This year I participated in a Blue Christmas service, which is a service for people who find the holiday season difficult. I was a contributor and, because I write, I was asked to tell the Christmas story from a different perspective. I decided to tell to take the voice of a shepherd and this was the result:
I am a shepherd.
Sun or rain, I take my flock to the high pasture.
Sometimes when the day has been long, those of us with no family will spend the night on the mountainside.
It happened on one such evening that, as we sat around the fire talking and telling jokes, we heard singing and laughter coming around the mountainside.
We stood in time to greet a strange group of folk. They had colourful cloaks and wore their hair wild and free. The light in their eyes reminded me of stars. They sang so loudly I thought they were drunk.
“Shepherds,” They called.
“A child has been born near here, just outside Bethlehem. He was born in a small shed, but he is alive and well. He survives the cold night. Go and see! It is a good sign!”
They walked on, singing in the night, and we were alone again in the cold and dark. My friend nudged me, “Let’s go see what makes them so happy.”
I followed, not really understanding why.
We came to the place: an animal shed. I was surprised to see more of the strange people, singing and dancing.
I pushed past them to go inside the shed. There I saw a girl with a baby in her lap. I must have frightened her for she shivered. I gave her my wrap and I held the babe while she put my ragged cloak around her shoulders.
In my arms, the baby squirmed – like a lamb. I gave the child back to the girl and reached into my pocket where I could feel my one spare coin. I fingered it for a moment and then took it from my pocket and offered it to the girl. Puzzled, she turned to the young man behind her. He moved forward as if to protect her. I held out the coin further.
“For the baby,” I said, and pressed it into her hand.
Nothing more happened, but since I have been shaken with joy at seeing hoarfrost wings atilt upon tall grasses.
The sun upon the sheep, making silvery their backs, has touched me with its beauty.
I do not understand why or what I had gone to see, but that child has made me feel like singing and dancing.
As I wrote this, I tried to put myself into the position of the shepherd and to capture the magic the author of the gospel would like us to feel as we read this wondrous story. The Christmas story itself is a myth, but around that story of the birth of a Saviour, those of us who celebrate Christmas have had that sense of magic at least a few Christmases of our lives. It is that wonder that I hope I can convey to those who find the season difficult.
I hope all of you feel wonder this season also.
Joy to the World!