they wanted everyone to know that this was their shepherd; the one who provided them with food through the winter, the one who looked after them through the difficult lambing season, the one who protected their little ones from predators. The fact that this was summer and all he was wanting to do was pass through the field to the next made no difference to the sheep. They followed him every inch of the way and seemed almost disappointed when he shooed them back to give himself access to open the gate into the next field.
What struck me most though, was not the expression of ‘belonging’ that the flock showed to the shepherd, but the reaction of the sheep in the other two fields above. Despite the sound of the tractor, and the considerable commotion and movement in the lower field, life went on pretty much as before. They continued to graze as if nothing was happening, never batted an eyelid or showed any inclination to rush to the fence and see what was going on down below them.
It became obvious that they did not belong to the same farmer, there was no bond, no sense of belonging to stir them into action as it had with the others.
What was it that Jesus said when he was talking about shepherds and sheep?
“I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me, just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep’ (John 10:14)
Not only know him but, as the sheep taught me, want to let everyone around them know that they are His, whether they are listened to or not.