A month or so ago was the first time I ever heard of the lambs of Bethlehem. Apparently, the lambs that were sacrificed on a daily basis in Jerusalem were born and raised in Bethlehem. Consider the following excerpts:
Migdal Eder, the Tower of the Flock, was the place where lambs destined for the Temple were born and raised. Every firstborn male lamb from the area around Bethlehem was considered holy, set aside for sacrifice in Jerusalem.
Although obscure and often overlooked, Micah [Micah 4:8] disclosed that the Messiah, who embodied the hope of the Kingdom of Israel, "was to be revealed from Migdal Eder - 'the Tower of the Flock'." Close by where the shepherds were camped that night, in the northern part of Bethlehem on the road to Jerusalem (less than an hour's journey by foot), was the tower known as Migdal Eder, the "watch-tower of the flock." This was the station where shepherds brought their flocks destined for sacrifices in the Temple. For animals found as far from Jerusalem to the north of Bethlehem and within that circuit on every side, the males were offered as burnt-offerings, the females as peace-offerings.
Once birthed, the priestly shepherds would routinely place two lambs in the double-hewn depression of a limestone rock known as "the manger" and "wrap the newborn lambs in swaddling clothes," preventing them from thrashing about and harming themselves "until they had calmed down" so they could be inspected for the quality of being "without spot or blemish"
The second article goes on to explain that the language in Luke 2 that says "in a manger" should have been translated "in the manger". And further: When the angelic announcement came, they knew exactly where to go, as Luke 2 indicates, for the sign of the manger could only mean the manger at the base of the Tower of the Flock.
Well, after digesting this information, I thought this year's Christmas poem would sort of head in this general direction.
This poem started off being entitled, The Christmas Lamb. Then I changed it to The Lamb of God — before I remembered that I had already written another poem by that name. The image used in this blog is a painting, called Agnus Dei — Latin for Lamb of God.
Last Easter I wrote a poem, The Final Sacrifice, based on the teachings of Ray Vander Laan when he came to town. It was a little shorter than I had intended it to be and I felt that it had missed the mark of what I really wanted to say.
With this Christmas poem, I feel that I came a little closer — but still may have missed it. I'm already thinking of next Easter's poem, possibly calling it, Lamb Selection Day, that will hopefully get to the parallels of Jesus as the Lamb of God.
O Bethlehem, of olden days,
where temple lambs were born and raised;
could these unblemished sheep have grazed
in fields where David played?
Where shepherds, with their pastured flocks,
try keeping them from jutting rocks;
protecting them from wolves and hawks —
or bear like David slayed.
Once born, selected from the rest —
whose coats and features were the best;
the lambs were swaddled tightly, lest
an injury caused scars.
These year-old lambs from Bethlehem
on altars in Jerusalem;
the blood of every one of them
was spilled instead of ours.
Behold, God's plan was unconcealed
to awe-struck shepherds in the field:
the promised Lamb of God revealed
and in the manger lay.
This swaddled babe was born divine —
for he'd change water into wine
and raise the dead and heal the blind
and save the world one day.
Those sacrificial laws are done!
The final sacrifice has come;
the Lamb of God — his only son
was born for you and I.
From Nazareth to Galilee,
from manger to Gethsemane,
from Bethlehem to Calvary —
this Lamb was born to die.