We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
I’m very fortunate to own shares in a bit of land near a river estuary. On a bit of this land, we let someone we know as the ‘sheep lady’ keep a small flock of sheep. For this privilege, we charge her an annual rent of £1. The truth is that she does us a favour keeping her sheep on our field, because it means that we don’t have to pay someone to cut the grass for us!
Her sheep are crazy creatures. Over the years, I’ve attempted to see how close I can get to them, to feel their thick, woolly coats. I never manage to get very close at all, though! Before I get anywhere near them, one of them always takes fright and goes running off across the field. Before I know it, all the sheep in their field have taken fright, and scatter themselves right across the field! It’s not even as if they all follow one another, they all run in different directions, and it’s as if they’ve decided that it’s every sheep for themselves!
People are not dissimilar to sheep, really. We might not look much like the crazy fluffy animals, but we can certainly act in a similar way! If you’ve ever seen news footage of a cataclysmic event – maybe a bombing or a natural disaster – everyone seems to take off in a separate direction, much like the sheep when they are frightened!
This sheep-like behaviour is exactly what today’s verse mentions. We’re told that we’ve all gone astray, and everyone has turned to his own way. We all seem to have decided that we make our own luck in this world, and are trusting in our own judgement to take us the right way. This verse, however, sees that wisdom as little more than the idiocy of the sheep. We might think we know what we’re doing, but the reality is that we do not at all. This is particularly true when it comes to following God’s pattern for living as laid down in the Bible. You’d think that we’d follow the advice set out in the Bible, but like someone trying to set up a piece of high-tech electrical equipment without the manual and inadvertently snapping off a vital piece, we choose not to follow our creator’s advice, and that too usually ends up in disaster.
The good news is that God is willing to forgive us our pig headedness, however. He sent Jesus, his only son, to live amongst us. As well as teaching us how God wants us to live, he himself lived a pure, blameless and sin free life. Consequently, he was able to take all of our sin upon himself, and to die in our place. God laid all of our wrong doing on him, so that we could be reconciled with our maker.
That is the fundamental message of Christmas. We might get carried away thinking about Wiis or celebrity autobiographies, turkey and roast potatoes, shepherds and the wisemen, but often we get nowhere near the true meaning of Christmas. Jesus came to die for you. For me. He took our deserved punishment, so that we could have eternal life.
I doubt you’ll get a better present this Christmas.