December 8, 2009 – Shepherd Boy
My sword I give to him that shall succeed me in my pilgrimage, and my courage and skill to him that can get it. My marks and scars I carry with me, to be a witness for me, that I have fought His battles who now will be my Rewarder. – “Shepherd Boy’s Song,” The Pilgrim’s Progress, 1678, pt. II, John Bunyan
We know from Luke’s gospel that the shepherds were the first to hear the angels’ song and the good news. In almost every painting and in many nativity scenes, we see a shepherd boy – maybe because we know from the Old Testament that David, the youngest of Jesse’s sons, was out tending sheep.
The shepherd boy in the song has the courage to approach the king to tell him about the Christ Child. Bunyan’s shepherd boy speaks of courage and skill. We need the courage to witness to others – this and any “skill” we need are provided by God. Status should not be an obstacle to our witness – remember that at that first Christmas, shepherds were not part of the elite, yet they were the first to hear the angels’ proclamation. God is like that. Just as He chose an unlikely shepherd boy to be king, He chooses us to be His hands and feet and to tell kings and shepherds (and everyone else in between) about the Christ Child.
The Word of God is said to be a sword. May we take up this sword in our pilgrimage and take up boldly the good fight. And at the end of our battles, may we look into the face of our Rewarder.
Great Shepherd, hear the cry of Your sheep! Send to us those who You have called to be shepherds and give them courage and skill with the Sword of Your Word. O Lord, shepherd of Your people, may we heed Your words as Your shepherds guide us and watch over us. Amen.