[Symbol] The Shepherds
[An Article relating to the Symbol]
For the Full Article go to: https://www.lds.org/liahona/1996/12/thoughts-on-the-good-shepherd?
Thoughts on the Good Shepherd
By Homer S. Ellsworth
At Christmastime our thoughts often turn to the biblical account of the shepherds watching over their flocks. The shepherds’ scene is indeed symbolic: It brings to mind the care and loving concern with which our Heavenly Father watches over all of his children. And it helps to remind us that he sent his beloved Son—the Good Shepherd with an unparalleled, divine mission—to guide us back to him.
Many of our scriptures present types and shadows of the coming of Jesus, his mortal ministry, and his mission as the Savior of all mankind. Certainly symbolism is apparent in the many references to the Shepherd and the flock. Indeed, the Savior himself used these symbols often in his teaching.
The Good Shepherd
To introduce his mission among men, Jesus identified himself as the Good Shepherd: “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). A shepherd who owns the sheep not only loves them but will often risk his life for them.
In contrast to this true shepherd is one who does not really care for his flock, who just tends sheep for a living: “But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep” (John 10:12).
This may be an allegory about Satan, the wolf, coming in various ways to catch and to scatter the sheep. Here the hireling shepherd is one who gives way instead of resisting Satan’s temptations. But the Savior points out that he is the Good Shepherd and that he is ready to give his life for all of Heavenly Father’s children. This, of course, he actually did through his atonement.
In John 10:7, the Savior explains that it is through him, and only through him, that mankind can gain entrance into his Heavenly Father’s kingdom: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep.”
There were two kinds of sheepfolds in Jesus’ time. One, a large building with beams covered with tree branches and straw, was used in the winter. In the summer and spring, an entire town’s sheep were kept in a large enclosure open to the sky but with walls high enough to keep predators out. At night all the individual shepherds brought their flocks to the large fold, and one man stood guard through the night.
Jesus used this metaphor to illustrate that he was the shepherd who took care of the sheep at night; he was the protector and guardian of the flock, and no man could come into the fold without knowing the gospel and knowing his relationship to his Father in Heaven. Indeed, Jesus is the gatekeeper, “and he employeth no servant there” (2 Ne. 9:41).
[Song] Shepherd’s Pipe Carol
[Scripture] Luke 2: 8
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
[Challenge – Prioritize] – A Shepherd keeps his sheep safe and shows them the way to go. At Christmastime, the shepherd is a symbol of a kind and loving leader who , like Jesus, guides us in the way that we should go and although the shepherds were probably busy, they still took time to listen and left work to worship the saviour because they knew what was more important. Today try and think of the shepherds and the way they prioritized the saviour. Then think of a way we can put the Saviour as more of a priority in our lives.
[Story relating to the challenge]
Lighting the Christmas Fires
Have you every wanted to impress company with a perfectly Christmasized house?
My brother-in-law and his wife were honeymooning in Hawaii, when storms, cancelled excursions, and even crummy hotel pillows made them decide to return early and join Bob and me in Los Angeles. It was a week before Christmas, and I was more than nine months pregnant (which is why I’d had to miss their wedding in Mississippi). When the newlyweds called, I probably didn’t sound very enthusiastic about their coming to visit, because what they didn’t know was that Bob was already over there (announcing a game show in Hawaii) and was planning to surprise them as a “waiter” at a restaurant the following night. Quickly, I called Bob, and he wasted no time letting the couple know he was right next door. Suddenly, their honeymoon was fun again (spent with Bob)! But then they all hopped on a flight to Los Angeles. Little did my in-laws know that their honeymoon disasters had only just begun.
Their flight was delayed, so they wouldn’t be arriving until 11:30 p.m. Nevertheless, I wanted them to come home to a cozy Christmas setting—a twinkling tree surrounded by gifts, sumptuous garlands, cinnamon simmering on the stove, Christmas music playing, and, of course, a roaring fire. Everything was perfect, and at 11:25 I decided to light the fire. This is one of the blondest things I have ever done. Bob had always been the fire builder—I’d never done it before. Nonetheless, I cranked on the gas, then went looking for the lighter-flicker thing. I found it a couple of minutes later and pointed it at the logs—then pulled the trigger.
The entire room looked like a ball of flame. And it was a ball of flame, with me in the middle. The kids were asleep upstairs—thank goodness—and I somehow remembered to stop, drop, and roll. Which, at nine months pregnant, had to be a sight to see. I’ll bet whales beach themselves with more grace than that.
I patted out the flames on my head and clothing, said a quick prayer of gratitude, then surveyed the damage. First of all, the room reeked of burnt everything. Second, my hair was coming off in solid, tarry chunks. Then I discovered that my eyebrows and lashes were gone, and my nose was bright red. Yeah, yeah, Rudolph. Blah, blah, blah. So we had a theme.
I went outside to finish pulling all the burned hair off my head, then went upstairs to shower. By now my scorched fingers and nose were killing me, so I decided to get ice packs and go to bed. First I wrote a note, though, trying to explain the crispy, partially-bald wife, who smelled like ashes and was upstairs in bed waiting for Bob. (Burned nose hairs reek for days, by the way.)
A half hour later, they arrived, and I heard a voice declare that it smelled like someone had been toasting marshmallows. I crept from around the corner with my ice packs, trying to hide my head (not easy), and admitted my goof, which could easily have put me on the Darwin Awards list. Everyone sympathized with my injuries, but we did laugh—how could we not?
At that moment, feeling sorry for myself and embarrassed by the state of my home, I caught sight of the nativity scene on the buffet. As I looked at that reminder of Christ’s birth, it sunk in that cinnamon and fancy decorations really weren’t the reason for the season, after all. My guests weren’t here for the ambience; they were here to enjoy our company. Sometimes the Martha comes out in us instead of the Mary, and we almost forget that Christ—not Santa—is the center of Christmas. And I knew that Christ couldn’t care less if I was missing my eyelashes—He loved me regardless. And this love is what Christmas is really about.
Eventually my in-laws’ disastrous honeymoon ended in a happy marriage with only good memories and some great stories to tell about their honeymoon. But I’m still not taking any chances. I always let Bob light the Christmas fires.
Media link: [Shepherds learn of the birth of Christ ]
10th Anniversary Advent Throw-Back :
[A Favourite from Previous Advents]
I’ll Stay with the Sheep By Sheralee Bills Hardy
A few years ago in December, I took my four young sons to watch the dress rehearsal for our stake’s production of Saviour of the World: His Birth. The evening’s performance culminated three intense months for our family: my husband was portraying Joseph, and during the past several weeks of rehearsals, we had missed him.
Many times during those weeks of preparation, I had envied my husband’s role. A starring role seemed so much more exciting and important than a behind-the-scenes babysitter. I wasn’t proud of my feelings. I wanted to support my husband serenely, to bear with cheerfulness and patience the demands on his time. I knew many others who bore heavier burdens routinely—not for a matter of months, but for years. I prayed often to overcome my self-pity and my aspiration for a more visible function.
Heavenly Father answered my prayers more abundantly than I expected. Perhaps His sweetest answer of all came that night at the dress rehearsal. At the conclusion of one scene, the shepherds hasten to meet the Messiah. These shepherds have waited their entire lives for their Saviour’s arrival, and now they anticipate the unspeakable honour of greeting Him at His birth. But amid the scurry to embark on this journey of a lifetime, one shepherd remains still. His grandson calls out to him, “Grandfather, aren’t you coming?” His answer teaches a great lesson: “I’ll stay with the sheep.”
As I listened to these words at the dress rehearsal, in that moment I felt the love of the Saviour encircle me. My supporting role, which had once seemed menial, took on a greater significance. I knew my Heavenly Father wanted me to devote myself to the spirits He had entrusted to my keeping, just like that shepherd who stayed back so others could go see the Babe of Bethlehem. My children needed me at home more than I needed to be the one in a starring role on stage.
I put my sons to bed that night without the applause of an audience, but my heart held all the serenity, cheer, and patience for which I’d prayed. Though vain ambition might whisper, “Sheralee, aren’t you coming?” the Saviour of the world had given me the peace to reply, “I’ll stay with the sheep.”
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