Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Little Shepherd--a children's story for Christmas

II. ". . .but someone has to stay"

Someone had to stay behind, Brother Ezra thought, and he told the shepherds so. “We can’t all go,” he said, still shaking from what they’d all just witnessed. “Bethlehem’s a good hike, you know. Someone has to stay with the sheep.”

The moment Ezra said it, Jesse knew it would be him, the youngest of the whole gang. Just knew it. Couldn’t be anyone else. The others had been with the gang for many summers already—and they were men. He was a kid. He’d be the one left behind.

The others were stunned by what Brother Ezra had announced. “Surely the Lord will watch over the flock,” Brom said, pulling his rucksack over his shoulder. “Surely the angels will keep an eye peeled. You saw 'em. This is the Messiah—the birth of the King!”

Brother Ezra shook his head. “We can’t just leave ‘em,” he said. “We can’t take that chance.”

“Bring them with,” Brother Brom said. “What do you say? Round ‘em up and herd ‘em to Bethlehem, the whole flock—every last one of them—"

Brother Ezra shook his head. “A roundup in this heavy darkness? Man, that baby in swaddling clothes could be starting kindergarten by the time we get there.”

Little Jesse was standing beside the olive tree. “I’ll stay,” he said. “I’m the runt. I don’t want to stay behind—don’t get me wrong,” he told them. “But I think my brother is right—someone has to stay. Blame sheep'll need us. But when you guys get back, I want the whole story, hear?”

The silence made it perfectly clear he’d be the one.

“Bless you, Jesse,” his brother said. “I don’t know if it’s right. . .”

“Just go, Ezra,” Jesse told him. “I can take care of myself—and the sheep. Just get on the road to the stable, the one with the manger.” He shook his head.  "Still can't believe it."

Brom walked up and mussed his hair the way he always did. Hadrian punched his arm, then squeezed his shoulder, and Arie pretended to knight him by laying his crook over Jesse’s shoulder and mumbling something about thanks.

He couldn't help thinking it was one of the best things he’d ever done, but also the worst. What they’d seen that night was a vision he’d never forget, and the command had been clear:—“Go! Go to Bethlehem and see the miracle.” Maybe Brom was right—maybe that legion of angels would watch over the sheep while the others were gone—why wouldn’t they? This was, after all, a very, very special night. No kidding.

The moment the others gathered their things, they seemed to forget Jesse’s gift because as soon as they’d turned their backs they were off, not walking either, but running, flying almost, on their way to Bethlehem. In the pale moonlight, all the way down the hill and up the next he watched them, the whole gang making their own kind of light as they tore along to find this baby Messiah. Their joy carried over the open fields as if they were never more than an arm’s length away.

Jesse sat on his rucksack and stared out into the deep starry sky and over the fields. Here and there, a lamb bleated, most of them bedded down in little cloudy clumps in the moonlit darkness. Lousy sheep, he told himself. He’d become a shepherd because his father was and his brother was and so many were. He loved the sky and the long hills and the stars all around, loved the end of the day—and the beginning too, the glorious light of dawn. All of that he liked.

Right then, for the first time in his life, with all the other shepherds already out of sight and earshot over the next hill and on their way to town, to Bethlehem, he told himself he’d never really liked sheep all that much. They were needy and silly, and tonight—the night of the Messiah—he was just plain stuck with them. While the rest of the shepherds were looking for a saviour, he’d be all alone in the desert hills with nothing but a thousand brainless sheep.

He rubbed the back of his shirt across his face, looked around for the highest spot on the land, and started to climb to get there. Tonight—the most important night in the history of everything—he'd be watch the dopey sheep sleep. He reached up to his eye and quickly wiped away the tear that would have otherwise run down his cheek. He’d never been left behind before, never been left alone in the deep darkness.

He knew volunteering had been the right thing to do, but his heart felt cutin half because in he wanted so much to be with the others, on their way to find the King.

Instead, he was all alone in the Judean hills, just about a million miles from joy.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

can't wait for the next installment, your story is bringing the birth of the Messiah alive.
thanks you