Opening Prayer. Oh God, may I hear your voice. Open my heart that I might trust you with my very life and follow you wherever you may lead. Amen.
Scripture. John 10:1-18 (Isaiah 53:6 and Luke 15:2-7).
1 Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2 The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.5 But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” 6 Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them.
7 Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. 9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13 The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.
14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. 17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”
“My Sheep Know My Voice.” From Cliff Johnson.
I was raised on a Minnesota dairy farm. We never raised sheep, but one of my jobs every afternoon was to “go get the cows.” That meant walking to the other end of the pasture and convincing the cows that it was time to return to the barn for milking. Generally, the only convincing necessary was to call them: “Come boss, come boss.” When they heard my voice, they began walking towards me and followed me to the barn.
I have always loved sheep stories in the Bible. “My sheep know me, and they know my voice.” One Bible teacher explained that Middle Eastern sheep were often co-mingled inside a fence and when it came time to leave, a shepherd collected his flock by calling them, and only his sheep would separate from the rest of the sheep in the fold and follow their shepherd.
I hear God’s voice in many ways. There are times when I yearn for and pray to hear God’s voice and, sadly, times when I choose to ignore God’s voice. Mary heard God’s voice through an angel and prayed the amazing thoughts in Luke 1. Joseph heard God’s voice and obeyed when Mary explained she was with child, and later when God instructed Joseph to travel to Egypt with his wife and young son. The shepherds in the field heard God’s voice and hurried to see Jesus. The Wise Men heard the voice and brought gifts.
This Advent, we are invited to listen closely for God’s voice as we prepare for God’s revelations and gifts. Pray that we hear God’s voice in the Christmas carols, in the preparation for family together time at Christmas, and in our willingness to welcome Jesus and follow Him in the new year.
Questions for Consideration.
Closing Prayer. God, grant that we might hear your voice and follow you, wherever this may lead. Amen.