Advent, Day 15: Learning to Eat Out of the Shepherd’s Hand

They were too much, for whatever reason.


They were the lambs the ewe kicked away from her warmth, milk, care.


These are the bummer lambs in the shepherding tradition, shunned from mom’s circle of care, orphaned.  She pushes them away, assigns them to a slow death.


But to the shepherd, this lamb has inherent value. He reached his arm inside the mother’s birth canal, pulled it gently into the warmth, carefully washed off the afterbirth to make sure her lungs would be clear.


His eyes see these castaways completely differently. These are the ones He adopts.



These are the ones he takes on his lap to feed.  On that very first day, he sits on the ground in the dim of the barn, feeds it every two hours from a makeshift nipple, even grasping its jaw, teaching it how to suckle. These are the ones to whom he offers fresh hay…daily offering, offering, offering until they finally begin to eat it themselves around four weeks. These are the ones He carries close to His chest to regulate their temperature with His own body heat. And these are the ones He takes home at night.


For over a year.


“He shall feed His flocks 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



The redemption? These are the ones who know the shepherd best, his smell, his actions, the exact tone of his voice.  And these are the ones whose ears are always perked for his call, who run toward his voice first. They obey quickly. They know that voice through that year of being held, of taking a nipple from his hand. They know that’s where the care comes from.  They are not afraid or reluctant to follow. And they are the most playful with him. Through all that care, that sheep has imbibed the goodness of the shepherd.


This is what Isaiah was teaching us about the Messiah to come. This Messiah would see inherent value in every human being. He would wish to take each and every one home to be adopted by the Father.


And this is where it gets interesting for us. Maybe we may have said a sinner’s prayer, been invited into the fold but we are the independent, pick ourselves up from the bootstraps kind of people. We have our spiritual formulas and our own wisdom and we think we’ve got this thing all worked out. We think we can stand up on these shaky legs, find our own Source, drink life there.  But we are missing out on being fed His expert formula, coming close enough to hear His voice.  And when we push away the loving care of the Shepherd, think we can perfect our way through, we push away Life.


We are invited to come in close.


This time of moving has been like that.  My sources have been taken away and I’m listening longer, harder, crawling into His arms more often to drink.  I’m re-attaching to the Shepherd.


He didn’t adopt us to send us out there on our own. The Shepherd never does that. He’s going with us all the way. Yes, He’s coming. In fact, He’s the One leading.

Sheila Walsh talks about the bummer lambs here.

Hi friends, we are walking our way to the manger, together.  Using Handel’s Messiah as a lectionary and background music. Come along?  Slip your email in the CONNECT button on the front page and pilgrimage with us.



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