This is a children's story, set on the night that Jesus was born.
It is a fictional event which emphasizes the spirit of giving from the heart.
“Goodbye.” Jonathan turned and waved to his mother as he left the house.
He had a new shepherd’s staff in his hand. A package containing bread, cheese and figs was strapped to his back.
Jonathan also had a beautiful new blanket to keep his warm. Mother had made the blanket from sheep’s wool that had been dyed blue like the sky.
“So, is the youngest shepherd ready for his first night out in the field?” Jonathan’s father asked.
“Oh yes.” Jonathan walked proudly beside his father. He kept a tight grip on the staff his father had given him the day before.
“We will not stop on the way,” said his father. “We will eat our evening meal in the field, while we watch the sheep.”
“I love watching the sheep,” Jonathan said. “And especially the lambs.”
“The lambs do need careful watching,” said his father.
Jonathan watched his father hook the crooked end of his staff around a lamb’s neck. He gently guided it back to the flock.
It was a long walk to the field where their sheep would graze for the next few weeks. Jonathan was hot and tired when they arrived.
Stretching out before them was a great field of fresh green grass for the sheep to eat. A stream carried fresh water across the field from a spring up in the hills. Jonathan sniffed the air. It smelled fresh and sweet.
“I can smell the grass,” he said.
“Yes. Fields like this are scarce,” said his father. He laid his pack down beside a large rock at the edge of the field. “It has been a long, hot walk and you must be hungry. We can eat now.”
“I am thirsty first.” Jonathan dropped his pack beside his father’s and ran to the stream. He lay face down on the grass and cupped his hands to drink the clear, cool water.
Soon after they had eaten, Jonathan lay down to sleep. He wrapped his soft blue blanket around him.
“You must promise to wake me,” Jonathan said. “I want to take my turn on watch, so you can sleep too.”
“I will wake you,” his father promised. “Go to sleep now.”
It was dark when Jonathan’s father woke him up.
“Are you sure you want to do this?” his father asked. “You were very tired when we arrived.”
“If I am going to be a shepherd one day, I must do the watch,” Jonathan said. The field was different now as Jonathan looked around. He could not see the colour of the grass but he could still smell the freshness. He could smell the perfume of the wild flowers, too.
The sheep and lambs were just dark shadows, moving around now and then. Once in a while the soft bleat of a lamb broke the silence.
Jonathan leaned back against a large rock and watched the shadow sheep.
Suddenly, Jonathan’s eyes flew wide open. He stood up straight and gripped his staff. Something was wrong. Something had changed. Then he realized what it was.
He could see the sheep. They weren’t just shadows anymore. Was it morning already? Had be fallen asleep on his first watch?
Slowly, he looked up at the sky. A great star was shining in the East. It was so bright that the night was almost like day.
“Father, wake up,” Jonathan called.
“What is it?” his father asked. “Morning already?” He sat up and rubbed his eyes.
“No,” Jonathan said softly. “Something strange is happening. Look at that star. See how bright it is? What does it mean, Father?”
Suddenly, an angel appeared before them. He was dressed in pure white and surrounded by beautiful, glorious light.
Jonathan’s father fell to his knees and bowed his head. Jonathan knelt down too, but he couldn’t take his eyes off the angel’s face. He had heard stories about people who saw angels and had visions. He did not want to miss anything.
“Do not be afraid,” said the angel. “I have good news for you. Your Saviour, Christ the Lord, was born in Bethlehem tonight.”
“The Messiah,” Jonathan’s father whispered. “The Son of God.”
Then a great choir of angels appeared in the sky. The brightness around them was almost blinding. Still, Jonathan could not take his eyes off the wonderful sight.
“Glory to God in the highest,” they sang, “and on earth, peace, goodwill toward men.”
When the angels were gone, the light faded too, but the great star was still shining brightly.
“Father,” said Jonathan, “can we go to Bethlehem?”
“It is a long walk,” said his father. “There will be many people travelling there.”
“I want to see the Messiah,” said Jonathan.
“We will take a gift,” said Jonathan’s father. “We will take one of our finest sheep.
His father picked up his staff and carefully chose a plump sheep with a kindly black face. He coaxed it away from the flock.
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© 1998 F. Herridge
Published in Newfoundland Herald, Dec 1998
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