“Get out of my way scum! Get these beasts off the road!”
He could have said he had as much right on the road as they did, but he held his tongue. He knew better. Instead, nodding in a servile manner, he attempted to clear a path for the merchant and his retinue. The sheep, as always, were not co-operative, milling in confused circles.
“Incompetent imbecile!” the merchant muttered striking him a passing blow with his riding stick as he forced his way through. He said nothing, what was there to say. He was a shepherd, lowest of the low. Shepherds had a bad reputation and it was not altogether unfounded, He, himself, was no innocent, well what else was he meant to do, a man had to eat…
Settling down for the night he pulled the sheepskin cloak around him. It was cold out on the hillside, but the sheep must be guarded. He’d be out here for days seeking winter pasture.
When young he’d dreamed of having his own sheep, but that dream was long passed, as were dreams of a family. No, he’d be out here with the sheep, alone, abandoned till the day he died.
The sheep were restless, perhaps there was a predator? Grabbing his staff he looked around. Nothing! There was an odd stillness, a light wind blew up and the night sky slowly became defused with light. Fascinated he watched. Suddenly a face loomed in the darkness, glowing with power and light.
Terrified he ran cowering among the sheep. God had sent an angel to judge him! Surely an angel of death!
“Don’t be afraid, I bring good news!” a voice like water rang out. Speechless and trembling he cringed, not daring to move. “Good news, to bring joy to all people.” It was somehow the way he emphasised “ALL” that took away the fear. “For you is born today, in David’s city, a saviour, Christ the Lord.” A saviour, for me? The words resounded in his heart “ FOR YOU!”
“This shall be a sign. You shall find the baby swaddled and lying in a manger.” At these last words the sky exploded with light. Hundreds of angelic beings glowed, lending their voices to a chorus of, “ Glory to God in the highest, on earth peace to men of good will.”
His heart burst with joy, joining the heavenly chorus, for he had understood. The saviour was not only for the rich and mighty, for the holy and righteous, but for him also, and he had been chosen, above the merchants, even above princes, to hear the glad tidings and gaze on the messiah.
Grasping his staff, he’d dropped in terror, he left the sheep (surely God would care for them) and strode off towards Bethlehem. He was not alone he noticed, others had seen also. He chuckled, like him they were shepherds, the lowest of the low.
(This story was inspired by learning the view we have of shepherds is very different to that held in the Middle East back then when they were considered little more than dishonest vagabonds. Which makes the choice of shepherds even more meaningful.)