The First Sunday of Advent: Waiting for the Shepherd

Waiting for the Shepherd

He will feed his flock like a shepherd.
He will carry the lambs in his arms,
holding them close to his heart.
He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young.

An Advent wreath with the first candle lit, signifiying our yearning for our shepherd.

This is the first Sunday in Advent, the beginning of the season in which Christians throughout the world prepare for a fuller, richer celebration of the birth of Jesus. Advent is a season of expectation, waiting, and hope. During the four weeks before Christmas, we put ourselves back into the mindset of the Jews as they yearned for a Messiah two millennia ago. Moreover, we get in touch with our own hope for the second coming of the Messiah. (The word advent comes from a Latin word that means “coming” or “visit.”)

Today, we return to a passage from Isaiah 40. This text, well-known from its marvelous setting in Händel’s Messiah, celebrates God as a good shepherd who feeds his flock, carrying the lambs and leading the mother sheep. Here we see, not only the fact of God’s care for us, but also his tender heart. He doesn’t just carry the lambs. He also embraces them, “holding them close to his heart.”

Even as Israel once yearned for the experience of God’s gracious shepherding, so do we. We want to be led by the Lord to green pastures and still waters. We ache to experience his intimate care. We pray for God’s guidance and protection. We need a good shepherd. We need to know that God holds us close to his heart.

In the weeks before Christmas, we can get so busy with holiday activities that we can almost forget the main point of the season. Advent invites us to stop, to reflect, and to remember just how much we need the Lord to be our shepherd. It is a time to be reassured that our shepherd has come and is coming again.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: In what ways do you need the Lord to be your shepherd? What would you like God to do in your life during the season of Advent?

PRAYER: O God, you are the good shepherd. You feed me with your truth. You carry me when I’m weak. You guide me when I’m uncertain about where to go. Moreover, you protect me from harm. Under your wise and tender care, I am safe. Thank you, dear Lord, for being my shepherd.

The season of Advent gives me a chance to realize just how much I yearn to know you even more profoundly as my shepherd. O Lord, help me to feed on your Word. May I find rest in your strong arms. Help me to follow your guidance in every part of my life.

Come, Lord Jesus! Be my shepherd! Amen.

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