December 12, 2017

Christmas in Bethlehem

When the Shepherd Became My Lamb

Wilbur Schoneweis

The Christmas season is filled with many marvelous and encouraging themes in which the Christian can rejoice, be comforted, and glorify God. However, the Christian will have to look beyond the usual trappings of the season to find these themes.

Glory to God in the Highest2

No season of the year is accompanied by such uplifting and soul-stirring music as the Christmas season. But one has to listen past the usual din of worldly noise to hear the wonderful strains of “Silent Night,” “Who Is He in Yonder Stall,” or Handel’s “All We Like Sheep.” While the world starves for want of bread, the Christian has meat to eat that the world knows not of.

A review of Christmas songs in your church hymnal will reveal themes of a Babe in a manger and shepherds and wise men coming to worship. “Our heav’nly Lord, That hath made heav’n and earth of naught, And with His blood mankind hath bought” is a theme running from creation to the cross.[1] “A voice, a chime, a chant sublime, Of peace on earth, good-will to men” is a theme that runs from the cross to the millennial kingdom of Christ.[2]

For instance, Revelation 12 is a wonder-filled Christmas text: “And the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born. And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne” (Rev. 12:4b, 5).

The woman, Israel, gave birth to a Man-Child whom the serpent tried to devour at birth. But the serpent was kept from his vicious insanity when Christ ascended back to His throne. That is a theme God’s people need to hear. It is solid food to fortify the Christian after the luster of the season is past.

After all, Christmas goes back to Genesis 3 and is never out of season redemptively or theologically.

Daniel observed related Christmas wonders recorded in chapter 7, verses 9–14. He saw, “till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit. . . . As concerning the rest of the beasts, they had their dominion taken away. . . . [Then,] one like the Son of man came . . . to the Ancient of days. . . . And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom.”

Daniel continued to observe, “Until the Ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom” (v. 22). He again saw “the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him” (v. 27b).

The Christmas theme of my meditation is found in John 10:11: “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.” According to the theology of the Old Testament this meant that the shepherd would have to become a lamb.

In John 8 the context of Jesus’ statement is given. The scribes and Pharisees asked Him, “Who art thou? And Jesus saith unto them, Even the same that I said unto you from the beginning” (v. 25).

The conversation of the scribes and Pharisees became heated and hateful. They bragged of having Abraham as their father. In chapter 9, Jesus, on the Sabbath, healed the man who was born blind. This further infuriated the religious shepherds of Israel. Jesus rebuked them for their own blindness, and then presented Himself as the Shepherd of the sheep (John 10), who enters the sheepfold by the door and leads the sheep by His own voice.

Jesus took them further by parable saying that He Himself is the Door of the sheep (John 10:7).

Jesus further distinguished Himself from the “blind,” “hireling,” vicious shepherds of Israel by saying, “the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep” (John 10:11).

While we were touring Israel in 1999, our guide stopped the bus outside Bethlehem (the “house of bread”) and explained that on the night of Jesus’ birth, the angel of the Lord announced the birth of Messiah to the shepherds keeping their flocks on the hills of Bethlehem.

As I understand, those shepherds were Levitical priests keeping the temple flocks. Those flocks provided the lambs for the temple sacrifices. Jesus, the Lamb of sacrifice, died upon the cross, rose from the grave, ascended back to His throne and Father, and is now my Shepherd-King who Himself is the bread for my daily walk with Him.

Jesus, revealed as “a man child”; “the Son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven to the Ancient of days”; “the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey Him” that first Christmas, in Bethlehem, became my Lamb.

This Good Shepherd, by this truth (John 8:32) brought freedom from the old wolf and the hireling shepherds who sneak into the fold, “to steal, and to kill, and to destroy.”

In summary, under Satan a world system exists which, if possible, would destroy God and all of His creation. Satan himself is so deceived by his own rebellion that he does not realize that if he could destroy God, he himself would be destroyed (Col. 1:16, 17). However, the almighty, sovereign God of the Bible controls all world affairs—social, political, and religious—and will guide them for His own glory and praise. In addition, Jesus, the Bread of my life, has taken care of my smallest needs. And finally, Jesus, when providing bread for the 5000, teaches me that even I can help divide the loaves for the multitudes, by His simple words to His disciples, “Give ye them to eat.

This theme and anthem are worthy to be sung by the heavenly hosts to all who will listen!

Have you heard the anthem of the Christmas Lamb, and is He your daily bread?


Wilbur Schoneweis pastors the Emmanuel Independent Baptist Church in Clay Center, Kansas.

(Originally published in FrontLine • November/December 2007. Click here to subscribe to the magazine.)

  1. “The First Noel,” Worship and Service Hymnal, Hope Publishing Company, 1957, 34. []
  2. “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day,” ibid., 40. []


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