Christmas Eve

Preached: December 24, 2009

The Shepherd Came Even for You
Micah 5:2, 4

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Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The Word from God through which the Holy Spirit brings us to the manger of our King is Micah 5.

And you Bethlehem, Ephrathah, although small among the clans of Judah, out of you One will come on my behalf to be ruler over Israel. His origins are from of old, from the days beyond . . . He will stand and shepherd in the strength of the Lord. (Micah 5:2, 4)

This is the Word of our Lord.

Dear friends in Christ, fellow saints washed clean in the blood of our risen Savior:

Like white fluffs of cotton, the sheep speckled the grassy meadows on a lazy summer afternoon. Little lambs eating ivy were scattered across the rolling countryside. Sheep and lambs bring peaceful pictures to our hearts.

But sheep are quite helpless. They're easy prey for predators. They need a shepherd. They can't find their own food. They need a shepherd. They don't know where to go. They need a shepherd.

Like sheep, you and I need a shepherd. But what shepherd are you following? Are you following the shepherd of whatever seems fun and exciting at the time? Are you following the shepherd of working hard to make it in this world as your first priority? How about the shepherd of placing family or friends before God's Word? Or the shepherd that spends to feel happy or saves to feel secure? Are you following the shepherd of your own desires? So many things want to lead us. But there is only one Good Shepherd.

But when it comes to this Shepherd, the only Good Shepherd, how true what the Scriptures say! “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way” (Isaiah 53:6 NIV). In the darkness into which we were born, we imagine that any other way is better than his way. Our inborn arrogance thinks we know better than the Shepherd. Our inherited blindness follows the paths of death and hell, for that way is broad and that road is easy. Our sin and guilt cut us off from him. We cannot come to him.

But he has come for you and me. That's what we celebrate today: Our Shepherd came. Who is this Shepherd? He is the eternal God. For his “origins are from of old, from ancient times” (Micah 5:2 NIV). That baby in the manger is our God, the eternal Son of the Father. That's why he can “shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord” (Micah 5:4 NIV). For he is the Lord, the gracious and compassionate God, who freely makes his promises and faithfully keeps them.

Yet he comes in lowliness, not in the glory and the divine splendor and majesty that is rightly his. He's born in the little town of Bethlehem -- Bethlehem, Ephrathah, to be exact, the same town David had come from about a thousand years earlier. Think about David. He was a shadow of the great Good Shepherd, who would come from his family. David too began in lowliness. He was the youngest son of Jesse. He was stuck with the job of watching the sheep. He was just a shepherd boy. But Lord raised him to be king over his people, Israel.

So also that Son born from David's family line. He, too, came in lowliness, but how much greater than David he is! For that Son, born of the virgin, is David's God and Lord. He is our Shepherd, our Shepherd-King.

He came to gather you and me into his flock, to gather us who are so apt to stray, following our own self-made shepherds. He came to call you into his flock through Baptism and his word. Hear his voice. Follow him. For he has laid down his life for his sheep and taken it up again. Listen to his voice and follow him.

Ponder that as you listen to the children tonight. Think that about when you see a candy cane. For it's shaped like a shepherd's staff. As a shepherd draws his sheep with his staff to bring them into his safe care, so Jesus draws us with the Gospel, the Good News of what he has done to save you. The Gospel in word and sacraments draw you close to him under his safe care. Listen to his voice calling you through the Gospel.

The white reminds you of who this Shepherd is. He is the holy God, pure and spotless. The red reminds us of his blood poured out on the cross as the holy sacrifice that alone pays for your sins, and not only ours but for the sins of the whole world. Follow him, your crucified and risen Shepherd.

Without him we are lost. If we stray from him, the devil, like a roaring lion, devours us. Without him there is no peace, no hope, no joy, only death, damnation, and hell. That's what awaits all who do not follow him the Good Shepherd.

But he has laid down his life for you. He has taken it up again for you. For you see, he came to this earth and was laid in a lowly manger for you, dear friend, for you. Listen to his voice and follow him. Amen.

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Pastor Gregg Bitter

St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
859 5th Street
Hancock, MN 56244
(320) 392-5313