And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. Luke 2:8
It’s cold out here. And dark. There must be some predator animal close by because the sheep are restless, shifting, and kind of muttering.
I’ve been out here for months, going from place to place with the flock and the other shepherds. We move to find water and grass. When it gets too hot, we go higher into the mountains. Always wandering, it seems like.
That is probably just as well. Shepherds mostly aren’t liked in general, and some of them probably deserve it. They steal, cheating the people who have hired them to tend the sheep. Not all of us, though, but we’re away from our homes so much not many people get to know us. From about April to November we are out in the fields. It’s kind of hard to form relationships with anyone besides other shepherds. Just like any other group of people there are good and bad. I guess people have forgotten that many of our patriarchs were shepherds: Amos, Jacob, Moses, and King David were all shepherds when our tribes were nomadic. But that was long ago and things change.
I like parts of my job, like being outside to see the seasons change. When you get way up in the hills and look down on the towns, it’s really pretty. In the spring there are the lilies in the fields and lambs. Sometimes the lambs wander off, but I never mind being the one to go find them and bring them back to the safety of the flock. Each one is important, and it’s my responsibility to take care of them. Summer brings more flowers. We find streams so the sheep will have water, and I love the music of the water rushing over the rocks. Then the weather starts to cool, autumn sets in, and the world kind of slows down to rest for the winter. We’re closer to town now—Bethlehem—I think, and will soon need to find shelter for the cold months.
The stars are pretty tonight. I think I will lie down for a little while and just watch them move through the sky.
Did I fall asleep? Why is it getting light and what do I hear? The sheep are suddenly so still and quiet, and the other shepherds are calling to me, “Look! Look at the heavens!” And when I do, I’m more scared than I have ever been. I see angels! Am I dying?
But the angels are smiling and laughing and singing, so happy about something. One of them must be speaking—the sound comes from everywhere like inside my head and heart—telling us that God loves us and has sent His son as a tiny baby so we, all the world, may be saved. I’m not sure what that means, but I wonder, “Even lowly shepherds?” The angel must have heard my thought because the answer is, “Yes, you are loved and valued in God’s eyes.” We’re being invited to go meet the baby. The angels say He is in a barn, sleeping in a manger.
God’s son? In a manger? Already this little baby has changed my world. A shepherd, an outcast most people assume is a cheat and a thief, is being invited to meet God’s son who was born in lowly circumstances just like I was. Things will never be the same. Come on, let’s go.
Prayer: May we experience the love of God in this season so that we, and the world, will never be the same. Amen.
About the Contributor
Patricia Webster has been a member of FPC since 1985. She has enjoyed being involved in church life in many ways, most recently through Women’s Ministries.