A Shepherd’s Christmas By Zohary Ross, BASOM Associate
Every year as the Christmas season unfolds and churches gather to celebrate the birth of Jesus, pastors and ministry leaders, myself included, find ourselves navigating the tension of embracing the essence of the season- the birth of Jesus, while also balancing the additional work of managing services, programs and additional end of the year tasks and to-dos.
I have found that meditating on the birth of Jesus and in particular on the account of the shepherds in Luke chapter 2 has been an encouraging practice for myself and one I think can benefit all Christian leaders. It’s a passage that not only narrates the miraculous events surrounding the nativity but also offers deep insights that resonate with the pastoral experience.
Here are three considerations for pastors and ministry leaders for keeping our hearts focused on Jesus while also shepherding others during the Christmas season.
1. The Beauty of Christmas is its Simplicity
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:8-12
The angel could have appeared to priests and religious leaders; people in positions of importance, yet the proclamation of the Good News came not in a royal palace but in the simplicity of a shepherd’s field. As pastors, the message is clear: the gospel is not about extravagance, there’s no “flair” required. These shepherds, humble and lowly as they were, were specifically chosen as the recipients of the extraordinary news—that the long-awaited Savior was born. The power of the gospel transcends elaborate presentations, its beauty lies in its simplicity. This was true then and is true today. We should resist the temptation to think that more is necessary during Christmas.
2. Miracles Happen When We’re Interruptible
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. Luke 2:15-16
The story picks up while the shepherds were keeping watch over their flocks at night. They were working diligently. The shepherds were busy tending to their flocks but they allowed themselves to be interrupted. The angel knew the Shepherds were working, but went to them anyway and the flocks were taken care of. Today we run the risk of missing out on what God wants to do during the Christmas season because we can get overly focused on properly executing plans rather than expecting to see miracles. When pastors focus on Jesus, we can trust that the Lord watches over the flock and be open to divine interruptions that may come up.
3. Worship is Contagious
When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. . . The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. Luke 2:17-18, 20
Upon receiving the Angel’s proclamation, the shepherds responded with obedience. They left their flocks and hurried to meet the Savior. When they returned the experience had changed them. They couldn’t help but worship and praise God for what they had seen and then spread the Good News and told others all about it. We are tasked with guiding our people to move beyond the superficial, commercialism of the season and instead to cultivate a heart of worship. This involves creating spaces for reflection, prayer, and genuine encounter with the living Christ not only for the congregation but especially for its leaders. Let’s set an example and be lead worshippers this season.
There is much that pastors and ministry leaders can learn from the “original” Christmas shepherds about how to navigate the season. Let’s stay open to experiencing miracles right in the middle of our own “fields”.
BASOMS’ mission is to train pastors and Christian leaders for ministry in the Bay Area. Join our next class on Soul Care & Spiritual Formation starting January 8, 2023.