LITERATI!!! I PRESENT TO YOU: OUR FINAL ENTRY!!!
I started this contest with one premise: to take us on a literary journey around the globe to help close the gaps in our world. And it begins with ourselves, one person at a time. And Mike Casper brings us a traditional story, told from a slightly different angle than most of us have heard. And it is with this reflection of peace on earth that we present:
My Jesus Story: First Responders
Seth walked up the hill, singing softly, his mellow baritone voice going ahead of him. “All clear tonight, my little four legged friends. My little wooly friends, you are sleeping like babies. Good night my little wooly friends. Tomorrow is another day. Good night, good night.”
He walked over to our small fire and grunted as he sat in one of our folding chairs. He laid his staff on the ground next to him but kept his rod on his belt, at the ready. Hey, you never know. We weren’t exactly in the wilderness, but we did have a bear carry off one of our ewes two weeks ago.
I tossed him a cup and the ladle. “Stew’s good tonight, friend, and the wineskin is hanging from that tree right over there.”
“Thanks. The fire feels great.” He warmed his hands then looked up. “Tonight’s going to be a bit colder than last.” The August night sky was bracingly clear. We could see thousands of points of light and almost imagine a few constellations.
Suddenly Seth pointed overhead. “Look, there goes another streak–a greenish yellow one. And there goes a gold one. How beautiful. We’re so lucky, Hiram. Here we are, outside on this beautiful night, watching over those trusting animals. I can almost feel the Lord’s presence. He’s guiding us along quiet waters. He’s restoring our souls. We’re shepherds, like the Lord. I like that.”
Our flock lay quietly on a hillside just outside of Bethlehem. Somehow we both felt we could relax tonight. Most of our sheep were asleep; a few baaahed here and there. Little short bleats, the kind that says to the rest of the flock, “I’m here.”
I tossed a few twigs on our little fire, more content than I had been all season.
“I like that too. The part about the waters and our souls.” I pulled my cloak around me and lay back against a gently sloping rock face, already drifting off.
“Wake me in a few hours. And don’t bother me about the sky. I see it every night, and nothing ever changes. Even your streaks of light.” We laughed, and I wrapped my cloak over my head and closed my eyes.
In moments, I was asleep, albeit lightly. No shepherd worth his salt ever slept heavily while his flock was in the field.
Then we had our Jesus moment.
“Hiram.” Seth’s voice, strained and somewhat shrill, cut through my slumber and I stirred. It seems that I was only asleep for a few moments, and now the sun was up. I stretched, yawned and removed the cloak from my face.
“Sorry for overslee…” My sentence was cut short. Right in front of me was an angel of the Lord, standing a few feet above our little campfire–in the air. The glory of the Lord shone all around the angel, so much so that it hurt to look directly at him. I looked to the left and right. Darkness. I could see the sleeping town of Bethlehem sprawled out at the base of the hillside. It was still the dead of night, and I must have slept for only a few minutes.
A star in the heavens shone brightly on the little town; a ray of light seemed to illuminate a certain building.
We were terrified. Seth moved and stood a little behind me. Thanks, Seth. I felt him poke my back. “Hiram. Say something, Hiram.” Irritated, I glanced back at him. He was so afraid he looked like he would throw up.
I found my voice, but it was as shaky as my knees and hands.
“We’re just simple shepherds, friend. What do you want with us?”
The angel said, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Then there was a sound like tearing fabric, only louder and crisper. Over the angel’s head was a multitude of angels, more than I could ever count in all my days. They were singing praises to God like this: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
It was beautiful.
They stayed for what seemed to be half of the night, singing glory to God. For a while, Seth and I rejoiced and sang too. Our voices, puny and flat, were made perfect by theirs. Then they disappeared, and it was night again.
I took a gulp of wine from the wineskin. Seth had one too, then another. Then I did, and again. Our shakes were almost gone. I asked him, “What should we do now?”
A sheep baahed–but to me, it sounded like ‘Gooooo.’ Another baahed, then another. In moments, the entire flock was baahing. But they all sounded like they were saying ‘go.’ In all my years of shepherding, I’ve seen sheep do stupid things, I’ve heard sheep make odd noises, but I’ve never heard a sheep, let alone an entire flock, say ‘go.’ It had to be a sign.
Seth exclaimed, “They’re all telling us to go. Let’s go find the child, Hiram. Like the angel said.”
We looked at our flock. With certainty, we knew they would be safe for the evening, so we gathered our cloaks, rods, and staffs, banked our fire and set off for Bethlehem.
It wasn’t far. The star overhead illuminated our way, and we quickly found what we were seeking–the babe wrapped in cloths, lying in a manger–just like the angel told us. His parents, Joseph and Mary, welcomed us with open arms. “He shall be named Jesus on the eighth day,” they said. We told them about the angel, and that he said the child would be our Savior, Christ the Lord. Mary nodded, and Joseph explained all that had happened to bring them to this spot. We were amazed, and, eventually, as we made our way back to our flock, we told everyone we met about this wonderful evening.
And in that way, we lowly shepherds met the Good Shepherd, who will lead us beside quiet waters and will restore our souls. We both liked that.
Happy Birthday, baby Jesus.
LOOK OUT FOR THE ANNOUCEMENT FOR FINALISTS TONIGHT!!! Don’t forget to leave Mike a comment and share!!!