The story of the Shepherds in the nativity is fascinating. The second Century Jewish Mishnah tells us the flocks between Jerusalem and Bethlehem are for the Temple sacrifices. Male lambs were used for sin sacrifices.
Most religions recognise there is a gap between us and God – caused by sin, the wrong things that we do, say or think that are wrong.
The Jews had a system of individual and community sacrifices to deal with their sin, repeated every time one became aware of a sin. The Temple did two lamb sacrifices a day – 730 a year and many more for the Passover festival where every family sacrificed a lamb. So you can imagine shepherds breeding thousands of lambs for sacrifice.
Interestingly the Old Testament hints at sacrificial lambs being bound in swaddling clothes to subdue them. If one of the shepherds found a perfect lamb without blemish he would wrap it up and place it in a manger at the Migdal Edger (tower of the flock) on the hills around Bethlehem. The priest would inspect it and take it for sacrifice if it was good enough. Hundreds of years before the birth of Christ Micah prophecied “And you tower of the flock, to you shall it come, the former dominion shall come,. kingship for the daughter of Jerusalem”.
In the Gospel nativity accounts, an angel comes to announce the Saviour has finally come -And this is the sign – the saviour is a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths in a manger. The shepherds narrative becomes pregnant with meaning!
The shepherds have been breeding thousands of lambs for daily sacrifice and now the Saviour has come, all wrapped up, perfect and without blemish. He will grow up to be a perfect once and for all sacrifice for the sins of the world.
When John the Baptist saw Jesus as a grown up he declared in John 1:29 Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
US Pakistani ex Muslim now Christian pastor Naeem Fazal tells the story of talking with a Muslim at a student event and asking if he remembered making sacrifices for sin as a child in Pakistan? Yes. Did you sometimes get together as a couple of families and make a bigger sacrifice? Yes. How big a sacrifice would it be for the sins of the whole world. Oh that would take a God sized sacrifice was the answer.
Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away your sin. The Jews used to put a hand on the lamb that was to be sacrificed to transfer all the sin on it before it was killed. We put our trust in Jesus as the perfect lamb of God who was born and laid in a manger just like the sacrificial lambs but grew to be a final sacrifice to take a way your sin.
Will you put your trust in Him this Christmas time?