(Portions of this were taken from a recent Christmas devotional I wrote and released through Inscribe, the ministry website for my wife Kathi and me)
Scour the internet, read posts on Facebook, pick up a newspaper and read the editorials and opinion sections, and you will encounter individuals complaining (and sometimes raging) about the stupidity of people and how the masses of humanity are simply “dumb sheep”, blindly and uncritically following the pronouncements of media, government, and the dictates of their own self-interests. It seems we are all convinced we have cornered truth and wrestled it to the ground, so that we know the world would be in far better shape if everyone would just listen to what we have to say.
My wife Kathi and I live in the United States of America, where the onslaught of quivering ecstatic consumerism of the holiday season was almost drowned out by an avalanche of anger and dread unleashed by our recent presidential election. People were bitterly divided, each camp proclaiming those in the other camp to be maniacs, idiots, fascists, murderers, etc.
Here is a message from a Christmas carol, written almost 200 years ago, that seems appropriate for our day:
God rest ye merry, gentlemen,
let nothing you dismay;
remember Christ our Savior
was born on Christmas day
to save us all from satan’s power
when we were gone astray….
When I was nine years old, I went astray. My father had taken my brother and me to a large public event, and when it was over, I needed to use the bathroom. Dad walked over with me and waited by the exit with my little brother, but somehow, as I walked out I turned the wrong direction and was swallowed by the swarm of people rushing to get to the parking lot.
I was only lost for about ten minutes, but to me—and my father—it seemed like hours. Even now, I remember the desperate loneliness and sick panic that flooded me as I frantically searched for my daddy. When we finally spotted each other, we ran to each other and I jumped into his arms and began sobbing.
To go “astray” is to wander from the correct path, to deviate from the right destination, both in the literal and moral sense. While I was astray from my father, heading the direction I thought was correct, I was alone and vulnerable to anyone stronger and smarter than me who might have wished me harm. Initially, I thought I was going the right way (it seemed right to me) so I wasn’t aware of my error. For a few moments I thought everything was fine. But then, the truth of my situation dawned on me, and I realized I was in trouble.
This is every person’s condition. The troubles in society only serve to graphically reveal the underlying problem of all humanity. Every one of us just knows we are able to chart a proper course for our lives over rough and rocky paths and through the dense wilderness of this world. We write, and post, and yell, and protest because Those Other People are ruining the world and WE are intelligent, strong, good people. Right?
Unfortunately, the wisdom of God contradicts us:
All we like sheep have gone astray;
We have turned, every one, to his own way… (Isaiah 53:6).
We have an enemy—satan, which means the enemy or adversary–who is a deceiver and liar and accuser; a murderous and adulterous swindler who attempts to seduce us into pathways of destruction and death. He has nothing but evil intent for every man, woman and child. If we go our own way, we will ultimately end up in serious trouble.
But praise be to our merciful God! As the song declares, Christ our Savior was born on Christmas day and He vanquished every dark power in the universe, stripping them naked and humiliating them (read Colossians 2:15). We no longer need to go astray, frightened and alone. Jesus is our way into the gracious arms of our strong Father, who is All-Wise, All-Knowing, All-Loving.
Our God is the Great and Good Shepherd, who is willing to care for all of us sheep.