The Shepherds’ Candle

Shepherds and the Angel by Carl Bloch

Today, the third Sunday in Advent, the pink candle–known as the Shepherd’s Candle which represents joy–is lit.

In the past I’ve always thought of the “shepherds” as they appear in nativity figurines and videos–careworn and poor.  However I was reading lately that usually the people watching over the sheep would be either the sheep owner’s children or hired servants.  But that in the spring, when Jesus was born, the sheep owners would be in the fields as it was lambing season. (See The Life and Teachings of Jesus Christ, Vol. 1: From Bethlehem through the Sermon on the Mount by Thomas A. Wayment).

Perhaps I’m wrong but it appears that those “shepherds abiding in the field” were actually well-to-do, likely scripturally literature men, respected in their community.

The shepherd’s life appeared to be a hard one.  Like their father Jacob the Shepherds could declare: “Thus I was; in the day the drought consumed me, and the frost by night; and my sleep departed from mine eyes.” (Genesis 31:40).

The tedium of that long ago night was relieved by an angel with a message and an angelic choir with a prayer-song.

And the Shepherds’ hastened to see for themselves.

“And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.  And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.” (Luke 2:17-18)

And what happened after?

Did they remember the words of Isaiah?  He foretold that “[The Messiah] shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.” (Isaiah 40:11).

Were some of their families among those whose children were slain as the crazed King Herod sought to protect his throne from the child the Magi sought?

I wonder…

Here is an excerpt from my devotional Daystar Rising: The Testimony of Mary of Nazareth, the shepherds have found Mary and Joseph and the newborn babe…

They come out of the darkness
into the light
of our humble shelter.

The boy kneels
with the old shepherd
beside the manger
and reaches out a hand
to my little son.

“Is he the promise
of the prophets?”
the boy whispers.
His hand gently holds
my son’s curled fist.

“Yes,” the old shepherd says,
“the Angel of God
has said it is so.
This child will be our King.”

“He is David’s heir,”
Joseph admits, moving
closer to the manger.
“But David’s line has not
ruled Israel for centuries.”

The shepherd boy
looks disappointed.
The old shepherd
looks disbelieving.

“He will grow to be
a Son of the Law,”
Joseph continues,
gazing fondly at the child.

“That is not what
the Angel said this night,”
the old shepherd says.
“This child will be
more than the rest of us—
He will our Saviour.
He will bring peace
to our troubled earth.”