A Shepherd's Story
The Bible Thru
the Eyes of its Writers
Bible Faction by Jack Kelley
In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields
and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly
stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were
But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring
you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the
city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying
in a manger."
And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly
host praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, And on earth
peace among men with whom He is pleased." When the angels had gone away
from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, "Let us
go straight to Bethlehem
then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to
So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the
baby as He lay in the manger. When they had seen this, they made known the
statement which had been told them about this Child. And all who heard it
wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary
treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart.
The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising
God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them. (Luke
I was just a kid when it happened, barely old enough to be out in the fields
with the older shepherds. For the first time, my dad had said that I could stay
with them all night. I was so excited! It was around the time of the Fall
Feasts and we were tending the Temple flocks in
the fields outside of Bethlehem.
Later, people would try to say that the story I'm about to tell you took place
in December, but that's crazy because nobody would have had their sheep in the
open fields that far into winter. It was too cold and a sudden storm could put
them all in grave danger.
No shepherd could afford to take that risk even with ordinary sheep, and
these sheep were different from all others. The priests bred them especially
for use as sacrifices in the Temple.
Because of this, they had to be perfect, not a spot or blemish anywhere on
their bodies. These were lambs whose only purpose in being born was to die as
an offering for the sins of the people. They were very valuable and watching
them was important work.
You see, sheep are prone to wandering. It's the shepherd's job to keep track
of them, and to bring them back when they stray. We also keep the predators at
bay, the wolves that would sneak in among the flock and carry the weak ones
off. We're responsible for them, and it's our job to see that none are lost.
After dinner we were getting the camp ready for the night, making one last
check to be sure that all the sheep were accounted for and weren't being
distracted by the torch light from the constant stream of visitors in the
distance heading for the town.
Bethlehem was more crowded than I'd ever seen
it because the governor had called for a census and everyone in Israel who was
descended from King David had to come here to register. David had lived almost
a thousand years earlier, and had four wives, so you can imagine how many
descendants he had, and they were all coming to Bethlehem. Our little town was filled to
overflowing and some had given up even trying to find rooms.
That's another good reason this couldn't have happened in the dead of
winter. People just couldn't travel then, it was too
cold and wet to camp in the fields along the way. Remember, some had to travel
several days, all the way from beyond the Galilee
up north, to get here.
I remember that we'd just settled down by the fire when an angel of the Lord
suddenly appeared to us from out of nowhere. I was terrified! I'd never seen
anything like it. But I wasn't the only one. Even the seasoned veterans were
scared. But the angel spoke to us and said, "Do not be afraid. I bring you
good news of great joy that will be for all people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been
born to you. He is Messiah, the Lord! This will be a sign to you. You will find
a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger."
Suddenly the star filled sky opened up and a great company of angels
appeared with him and they were all praising God and singing. "Glory to God in the Highest, and on Earth peace to men with
whom He is pleased."
There's no way I could even begin to describe the sound of that choir. A
couple of times later in my life I heard the musicians that rich people hired
to help them celebrate when their first son was born, but not even the
wealthiest King could have afforded a choir like this one. The music caused us
to lift our faces and our hands to the heavens. It filled our ears and our
hearts and was by far the most beautiful sound I ever heard in all my life.
When they faded away and left us we just stood there for a minute looking at
each other, our eyes filled with wonder, tears of joy streaming down the
weathered cheeks of my father and his friends. They'd of course heard all the
talk about a Messiah, but none of them ever expected to see Him. And now, not
only would we see Him; we would be the first! One minute we were finishing up a
long shepherd's day just like always, and the next we were witnessing the
invasion of Earth by Heaven itself. Eternity had entered time and the Son of
God had become the Son of Man, almost right before our eyes. This had been my
first day as a real shepherd, and there would never be another one like it.
Mindful of our responsibility, we left a couple of our number to watch the
sheep, and the rest of us took off for Bethlehem
in search of the sign the angel had told us to look for. And sure enough, in a
stable behind the inn at the edge of town, we found them.
A man with the clothing and calloused hands of the working class stood
protectively over a radiant but obviously exhausted young woman who didn't look
much older than I was. In the manger before her was a baby, a normal looking
healthy baby boy. "Can this be what God looks like," I thought,
"He's just a baby." Like most people, I expected that if I ever saw
God He'd be a giant Warrior King with a huge sword and a menacing look. This
baby looked so fragile.
Others were beginning to gather around as well, because we'd shouted at
everyone we saw on the way in to follow us. Now we told them all the whole
story of what we'd experienced in the field with the angel and the choir, and
that we had come to town to see for ourselves if what we heard was true. They
were all amazed and couldn't stop talking about it, but the woman just sat
there with her baby as if she was soaking up every detail of this most blessed
of all blessed events. I'll never forget the look in her eyes or the expression
on her face.
Having seen the proof that the angel told us to look for, we went back to
our flocks, praising God and giving Him Glory, and thanking Him for letting
humble shepherds like us be the first to see the
Christ child. It was ironic, wasn't it, that we who spent our lives tending
lambs born to die, should be the first to see The Lamb, born to die for the
sins of the people.
The man, who I found out was named Joseph, and the
woman Mary stayed in Bethlehem
through the winter. Remember, I said that no one travels voluntarily after late
fall, especially heading north with a new born baby. They found a house and
Some time later there was a big fuss as a caravan of rich priests called
Magi arrived from Parthia, a
country near Israel that had
been part of the Persian Empire. They called
the baby the King of the Jews, gave him expensive gifts and money, and bowed
down before Him to worship. Somebody said that the Magi had been waiting for
this time since the Hebrew Prophet Daniel had told them about it 500 years
earlier. They had handed the secret down from father to son all that time. They
even said that the money was Daniel's personal gift to the Messiah.
After the Magi left, things were quiet again for a few days, but then Joseph
suddenly took Mary and the baby away secretly in the middle of the night. The
next morning Herod's soldiers swept into town, searching from house to house,
killing all the male babies. They were looking for Him because Herod didn't
want any competition for the throne, but He was gone. We heard that Joseph had
been warned in a dream and taken Mary and the baby south to Egypt where the
weather was warmer. It's a good thing those Magi had come. Their gifts paid for
the family's escape and their stay in Egypt.
Years later, after we had both grown up, I heard about a prophet named Jesus
People said He might be the Messiah. I remembered that Joseph and Mary had come
from there, and so I decided to investigate. Walking north for several days I
finally found Him by the Sea of Galilee and as
I listened to Him speak, my heart was filled with
hope. I especially liked how He called Himself our shepherd. He promised to
keep us from wandering, and to protect us from predators who would try to steal
us away. And He swore that He'd never lose a single one of us, just like we
promised the owners of the sheep we watched. He was the Messiah. I just knew
Later, I was there in Jerusalem,
near death myself, when He was executed. As He breathed His last, I became
convinced that I'd see Him again just like He promised. Three days later I did
see Him, and knew that all of the angel's promises had come true in the life,
death, and resurrection of the Baby from Bethlehem.
He wasn't the King we expected, but He was the One we needed. He was our
Savior, our Messiah.
Looking back on that night, I realize that many will never understand what
happened there. I was an eyewitness and I barely understand it myself. But I
know this. On that night in Bethlehem
a group of shepherds became sheep, and the Lamb of God became our Shepherd. Merry Christmas. 12-23-06