I always loved the shepherd in the creche scene who carries a lamb on his shoulders. He does this to keep it close to him, to prevent it from getting lost, to bring it to a better place. He is a symbol of Christ the Good Shepherd.
According to the Prophet Isaiah,
He will feed his flock like a shepherd;Isaiah 40:11
he will gather the lambs in his arms,
and carry them in his bosom,
and gently lead the mother sheep.
The shepherd in the creche scene has another reason to hold the lamb on his shoulders or clutch it to his bosom: warmth. A shepherd out in the wastes “in the bleak mid-winter” would take all the help he can get. The shepherd’s job is to guide and guard. The sheep’s job is to do what it can to help its shepherd.
Christ describes himself as the shepherd, searching for his lost sheep:
When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices.Luke 15:5
Christ rejoices at finding the sheep. To warm His Heart, all it must do is learn to be still. Learn to be led.
Compassion comes from the Latin words con pati, “to suffer with”. In English the word extends to mean not only suffering with someone we care for, but also the drive to act, to lessen that person’s suffering. This compassion or mercy can also be very simple. It reaches out in love, especially to fill what is lacking, and it accepts love.
After the Original Sin, Man was lacking. He was meant to live and move and have his being in God. But he had rejected that plan and chose to trust in himself. This trust in himself is passed on, generation to generation, and each generation suffers that choice. For we do not live as were meant to live. We are lacking.
God wanted to find ways to redeem us, to bring us back to His mercy. He chose Abraham and his descendants to be His people, those to whom He would teach mercy. He used pain to teach. Why? Because pain is an entry for mercy. Pain is a lack into which mercy can flow.
Still we can reject His mercy. And as he first sinned, man continues to fear God rather than trust Him.
So God did something extraordinary. He made Himself small, weak, lacking. He did this so that we would be drawn to show Him mercy. He put Himself into a place where He needed us, needed our mercy.
Sometimes He receives that mercy. Sometimes we reject Him. But He judged the redemption of His lambs to be worth this humility, worth infinitely more.