The Year of the Sheep?February 23, 2015
Is it the year of the sheep or the goat? That is the question.
Well, it’s not really a question that those celebrating Chinese New Year are asking but it seems to be a question that many Westerners are stymied by.
“”I’ve never thought about that question before,” Chen Xufeng, an office clerk in Beijing, told Xinhua. “Do we have to tell them apart? I’ve seen more goats in zodiac images, but I prefer to buy a sheep mascot, as sheep are more fluffy and lovely.”
So, yesterday marked the end of the year of the horse in the traditional Chinese zodiac that dates back some 3000 years. But whether or not “this” year is the year of the goat or the year of the sheep remains a matter of interpretation.
The similarity and distinction of sheep and goats may be of more interest to Westerners than to those in China because of the lingering shadows the Christian Scriptures caste generations after the faith is actually practiced.
Even if your neighbor is not a practicing Christian, they may well know that when it comes to the final judgment, when Christ returns, the sheep and the goats will be separated. The sheep to eternal life and the goats, well, its not a happy ending for the goats.
So, to Mr Xufeng’s question, “Do we have to tell them apart?” maybe not, but there is One who stands outside of manmade calendars who makes a distinction.
What is clear from the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 25:31-46 is that the sorting is not up to us. God will sort out the sheep from the goats in the End. What matters is not that we know the sheep from the goats but that we know, and live in relationship to, the Shepherd.
Whether you are a sheep or a goat, this is the year of the Shepherd. He is the reference point for all of human history. Even the Chinese zodiac keys it count to the birth of Christ. It may be the year of the sheep or the goat but it remains 2015 Anno Domini – the year of the Lord.