8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. (Luke 2:8)
When I was a child, my favourite carol was “while shepherds watched (their flocks by night)1”. This was mainly because I enjoyed singing the alternative words: “while shepherds washed their socks by night”.
Shepherding is not an easy job! You wouldn’t do it for the money, you’d do it for the love of the sheep in your care. It’s a 24/7 job. In fact, it’s more of a vocation than a job. Good shepherds are hard-working, strong, loyal, courageous, loving, caring, etc. Shepherds have a lot of responsibilities. Depending on the season, they are involved in lambing or sheering the sheep. They teach the sheep to follow their call and they know each sheep by name. They protect the sheep from danger, even if that means risking their own life. They lead the sheep to food, water and shelter. They meet all the needs of their flock. They watch over them day and night.
No wonder Jesus went on, during His ministry, to describe Himself as the Good Shepherd. He also encourages His followers, particularly ministers or people with pastoral oversight of a congregation or community, to be like ‘good shepherds’.
1 The carol While Shepherds Watched dates back to 1703. The words for While shepherds watched were written by Nahum Tate.