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On Christmas and Shepherds

Diane MartinRev. Diane Martin, Temporary Pastor

In Luke’s telling of the nativity story, the angels came to a group of shepherds to announce that the Savior had been born. The shepherds were entrusted with the most wonderful news ever, and were given the choice of what to do with (how to care for or “shepherd”) the information.

After the angels left them, the shepherds decided to go quickly and see for themselves this wonderful thing. Reading between the lines, though, we discern that not all of the shepherds could have gone to Bethlehem. Some of them must have stayed with the flock, for if they had taken the flock with them, they could not have gone “with haste”! Some of the shepherds stayed with the flock while the others embarked on a very different mission.

The metaphor of shepherd is found frequently in the Bible, probably because caring for one another—and knowing that when we need it, we, in turn, will be cared for—is such a big part of belonging to a community of faith. We look to our shepherds—Creator, Christ and Holy Spirit for sure, but also God’s “under-shepherds,” our pastors—to provide leadership and guidance and protection from harm.

How difficult it is, then, when a beloved shepherd leaves. The one who cared for this flock for several years has now adopted a new flock, and at the time of year when you most need to feel secure, safe and warm, you have someone in the pulpit who does not yet know most of your names. Let’s be honest: that cannot feel very secure!

The truth is that you still have many shepherds to care for you. God alone knows how long I will be with you. And God alone knows how many of your names I will learn. But God is with you through it all. That goes without saying, and almost sounds cliché to say it again. But it had to be said first, because it’s the truth that holds this beautiful community together.

Now, look at the front of your bulletin. Look at the list of names there—the ministry leaders and staff members whose names remain even now that Pastor Wes is gone. Shirl and Denise and Dan and Jackie and Joan and Trudy and Michael and Sharon and Jeremy and AJ and Robin and Jonelle. Those people—and dozens more whose names do not appear in the bulletin but whose willing hands and hearts appear every time a need arises—are your shepherds too. God has placed them in the pastures (the Latin root of the word “pastor”) of your life to extend God’s love and care to you.

Pastor Wes was an amazing pastor—almost a legend in his own time. And your Pastoral Search Team faces a big challenge in finding a new pastor for this congregation because the bar has been set so high. But take some time during this Christmas season to savor the truth that you, like the sheep in that field on that holiest of nights, are being shepherded through this most remarkable time by those who journey with you through this season of love, hope, joy and peace.


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