And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped him in cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for him in the inn.
Hesitant, but hopeful, I went with my husband last night to a dinner at a maximum security prison for young men in the small town of Ione in Northern California. Two young men sat at each table with the rest of us. Most were hesitant and hopeful too.
The food was very good. A plate full of cookies ended the meal. But God’s good word followed.
Two of the young men read the biblical text and the chaplain, who is chaplain over all prison chaplains in California, spoke in between the reading, about the angels and the shepherds …
In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
Why to shepherds we were asked? David was a shepherd we were reminded. But as Dave, the Chaplain, spoke he reached all the way to Revelation. Out of all other needs, and these young men have many needs, as do we all, they need Jesus. And in Revelation is that beautiful picture of the Shepherd.
These [those dressed in white robes] are the ones who come out of great tribulation and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the lamb. For this reason they are before the throne of God; and they serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will spread his tabernacle over them. They will hunger no longer, nor thirst anymore; nor will the sun beat down on them, nor any heat; for the lamb in the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and will guide them to springs of the water of life; and God will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Several people spoke about their past as prisoners and how they were changed because of Jesus. One man, who was at Preston in the early fifties, is now a pastor and works with Teen Challenge. One person, in particular, touched me, she married one of the past prisoners and then they both received Jesus as Lord. Her 17 year old son was killed, her husband died of aids and still she comes every Monday night to minister to young men, telling them that she sees the face of her son in their faces, telling them that when she kneels to pray she prays for them.
I thought of Jesus being born in a stable in Bethlehem and how much this place full of kids from the streets and gangs were like those that Jesus came to in that ancient world of Judea. He came to save them and us by his life, bloody death and resurrection. He, the Holy perfect Shepherd gives eternal abundant life.
At the end there was a small choir formed from the prison wards. Their songs were beautiful, full of the hope, the only hope in this world, the Lamb, the shepherd, the king born in a stable.