The Christmas season has reached its pinnacle.
The baby is here and He is wrapped in swaddling clothes in a manger.
The pregnant Mary, a virgin, gave birth and she was in awe of her tiny son, who — just as the angel instructed — she called Jesus.
Above Mary and Joseph, a heavenly host gathered to worship the newborn and a bright star hung over the stable declaring the Savior had arrived into the world.
Wise men began a journey from afar just to see Him. Shepherds came to adore Him.
On such a day, one already predicted centuries ago and so many were looking to for hope, God’s pick for a front row seat were lowly shepherds in the field. His venue choice for the holy night was a dirty stable.
As Christmas 2022 rolls around, I have a new perspective on why shepherds are so often used as a symbol for Jesus.
One of my favorite things about moving into the country this year has been the addition of our goats. Because let me tell you, if you are an approval-seeker then get some goats.
They are always happy to see you.
When I arrive at the barn in the morning, I usually yell out, “Good morning sweeties!” and before they lay eyes on me they call out in anticipation of my arrival.
They know my voice.
When I get to them, they gather around my feet, nuzzle their foreheads around my knees, and sometimes munch on my coat sleeve.
Sometimes they aren’t too happy with what I have come to do, though. Monthly, I trim their hooves, and this is often something they fight as I try to hold their leg and snip just the right amount so they don’t bleed.
Our two girls –who are due for babies in a few months– have to be checked each day and anyone who has been pregnant knows the discomfort that comes along with that.
But even then, they know me and they trust where I am leading them.
On nice days, the goats get to leave their area and walk up the hill to our house where they can graze and visit the nearby pond. One day, Connor and I sat beside the pond on a bench as the group of four wandered around to the other side.
I started to get antsy about their distance from us but Connor, my always 16-year-old who is becoming something of a wise man himself said something that has since stuck with me.
“Goats are like sheep, a shepherded animal. They might wander a little but when they see you, they will follow you. As long as they have an eye on you, they will go where you go.”
And that couldn’t be more true.
When we left the bench and headed to the house, they stopped what they were doing by the pond and followed us back to the barn.
When I walk them up the hill to our house, they follow. They stop when I do and they continue when I do. They rarely stray, but if one does then I go and nudge it in the right direction.
I remember once when I noticed the dog was into something she shouldn’t have been, I wandered out of their sight to get her.
And upon my return a minute later, they flocked to me with absolute joy like I had disappeared for a year – see what I mean about the whole approval seeking thing?
This is why shepherds gathered at the stable that night. This is why the angels sang from above. This is why Mary and Joseph stood in awe of their own newborn child.
The Shepherd was born.
I will be following this Shepherd into a new place myself soon, as I have accepted another job and will be moving on from the Hannibal Courier-Post. I have been writing this column for about six years now and this will be my last one for Hannibal Courier-Post.
All of you have been such blessing and encouragers in my life as I walked through parenting, grief, and all life’s little foibles that I love telling you about. Most of all, you have encouraged me in my faith in more ways than you will ever know.
So many of you have reached out to me over the years in various ways and it's meant so much to me. Thank you for allowing me to share my heart.
I encourage you to keep following that Shepherd. His name is Jesus and if you don’t know Him then call out for Him today. He will never lead you astray.
Merry Christmas, my friends.