To Celebrate His Coming
I shivered and pulled my cloak tighter around me as I peered at the fire where my father and uncle and the other shepherds sat. I thought of trying to get closer but knew I’d only get a clout for my efforts so I remained where I was, cold and miserable with not even a dream to warm the night.
Father was still angry with me. I was thinking of relenting, letting him take back the lamb he’d given me. But it was a pure, unspotted lamb, so unlike all the others in the flock, that were marred in some way. This one was good enough to be taken to the market and sold for a good price. That’s why father wanted to take it back.
But it was my lamb. He’d promised it to me, for working with him for so long with little recompense. He’d been promising me a lamb of my own for some time and I kept reminding him of his promise until finally, he’d said, “Yes, yes, the next one born is yours.” I think he only said it to be rid of me and my pestering, but I was thrilled. I was there when the ewe gave birth and reminded my father again, of his promise, just in case he’d choose to forget. He nodded his head without examining the tiny thing.
Later I saw his eyes light up when he realized what a prize it was and he wasted no time telling me he wanted to sell it. But it had become precious to me and I refused to give it up, even though I knew the shekels would mean food in our bellies for some time to come. Father was furious but I still refused. I wanted my own flock one day and this spotless lamb would be a good start. I didn’t trust him to keep his word, so I kept the wee thing tethered to me, day and night. No, I would not give it up. It was mine. I tugged it closer for warmth and was just about to lay my head down to try and sleep when a strange light made me sit up.
A tall man stood there, his very clothes bursting with white light. I could not see his face clearly, for the brilliance of it. My father and uncle and the other shepherds were on their feet, clustered together, some of them starting to back away from the strange apparition.
Then it spoke and we all fall on our faces.
“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:10-12, NIV)
When it vanished the whole sky blazed. Angels! My mouth dropped open at the sight, my ears rang with the sound as they glorified God and bestowed peace upon us, we dirty, ragged shepherds.
When they were gone my father and the others all agreed – and that was an unheard of thing – but they agreed there was only one thing to be done: find the child! I lifted my lamb onto my shoulders and followed them, stumbling in the darkness but eager to see the wonder of an infant Messiah.
I expected he would be in a palace of some kind and despaired of ever getting close enough to see him, even if my father did allow it, but when we found the place it was as humble a dwelling as any you could discover. The child’s father was a bit hesitant at first, when such a rag-tag group arrived, but when my father told him about the angels he waved us closer. I stuck my head between my father and my uncle, expecting to get a swat but my father moved aside, put his arm across my shoulders and, drawing me close, spoke quietly in my ear.
“Why we have been chosen, my son, I cannot fathom, but we must study this scene, commit every detail to memory so that we can tell everyone we meet. The Messiah has come!”
I clutched the spotless lamb to my breast and did as he said, noting the soft features of the young woman holding the child who was wrapped, as the angel had said, in bands of cloth. He looked so ordinary, cried so like any other child, but I knew, deep in my soul that he was no common infant.
The lamb bleated in my arms. I looked down at it and knew what I should do. Without hesitation I loosed the tether from my wrist and laid the lamb before him. The woman’s smile widened and she nodded. But when she glanced down at the animal again I noted the smile faded and a sadness lay in her eyes. I wondered at it then.
It would be many years before I would understand. My gift no doubt reminded her there would be pain and sorrow ahead.
For this child was, indeed, a pure and spotless lamb. The lamb of God who would be sacrificed to take away the sins of the world.