The Shepherds Returned to Their Flocks

Dear Readers, I apologizing for republishing a post I wrote in December 2009, but I find it even more timely today as it was then.
I’m not particularly religious, but I’ve spent a number of years studying various religions and the King James Bible as literature.

The Book of Luke in the Bible records the miracle of the birth of the Baby and includes the account of the shepherds. You know the story – the long trek to Bethlehem to be taxed, the no-room-in-the-inn scenario, the cave and the manger, the angels and the shepherds.

Because angels with wings and holy seraphim seem more metaphoric than literal to me, I always found what those shepherds did after visiting the manger more interesting than their actually getting there.

Ah, those shepherds! How I loved the them.

Since the concept of a shepherd and his or her flock has universal application, I was intrigued by what the shepherds did afterwards.
They returned to their flocks, Luke says.
And although they told spread the glorious news and sang praises for God’s gift, they returned to their flocks.


They didn’t rush out and build a holy tabernacle. They didn’t write up the story and publish it in the Bethlehem Daily Journal. Nor did they try to sell their sheep and get a higher fee because they’d actually witnessed the babe in the manger.


Instead the shepherds returned to their flocks.

They went about the daily business of herding sheep. Sheep are rather dim-witted creatures. They need a shepherd to tend them, guide them, watch over them.  They’re not very smart animals.

Let me extend the analogy.

If we’re all shepherds like those ancient commoners, what or who represent our “flocks”?

That’s fairly simple.

Teachers teach students.

Parents parent children, and often their pets.
Writers write books.
Presidents preside over governments.
Readers read books.
Grandparents – ah yes, they simply spoil those same children or pets.

And so it goes.

I’ve been to the Grotto at Bethlehem (see photo to the left), an unassuming but peaceful site, but I’m not particularly concerned whether the shepherds visited a real hillside cave and found a new-born child over two thousand years ago, or whether it’s a beautiful metaphor.

What I care about is the message.

The shepherds returned to their flocks.

Thinking about those shepherds gives me new resolve to return to my “flock,” whether it’s my family, my career, my church, my hobbies. Or in my case at this juncture in my life – my rededication to writing.

We’re about to herald a new year.  How cool is that? The thought of an entire year stretching out before me unblemished by my stupid mistakes intrigues me. I want to rush out and write something on those pristine years! I want to slough off the old and begin anew.  I want to rededicate myself to significant work, to be eagerly engaged in a worthy cause.


What about you, readers? What would you like to focus your energies on this coming year? What possibilities bring excitement to your new year?  What would you like to rededicate yourself to? If you are the shepherd in your life, what’s the “flock” you’re watching over? What commitments will you make, what renewed purpose?  I’m giving away two novellas today to one lucky commenter: “The Hitman’s Holiday” and “The Hitman’s Heart.”

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  • Barb says:

    Back he comes lol

  • Barb says:

    Hi Jo

    I don’t mind you republishing as I didn’t see it the first time… DH and I are returning to where we were born and bought up in a few months so we will be returning to see relatives and friends that we have not seen for a few years … It also means we will miss part of winter in Australia and go to summer in the UK lol

    • Jo Robertson says:

      It’s lovely to go home again, isn’t it, Barb, regardless of the saying, “You can’t go home again.” I took many trips to my childhood home, the elementary school and high school I attended, visiting what we called the Lipsy Dips (but was really the site of a civil war battle.

      It’s both wonderful and strange to see sights and people from your youth.

  • Jo, what a lovely wise post – and I love that photo of you in Bethlehem. How cool!

    I’m going back to tending my sheep on 2nd January, aka starting a new book. Been nice to have some time away from writing, though. Batteries definitely needed a bit of a recharge. I find myself in awe of writers who burn to write hundreds of pages every day. Well, I’d like to – if the elves do it for me! 😉

    • Jo Robertson says:

      Thanks, Anna. I have the same need to return to my writing flock — I’ve spend most of 2013 tending to family flock, and I chopping at the bit to start a new book in January, probably a new series. I’d love to write two books a year, but that really presses me.

  • Helen says:


    I am really trying to retire the sooner the better 🙂 we have booked another cruise for November and this time we are off to New Zealand and of course I do love to spend time with my family and the grandchildren are not spoilt by me at all 🙂 and the good news I am going to be a Nana again we have our 7th grandchild due 22nd July so I will be watching over my flock of grandchildren

    Have Fun

    • Deb says:

      Congratulations on being a Nana again, Helen! I love seeing your photos of your sweet grandchildren on FB. 🙂 I am so excited for you to take a cruise to NZ. How neat!!

      • Helen says:

        Thanks Deb

        we are pretty chuffed as well nothing like a new baby in the family 🙂 they are so lovely to gives hugs too. And we are so looking forward to the cruise it seems a long time to wait but time goes so fast these days it will be here before we know it

        Have Fun

    • Jo Robertson says:

      Oh, Helen, you are such a lucky Nana and I’m sure you don’t spoil them at all, hahahaha.

      I love the babies and toddlers and teens, but so many of mine are getting older and more committed to school activities.

      My step granddaughter, however, is expecting in May, so I’ll soon be a great grandmother.

      Not bad for a 55 year old, huh? Snork, as Jeanne would say.

    • Jo Robertson says:

      I’m so jealous of your cruise. I’ve been hinting for an Alaskan Cruise so maybe for my 70th birthday, I’ll get a surprise?

  • Amy Conley says:

    I guess looking out after my husband and his family after my mil finally passes. Things have gotten much worse lately, so maybe it is a “sign”, I just know they can’t go on as they have been, too many people are being hurt in the process. So, unfortunately getting everyone through this thing called cancer is it. And let me just say, “CANCER SUCKS!”

    • Jo Robertson says:

      I’m so sorry, Amy. Sometimes you have a year that’s just “loss upon loss.” I hope you have a smooth waters as possible with such a family tragedy. My best friend just lost her father in October and her mother is rapidly declining. I spent yesterday with her, just crying because sometimes that’s all you can do.

  • Deb says:

    Jo, I really enjoyed your post today and love the simplicity of the statement, “The shepherds returned to their flocks.” I realized that they did just simply do that. They told the Good News to one and all on their way back to the fields, but they had a job to do of tending their flocks; simple, even lowly, men, but they were the ones chosen to hear the angelic chorus.

    I have a daughter in 7th grad now, and she is very active in music, drama, and sports. Keeping up on her activities and her schedule and coordinating all of her “stuff” around ours can be tricky. Note to self: Look for a very big calendar this week. 🙂 It’s nice that my DH helps tend our little flock of 3 by helping out with cooking (he does 85-90%) and laundry, etc.

    • Jo Robertson says:

      How wonderful that your husband is so helpful. If your “flock” is very big, you just can’t do it alone. I see my oldest son raising 2 teens on his own and it is so hard.

      Thanks for the kind words. I do enjoy the concept of works, not words.

  • Shannon says:

    I took time to deal with my Mom last year; it’s a difficult transition for a perfectly healthy 80 year old to get sick, weak, and confused one. When I got home, there was work and Christmas. Now that the immediate things have been take care of, I finally took a couple of days to just collapse. I need the reminder that I need to return to my flocks.

    Given that the Mom situation isn’t totally resolved (old age sucks too), I want to dive back in which I just cannot do. But I have my job, my friends, my creative endeavors, and my house that all need my tending. I guess what I can do here is to find out if there’s a program to help out caregivers. I know I appreciated the hours that Doug and Cheryl gave me were precious time away from an emotionally draining situation.

    • Deb says:

      Shannon, I am thinking about you and your mother. My dad has Alzheimers and it is a very draining situation for the caregiver. I know that is why my mother is always drained and tired. Hugs to you.

    • Jo Robertson says:

      Oh, Shannon, I’m so sorry. Try to remember that you are part of that flock and after such a stressful year, you need to energize yourself before you can give more to others.

      That seems to be the way women are.

      I hope 2014 is a more gentle year for you.

  • catslady says:

    I have my flock of cats lol. My children are grown so they don’t take too much tending to but I’m there when and if. I really want to get to more reading. I need to turn off my computer more often in order to accomplish that lol.

  • bn100 says:

    reading more books

    • Jo Robertson says:

      Yay!!! I’m right there with you, BN100. Both my Kindles are getting maxed out!

      I’m just now finishing up “The Gold Finch” by Donna Tartt. Very interesting. What are you reading now?

  • Well, I’m watching over my chocolate – does that count? 🙂

    I don’t know if it’s a rededication, but I’m watching over my writing – making sure to make progress on the many new and exciting projects I want to complete.

    As to new…I need to stop and reverse this weight gain. That will require some serious dedication.

    • Jo Robertson says:

      I think rededication to writing is very important for us authors, Donna. Last year was very non-productive for me (I only released 2 novellas) because I was putting all my energy into the business end of writing.

      I’m going to find another way to exercise too. I used to be very faithful but with a bone spur in my heel and a swollen knee, I keep aggravating it. I’m having Boyd clean up the stationary bike and drag it into the house. I can probably start with 30 seconds LOL.

  • Jo Robertson says:

    Absolutely! My family’s gotten smart and only given us chocolate that I don’t like; for example, a big box of chocolate-covered Macadamia nuts or dark chocolate. They want me to stay heart healthy. Thanks so much (sarcasm intended).

  • Becke Turner says:

    Interesting concept.

    I think my commitment is to keep on keeping on. My life doesn’t have starts and stops. It’s a continuous progression. I hope I’ve learned a few lessons along the way for improvement.

    The new year is a measure so I can compare last year’s work to this year. Last year I continued a healthy lifestyle. This year I’d like to add one thing to improve my menu or my exercise.

    The same for my writing. I completed two ms last year. This year I’d like to complete another two.

    I spent time with the grands. I want to continue to do that. Learn something from watching them grow.

    You should try the dark chocolate. I find it’s more satisfying than milk. It’s kind of like a fine wine. You may have to acquire a taste. However, you won’t go back! Maybe there’s a parallel to life with the chocolate. And maybe it’s time to snap up the jaw!

    Happy New Year and success to everyone on whatever each plans to herd.

  • Jo Robertson says:

    Becke, thanks so much for your lovely thoughts. I like your idea of continuing progress. Life certainly is a journey rather than a destination.

    i admire your self-discipline and goal setting. And yes, I’m going to give dark chocolate a try! It’s actually supposed to be a bit healthy.

  • Jo Robertson says:

    We’re off to attend our annual Robertson Bowling Competition. In addition to our bowling ball trophy for the winning team, we’re adding money to the pot! And cupcakes for the consolation prizes. I think the kids will enjoy it.

    We only have about 3-4 good bowlers; the rest are young (Emma, 5), clumsy or old. We chose teams randomly, but one of our best bowlers got the stomach flu, so we’ll be short of a good bowler.

    Wish us good luck.

    And to you all a peaceful and prosperous 2014! May good things come your way this year and better things turn into best!

  • Jo, sorry to be so late to the party! This is an interesting theme. I think my flock would be my guys and my books.

    I haven’t read The Hitman’s Heart yet, but The Hitman’s Holiday is wonderful. Someone will be lucky to win it.

    I hope the bowling goes well.

  • Jo Robertson says:

    Hi, Nancy! You’re never too late! Your guys are definitely a flock worthy of tending.

    My team lost on the bowling, but the consolation prize was mini-cupcakes so I feel rewarded.