Saturday, December 03, 2011

Stories for Christmas: The Shepherd

I’m nobody really. Just the youngest son of a youngest son. Being the youngest it’s my job to watch the sheep and I spend all day, every day, out caring for them. I’m practically a part of the herd. No one pays much attention to us shepherds since they don’t see us much and when they do we are so dirty that they avoid us.

But I know that God cares. You know how I know that? Because my buddies and I were the first to be told about the birth of the Messiah. Let me tell you about it. It’s pretty awesome.

So, we were out sleeping with the sheep. We’d put them all in the pen and had set up camp at the gate and were just getting settled down for the night. One of the other guys was just dousing the small fire that we had cooked our supper on when suddenly the sky was bright with light. We all shaded our eyes it was so bright. It was an angel and he spoke to us! He said that the Messiah had been born, that he was a baby, and he was not far away in a stable. We were to go see him. Then just as our eyes were adjusting to the brightness, it got even brighter. The whole sky was full of angels and they were singing about God’s glory and of peace.

They were gone as suddenly as they came and we sat there, stunned, sleep forgotten. We were overwhelmed. We knew we hadn’t dreamt it because we all had seen and heard the same thing. Then we all started talking at once. I was all for going to find the child Messiah. My Mom had often told me stories about the longed for Messiah and I wanted to see him. I needed to so that I coudl tell my mother all about him. She would be so excited to know that he had come and would be so proud that the angels had been sent ot tell me, her son.

The pessimists in our group were hesitant. They weren’t too sure that the angels really meant for us  to go find a stable. Surely they meant a much nicer place. Surely the Messiah wouldn’t be poor like us and have to be born in a stable. Besides, people didn’t like having us show up since we stank. And someone should stay and look after the sheep. In the end the rest of us convinced them to come along and after securing the gate to the sheep pen, we went out to seek the Messiah.

While the angel hadn’t given us specific instructions, I had a pretty good idea of where we should look. There’s only one inn and I was certain that’s where they would have gone first. Since the angel said we’d find the baby in a manger, it made sense to start at the inn’s stable. I was right and that’s where we found them.

They were an ordinary family, obviously tired from traveling and her especially tired from having just given birth. There were people camped out all around under the stars and, when asked, one of them had confirmed that there had been the cries of a woman giving birth a while earlier.

When we had explained to the couple why we had come, they were happy to have us draw close. We learned that they were Joseph and Mary from Nazareth and had traveled to Bethlehem especially for the Roman census.

The baby’s name was Jesus. We stayed there awhile then, realizing that they were exhausted, we left them to rest. We were so excited as we picked our way around the camps of travelers that we were rather loud. People snapped at us to keep it down and return to our sheep. We didn’t care about the insults we were so excited. So all we said was “ The Messiah has come! He is here and we have seen him!” Some just rolled over and ignored us. Some were just curious enough to wake up and ask how we knew. However, when we said he’d been born in a stable, most lost interest and rolled over to go back to sleep.

Eventually we made it back to our sheep. They were just as we had left them. Asleep and unharmed. We couldn’t sleep, so we stayed up the rest of the night talking about it.

From then on, we told anyone who would listen about that night. Eventually, I married and had children of my own. My wife puts up with my story of the Messiah but I don’t think that she has ever really believed it. My children certainly got tired of hearing about it.

Except for my youngest son.

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