First of all, I just want to say that I cannot take credit for the story I am about to tell you. It is not even a story. This is a tradition based on legend…or a legend based on tradition and I think it has no real beginning. It is a story told by many, attributed to none, but it is so close to home there must be some truth.
We all know that early religions used sacrificial animals to offer to God or the gods for the forgiveness of sins. And we all know that this Christmas Day that we Christians everywhere celebrate is about the birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who came to be sacrificed for the sins of all.
There is a lot of symbolism in every religion, but I recently heard of the symbol of the manger, where Jesus was laid after his birth, awaiting the visit of the shepherds and the wise men of the East.
Shepherds were people whose job it was to watch over and care for the sheep of a community. As the keepers of the sheep, it was also their job to choose and protect specific lambs to be used as sacrifices in the temple.
A sacrificial lamb was to have lived to adulthood and have no faults or blemishes. As lambs were born in early winter, it was a sacred duty for the shepherds to choose the finest, strongest lambs to be groomed for the temple ritual of sacrifice. To protect those lambs from birth, they gently carried them to the stables, wrapped them in cloth to keep them warm …and they further protected them by placing them in the stone mangers in the cave that served as a stable, the safest place they knew for a baby meant to become a holy sacrifice.
That’s why the shepherds were called by the angels to be the first to meet the baby Jesus. Of all people, shepherds would understand the significance of a baby announced by angels and lying in a manger, wrapped in swaddling clothes.
Not my story, but a good one you have to admit. Something to think about.
Merry Christmas to all.