Read: John 10:1-18
Advent is meant to be a time of waiting expectantly. The kind of expectancy we as believers are meant to wait with should come with a noticeable excitement and a knowledge that what we are waiting for is good. And for our expectancy to look like that, especially with everything going on around us, we have to know WHO we are waiting for.
Perhaps it could go without saying that we are waiting for Jesus. But I hope it does not, because I am not just talking about a passive awareness. I am talking about a relationship. Relationship is what makes the waiting worth it. Relationships come with knowledge about the other person. A familiarity. A love. A trust.
Names are an important part of who we are and the relationships we enter into. Jesus has many names. One of my favorites can be found in one of His “I am” statements. In this passage in John, Jesus says not once, but twice that, “I am the good shepherd.”
Shepherds protect and provide and guide. God’s people had kings and prophets that came before Jesus and some of them were able to protect and provide and guide, but not in the same way that Jesus did and does. He did it perfectly while He was here on earth and He is the only One who can protect and provide and guide us for all eternity. Only in Him can we be fully satisfied, because we are His.
He is the good shepherd. We are the sheep. I cannot help but laugh to myself when I think about the metaphor that compares us to sheep. You cannot tell me God does not have a sense of humor. Sheep are actually pretty helpless and defenseless. Sound familiar? Sheep follow the shepherd. They trust the shepherd. Sheep would be lost without the shepherd and they belong to the shepherd. They hear his voice and follow him, expectantly.
Where other makeshift shepherds steal, kill and destroy, Jesus protects and provides and guides. Jesus came and laid down His life for us. For you and for me and for anyone else who would call on His name. He brings us into the fold and leads us to an abundant life. He is worthy of our allegiance. Others will come and beg for our allegiance. They have and will deceive and divide. So, what are we to do in the midst of that? We too are called to lay our life down. We are called to totally trust and faithfully follow the good shepherd. That is the key to an abundant life. Not an easy one, not a perfect one, but an abundant one. One filled with joy and purpose and peace. The abundant life is not focused on circumstance or status. It does not come from misplaced hope set on things of this world or solutions and provisions that will fall away shy of eternity. An abundant life comes from Jesus and calling Him by name and responding in faith when He calls ours.
That is why I love the season of Advent: a season of intentional remembrance and hopeful expectation. I think it helps us set our minds on things above like we should be doing at all times and in all seasons. If you already know the good shepherd and His voice, I pray that you would actively listen and respond and always wait expectantly, in a way that invites others into the fold. And if you do not know the good shepherd and are not sure what His voice sounds like, I pray that this flock would be one that loves you well and invites you in. I pray that this Advent season points you to the good shepherd in a way that shows you how He is the only one who can ultimately protect you, provide for you and guide you into an abundant life for all eternity.