THE SHEPHERDS: FOOTLOOSE AND FREE-SPIRITED
READ: Luke 2:8-20 (Click here to read selections from the NIV)
you ever find yourself saying a word or phrase, and wondering where it
came from? As I was pondering the lives of the shepherds in the
Christmas story, the word 'footloose' came to mind, I suppose because of
the way they dropped everything and went to Bethlehem to see the
Apparently the term, which originated a couple of
centuries ago, was used to describe sails on certain ships that were
allowed to hang loose along the foot because there was nothing to
attach them to. Calling these sails footloose, those particular
ships gained a reputation of having a mind of their own, often sailing
away in some completely different direction than planned. Today the
term is used to refer to someone who seems to be a free spirit, charting
their own path, with nothing to tie them down.
know if you can really describe those shepherds as footloose. After
all, they were poor peasants, trying to make a living in one of the most
difficult occupations of that time. Day by day they wandered the
hillsides outside of Bethlehem, moving their small flock around, making
sure they got their fill of healthy foliage. At night they drew
together--perhaps for camaraderie or comfort or for the safety found in
Sleeping under the stars, they had to protect their lambs from
predators, like wolves or other savage beasts, making sure they didn't
wander off. The livelihood of a shepherd's family, which may have
included his parents or widowed sisters, rested on his shoulders.
Even if he was a free spirit at heart or footloose in his yearnings, a
shepherd didn't have the luxury of doing whatever suited his fancy at
any given time.
what makes that group's reaction so intriguing. There they were,
resting after a long, tedious day, perhaps sharing some bread and
swapping stories, having no idea that they were about to be brought into
the drama for which all of history had been preparing. Out of nowhere,
some strange and ethereal light splattered the night sky and an angel
materialized at their feet, telling them of a savior born in a stable.
If that wasn't enough to make them want to run for their lives, the
deafening sound of an angel choir singing something like the Hallelujah
chorus, came crashing in on every side. What in the world were they to
that's just it--they didn't think. They didn't stop to talk about what
they had seen, or to plan a course of action. They didn't debate what
to do with their sheep, or how they'd convince anyone of what they had
seen, or where they would go once they got to Bethlehem, a city bulging
with a million pilgrims. One of them must have said, "Let's go," and
they all took off as if they hadn't a care in the world.
like to think I would have done the same thing, but to be honest, I'm
not so sure. Though I've never witnessed the glory of the Lord filling
the sky above me, or had an angel set my heart pounding, or heard a
heavenly host singing arias to the most High God, there have been times
when God broke into my life, when his presence was real and His voice
strong, and nothing should have kept me from running to Him with all my
might. I look back with wonder at the times I did--those pinpricks of
glory that dot the landscape of my years. But I wonder how many moments
of splendor, how many opportunities to be a part of God's eternal plan
that I missed, simply because I couldn't break away from the tyranny of
join me as we embrace these days of Christmas, and let us open our
hearts and minds and ears by seeking to be the kind of free spirits
those shepherds were. May we learn to be footloose--open to dropping
everything, if only for a minute or an hour or even an entire day, just
to go wherever our Lord might choose to lead us. Who knows what glories
might be ours for the taking if we do?
you look back at your life, can you recall a time or times when God
revealed Himself to you in some way, and you dropped everything just to
be with Him, or to follow His call? Spend a few minutes reminiscing
with a grateful heart. Do you live with openness to God's interruptions?
In light of what you might be missing, ask Him to show you what might
hinder you from being at His beck and call, ready to change your course
or alter your plans at the sound of His voice. Spend some time in
repentance, offering yourself anew for the adventure of being footloose
with the Living God.
Worship the Lord as you imagine what it would have been like to hear the choir of angels singing, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace to men on whom His favor rests.
Offer your own song of praise, personalizing the Psalm below:
Send forth your light and your truth,
let them guide me;
let them bring me to your holy mountain,
to the place where you dwell.
Then will I go to the altar of God,
to God, my joy and my delight.
I will praise you with the harp,
O God, my God. (Psalm 43:3-4)
A CHRISTMAS ACTIVITY
God to enable you to do something completely out of the ordinary
today. Listen for His voice throughout the day, and when you hear the
gentle whisper, drop everything as best you can, and go do it.
For a printable version of this devotional, click here.