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Just dropping by: The parable in Christmas

Yevet Tenney for Progressive Cattleman Published on 23 November 2016

Christmas sparkle is in the air. Lights shimmer in the snow, and the stores are filled with the trappings of gifts and enticements to buy, buy, buy. Our pocketbooks grow lean and our credit card balances expand as we try to out-gift our friends, family members and co-workers.

At times it is a spending spree where the price extends from one Christmas to the next.

I often wonder what the Savior of the world thinks of this celebration of His birthday. His life was never about wealth or one-upsmanship. His life was always about teaching men and women how to live with humility and a contrite heart filled with charity.

His birth and His life was an extraordinary series of parables of faith, teaching men and women that the path to peace always leads to Him and His way of life. He summed it up, “My peace I leave with you, not as the world giveth, give I unto to you.” His mission was to bring the world to Him that they might find peace.

The angel announced to Mary that she would conceive and bear a son. He would be the Redeemer of the world. She witnessed the birth and the conception of the marvelous miracle and “kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.” In other words, she knew much more than she talked to her neighbors about.

She shared her story with a select few. Why? There are things too wonderful to put into words. There are things that become cheap when passed around as idle gossip to be discussed and torn apart by misunderstanding, spiritually blind people. She had borne the Son of God, and she would never make Him an object to be scrutinized and judged by the world.

When Christ was born, a star shone over Bethlehem. It is amazing to me that the inhabitants of the surrounding cities didn’t follow the star to the stable and see the newborn child. It had to be a magnificent sight with the light of the star showering the countryside. There were probably some wondering gazes upward.

There were probably some discussions about theories and possibilities, but we do not read of hordes of people tramping to the stable where the Christ Child lay in swaddling clothes. How like the world; theories and possibilities often trump the quest for the truth. It is easier to hypothesize than to search.

The star is significant in the parable of Jesus’ birth. Just as the North Star led the mariners on the stormy seas to a peaceful shore, the light of Christ’s gospel will lead to the ultimate giver of peace, Christ Himself.

Seeking pleasures in the caverns of the world or in the clink of silver and gold will never bring us to true happiness. We must look upward, high above the worldly pursuits.

The shepherds of Christ’s story are another significant piece to the parable of His birth. The shepherds were a poor and humble class of people. They worked with sheep, which by nature are blind followers.

Sheep go where the leaders go, even if it is off the cliff. How like human beings. If we are not careful, we follow ill-intentioned people to our destruction.

It is interesting to consider why the angel came to the shepherds and not the carpenters or the weavers. Surely there were many in the city. Shepherds are symbols of the Savior’s ministry. He would gather those who would hear His voice and follow Him, forsaking all else.

To clarify the importance of a shepherd, it is important to understand the difference between sheepherders and shepherds. In the West, sheepherders are common – they herd sheep with dogs to drive them to their destination and keep them in the flock – but in the country around Bethlehem, shepherds used a staff and called to their sheep.

The sheep knew the voice of the shepherd and would come when he called. At night, the shepherds put the sheep into a sheepfold for protection. True shepherds were continually watchful over their sheep.

They knew what it meant to lose a sheep to wolves or other predators. Jesus would eventually be called the Good Shepherd and would care for His sheep.

The angels came to the shepherds who were “keeping watch over their flocks by night.” The angel announced the glorious event that had taken place. The shepherds went with “haste.” In other words, they dropped everything and followed the instructions of the angel immediately. They found Jesus lying in the manger.

They were the ones who told the story of the miracle they had witnessed. So it is today; there are those who have a witness of Christ, and they go out to tell the story. They become like shepherds, keeping care of God’s children, making them safe in the sheepfold of the kingdom of God. What a wonderful symbol to the living parable of Christ’s birth.

I have often seen placards and posters with the words, “Wise Men still seek Him.” It is a true statement, but it goes deeper than that. These men were committed to finding the truth, and they were willing to sacrifice when they found it. Traveling was not easy in the era of Christ’s birth. Camels, donkeys, horses or feet were the only modes of travel.

It took days to travel from one place to another. That meant sleeping under the stars, cooking by campfire and eating meager meals. It meant braving the possibility of robbers and other dangers. It meant months of travel going and coming. Yet they made the trek.

We don’t know much about the Wise Men. They seemed to be men of wealth because of the gifts they brought, but who knows? We know that they were spiritually discerning men because they listened to the Spirit of God instead of Herod. They left gifts and went on their way rejoicing to find what they were looking for.

The Christmas Wise Men are symbols of men and women who will sacrifice and pay any price to find the truth. They are willing to give up worldly goods to help God’s kingdom grow. Undoubtedly, their wealthy gifts were used to give the boy Jesus a good education.

Finally, the place where Jesus was born is significant in the parable of Jesus’ birth. Bethlehem was the place where the lineage of David was to pay their taxes. Joseph was of the lineage of David.

Who was David? He was a shepherd boy who watched his father’s flock. How fitting for Jesus to come through the lineage of shepherds. He would be called the Good Shepherd and would gather His flock from the four quarters of the earth.

David was also the young man who took on Goliath and slew him with a sling to save the armies of Israel. He was humble and willing to die for Israel, yet he put his total trust in God and was triumphant. We too can put our trust in the Savior’s promises, and we will overcome all obstacles. Jesus would take on the Goliath of all the sins of the world and would triumph for the entire world to be saved.

If that was not enough of a symbol, David was the one who became king after Saul; by rights the lineage of David was the royal blood of Israel. If it weren’t for political issues and choices, David’s lineage would have ruled the house of Israel. That would have given Jesus the political right to rule.

Jesus was the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords; not just in the Heavenly sense. He could have been king in the worldly sense. It is little wonder that Herod worried about another king being born. He did everything in his power to stop the rise of a new king, even to the extent of killing innocent children.

Of course, Herod didn’t understand that the king that would be born in Bethlehem could never be stopped. He would be heralded as the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.

Christmas, with all its worldly trappings, is a time to reflect again and again on the life of the Savior. It is a time to check the contents of our hearts more than the contents of the packages we send and receive. It is a time to give the gift of charity and promote the peace He came to give.

Remember, He didn’t come to give as the world gives. He came to give His way. “Love one another as I have loved you.”  end mark

Yevet Tenney is a writer and columnist from Taylor, Arizona. Email Yevet Tenney