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What Does it Mean to Have a Shepherd’s Heart at Christmas?

Just as sheep are innocent and are vulnerable to attack, there are those around you who are hurting without the love and protection of God. Therefore, adopt a shepherd’s heart this Christmas, and help bring the lost and broken-hearted back to Jesus Christ.

Dec 07, 2021
What Does it Mean to Have a Shepherd’s Heart at Christmas?

The Christmas story is a powerful and evocative narration of the birth of our Savior and Redeemer Jesus Christ.

Amongst the biblical characters who witnessed this epic event, the shepherds are perhaps given the least significance. And yet, through their obedience, diligence, and love for the newborn Christ, this group of humble herdsmen shared a phenomenal testimony of hope and redemption that resonated amongst mankind for generations and is still applicable for us today.

The Yuletide season is a fitting time to demonstrate this same heart attitude towards our fellowmen. However, what does it mean to have a shepherd’s heart at Christmas?

A Shepherd’s Life

Shepherds lived a life that was lonely and physically demanding. They spent most of their time outdoors tending to their sheep with only simple woolen clothing to offer them warmth and protection from the cold, rain, and scathing heat.

Consequently, shepherds were unable to maintain the strict cleansing rituals adhered to by the Jews and were thereby deigned by society as dirty and considered outcasts. And yet, their animal husbandry was vital to the Jewish economy.

A shepherd would lay his life on the line for the well-being of his sheep. When predators attacked, he protected his flock armed only with a slingshot or a mallet. At night, the shepherd would make a pen for his animals out of bracken and thorns and lay at the gate to hold watch.

The life of one sheep was so important that he would leave the flock to search for one stray animal. The shepherd was so dedicated to his sheep that he could differentiate each one from the sounds it made. In return, the sheep recognized their carer’s name and would always respond to his call.

Jesus Is the Good Shepherd

The ultimate depiction of a shepherd is Jesus Christ. In John 10:14-15, He says,

“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me — just as the Father knows me and I know the Father — and I lay down my life for the sheep.”

The parable of the lost sheep in Luke 15:1-7 further confirms Jesus’ love and dedication towards His flock.

“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep” (Luke 15:4-6).

Jesus is the Good Shepherd, and we are His metaphorical sheep. Simultaneously, He is the sacrificial lamb, who laid down His life on the Cross of Calvary to pay the bond price for our sins.

Just as the sheep know the truth of the shepherd’s love and his dedication to them, so too, do we love Jesus and acknowledge Him as our Savior. Each lost and broken soul who enters into a relationship with Him is rejoiced (Luke 15:7), just as the shepherd rejoices over each lost sheep that he finds and brings back to safety.

Understanding the Hearts of the Shepherds

The first people to receive the news of the birth of Jesus Christ were a group of shepherds who were tending their flocks that night outside of Bethlehem.

“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” (Luke 2:8-11).

On this miraculous night, a host of angels chose a group of people from one of the lowest ranks of society to announce the birth of a King.

To understand why, let us look at the heart attitude of the shepherds and see how we can emulate them this holiday season.

1. Watch. The shepherds were vigilant in overseeing their flocks on the night of the angel’s visit. They took shifts during the night so that a set of eyes were constantly fixed on the sheep. Thus, when the angels appeared, the shepherds were already alert and ready to receive their news.

In the same way, we can ask God this Christmas to help us to see Him more, and to be aware of the needs of others.

2. Believe. When the shepherds heard of the angel’s news, they did not doubt what they had heard.

Do you believe the Word of God and that Jesus was born in order to give us the most precious Christmas gift — the gift of Salvation?

3. Act. Upon hearing of the birth of Jesus, the shepherds got up and went to Bethlehem. They wanted to see the miracle birth for themselves.

“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” (Luke 2:15).

Has your faith walk been hindered by doubt, hardship, or disbelief? Has God put a dream in your heart, but you haven’t acted upon it? This season, ask God to show you how you can move closer to Him and His purpose for your life.

4. Tell others. Are you familiar with the gospel song “Go Tell it on the Mountain”? The shepherds did exactly this by going out and telling everyone about the arrival of the Savior.

“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” (Luke 2:17-18).

Christmas is a wonderful time to share the miracle of Jesus’ birth and His promise of redemption, Salvation, and eternal righteousness with God. So, go tell it on the mountain that Jesus Christ is born!

5. Be joyful. Being blessed with the task of sharing the wondrous birth of Jesus Christ filled the shepherds with joy.

“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 2:20).

In the same way, sharing the Good News of the gospel is exactly that — good news! It should fill our hearts with joy to share the love, mercy, and grace of God with others.

You Are a Shepherd

The shepherd is used often in the Bible as a symbol of good leadership. Abraham, Moses, and David (1 Samuel 17:34-35) were all dutiful herdsmen. 

“You led Your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron” (Psalm 77:20).

Shepherding is such an important position to God that numerous scriptures give reference to it.  In particular, the entirety of Ezekiel 34 is devoted to God’s declaration to seek and protect His metaphorical flock.

You are also tasked with the role of being a shepherd to those around you. Your position as a spouse, parent, colleague, and friend is significant to the Kingdom in order to share the gospel with those who need to hear it (Matthew 28:18-20).

Return to the Fold

During the holiday season, many people feel alone, forgotten, and disconnected from God.

“My people have been lost sheep; their shepherds have led them astray and caused them to roam on the mountains. They wandered over mountain and hill and forgot their own resting place” (Jeremiah 50:6).

God desires a relationship with you. If you are feeling lost right now, then you can return to the fold by entering into a relationship with God!

All you have to do is ask Jesus to forgive you for your sins and ask Him into your heart by faith (Ephesians 2:8-9).

If you’re unsure of how to do this, you can repeat the following Salvation prayer aloud:

Lord, I recognize that l am a sinner, and for this l am truly sorry. I ask for Your forgiveness. I want to turn from my current ways and instead, start a new life full of Your unfailing love and great compassion. I ask You to enter my heart and be my Lord and Savior, through faith by Your grace. In Jesus’ name. Amen

Just as sheep are innocent and are vulnerable to attack, there are those around you who are damaged and hurting without the love and protection of God. Therefore, adopt a shepherd’s heart this Christmas, and help bring the lost and broken-hearted back into the fold of Jesus Christ.

For further reading:

What Do We Know about the Shepherds at Jesus’ Birth?

How to Have a Shepherd's Heart This Christmas

Why Do We Say ‘Glory to God in the Highest' at Christmas?

Why Do We Say ‘Good Tidings of Great Joy’ at Christmas?

Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/MasaruHorie

Madeline Kalu is a Christian writer and the co-founder of Jacob’s Ladder Blog. She was born in England, was raised in Australia, and currently lives in Germany with her husband Solomon. Madeline is in recovery from burnout, chronic depression, and anxiety. She believes that God can take life’s adversities and work them out for His good; hence, she uses her writing voice to raise awareness of mental illness, as well as to spread the light of God’s love to those who are mentally trapped in the dark, and provide them with hope and encouragement.


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