2020 Advent Devotional – Day 21


Rise Up Shepherd and Follow
Traditional spiritual, 19th century

“You’ll forget your flocks, you’ll forget your herds;
Rise up, shepherd and follow.”

Video: Rise Up Shepherd and Follow


Christmas carols sometimes take liberties with the Nativity accounts from Matthew’s and Luke’s gospels, freely blending events or switching characters. This 19th century spiritual follows that practice and has the shepherds following both the Star of Bethlehem, as well as the angel’s words.

In both cases, the sense of energy and action is pressing and compels the shepherds to follow God’s signs to Jesus. But not only “follow” – the shepherds must first rise up. From a practical perspective, of course, this fits the narrative. It is easy to imagine the terrified shepherds, terrified by the angel, having fallen to the ground (and indeed much biblical art depicts them in this way).

But more significantly, the shepherds have to rise up because if they are going to follow Jesus, there is much that would otherwise pull them down and hold them back. In the case of the shepherds, this constraint is their sheep – the flocks and herds that keep them out in the fields, demanding their energy and attention.

Have the sheep pastures for grazing, have any strayed away from the flock, are there wolves or thieves lurking nearby? These are the burdens that would distract and delay and dissuade.

The burdens that pull us down are just as demanding, and our energy is easily consumed by our everyday concerns. Perhaps we justify such matters as important or tell ourselves they’re temporary. Regardless, as the carol encourages us, we are called to rise above these issues and follow God.

And when we rise up and put our focus on Jesus, we can give our troubles and concerns to God, letting God’s love pull us up. We can rise above the challenges of our lives and follow the love of God. Reaching up for that love – and being lifted up by that love – will bring us God’s strength and support to face each day.

Encouraging God,
When the troubles of the world overwhelm me and the concerns in my life weigh me down, you are always there to lift me up. Your love embraces me, to comfort me and bring me peace. Your love inspires me, to nourish me and give me strength. Guide me always to reach out for your love and sustain me through my faith. Amen.


Rise Up Shepherd and Follow

There’s a star in the East on Christmas morn;
Rise up, shepherd, and follow;
It will lead to the place where the Christ was born;
Rise up, shepherd and follow.

Follow, follow;
Rise up, shepherd, and follow.
Follow the Star of Bethlehem;
Rise up, shepherd, and follow.

If you take good heed to the angel’s words;
Rise up, shepherd, and follow;
You’ll forget your flocks, you’ll forget your herds;
Rise up, shepherd and follow. [Refrain]

Leave your sheep, leave your sheep, and leave your lambs;
Rise up, shepherd, and follow;
Leave your ewes and your rams, leave your ewes and rams;
Rise up, shepherd and follow. [Refrain]

If you’re enjoying the carols each day, there’s now a YouTube playlist you can listen to that contains all the carols shared so far. The playlist will grow as the devotional series progresses, with each day’s carol being added. By Christmas Day, you’ll have the perfect soundtrack of worship and praise.  Click here to listen.

Thank you for joining us on this prayerful path through Advent.
Blessings and best wishes for 2021.


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