Shepherds and angels

Published 9:21 pm Monday, December 18, 2017

The only thing I really know about sheep is that it’s not a compliment to be called one. And there are lots more sheep on the Navajo Reservation than cattle, because, they tell me, it takes more acreage to feed cows than sheep, especially if the land is as poor as the desolate, rocky land in Arizona.

According to Rethink: Rural, you can, using conventional grazing, raise one cow on two to three acres or a half dozen sheep on one acre. In Arizona, I’m told it takes up to 30 acres to raise one cow, hence the larger number of sheep. The cattle are also more sensitive to drought, which is more prevalent in Arizona than in Georgia. Nick Ball, who owns Wauka Meadows Farm in Clermont, Georgia, says he can double his production using rotational grazing. He grazes sheep, then cattle, then laying hens and, finally, meat hens. The key to his operation is Chase, the guard dog who protects the chickens.

As a lover of old westerns, the one thing I’ve learned from them is the cowboys hated sheep and therefore, shepherds. I also understand the shepherds in our story were at the lower end of the social scale. So it’s interesting that when God takes on flesh and comes into the world, with the exception of his mother and father, the shepherds are among the first to be told by angels.

As always, the angels’ first words are “Don’t be afraid!” It comes right after Luke says about the shepherds, “They were terribly afraid.” We, too often, think of angels as “angelic little cherubs,” but they are apparently more like heavenly warriors.

A friend told me about an angelic encounter in Africa, when a dozen rather large angels with shields and long spears surrounded a missionary’s camp while he slept to protect him from the thieves hiding nearby waiting to rob him of the missionary payroll money he was taking back to the mission compound.

Later on a trip to America, that missionary told his story in a church and discovered they were praying for him on that very night, and there were a dozen men and women in the prayer group that night. One angelic warrior in Africa for each prayer warrior in America!

Pastor’s viewpoint is written by Charles ‘Buddy’ Whatley, a retired United Methodist pastor and, with Mary Ella, a missionary to the Navajo Reservation.