11: On the Eleventh Day of Christmas

The Eleventh Day: Morning

This King Is a Shepherd (1)


O Zion, You who bring good tidings,

Get up into the high mountain;

O Jerusalem, You who bring good tidings,

Lift up your voice with strength,

Lift it up, be not afraid;

Say to the cities of Judah, “Behold your God!”

Behold, the Lord GOD shall come with a strong hand,

And His arm shall rule for Him;

Behold, His reward is with Him,

And His work before Him.

He will feed His flock like a shepherd;

He will gather the lambs with His arm,

And carry them in His bosom,

And gently lead those who are with young.

Isaiah 40:9–11


Have you ever wondered why the angels announced the birth of Jesus to shepherds? It seems that the birth of the King of kings should have been announced to royalty rather than to ordinary shepherds. Did the angels misunderstand their assignment? Was there some sort of computer foul-up in heaven? No, there was no mistake. God had the birth of the King of kings announced to shepherds because it was appropriate. Jesus was to be a king, but He was also to be a shepherd.

King and shepherd? It sounds like a glaring contradiction. Consider the shepherd of the Bible. First, his life was one of extreme hardship. He was constantly exposed to the extremes of heat and cold. He usually subsisted on meager supplies. At times his life was imperiled as he defended his sheep from the attacks of wild beasts.

His life was also one of dull routine. Each morning he led the flock from the fold to the pasture by going before them and calling to them. At the pasture, he maintained careful watch over the sheep. If one strayed he sought it out and brought it back. He counted the sheep as they entered the fold to make sure none was missing. Since there was usually no door to the sheepfold, the shepherd himself would serve as the door by positioning himself at the opening of the sheepfold. No sheep could leave and no intruder could enter without the shepherd knowing about it.

That’s certainly a far cry from the life of a king. The king knew nothing about extreme hardship and dull routine. He was surrounded by scores of people whose sole purpose was to keep him from facing even minor inconveniences. And when the king got bored, there were numerous avenues he could take to find a diversion. The king could travel, throw a party, or call in the court jester.

It seems, in light of these things, to be utterly ludicrous to mention a king and a shepherd in the same breath, let alone suggest one person could be both. But this is, in fact, what the passages in these two readings tell us about Jesus. He is both shepherd and king, the shepherd-king. In other words, He is the king who rules in the manner of a shepherd. He combines a king’s authority with a shepherd’s heart.


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