Sunday, December 20, 2009
I know what people think about shepherds. Crude, smelly, and not very intellectual. Our life is ordinary, even tedious. It’s hot in the daytime and cold at night. Sheep are stupid animals – they get themselves into a lot of trouble if there’s no one watching them. You can’t be a shepherd and be lazy. It doesn’t take much education, but it does take skill and perseverance. We shepherds usually work as a team and keep an eye out for each other’s sheep. It’s more efficient that way.
I like the nights best of all. We find a bit of shelter from the wind, perhaps against a big rock, and build a fire. We talk about a lot of stuff. Mixed in with the chitchat some serious debate goes on. Philosophy, you might call it. Life, love and politics. It was a night like that that changed my life.
The fire had died down and I lay on my back, wrapped in my cloak, watching the stars. They were so far away, and so beautiful. Conversation dwindled to silence. My eyelids sagged, weighted by sleep. It was the light that woke me. From out of nowhere appeared this – this glowing being. I know it was an angel, but to this day, I can’t completely describe it. I jumped to my feet, and so did the others. Then I cowered in fear, blinded by the intense light. I was certain that I would be struck dead.
Instead I heard a voice say,
“Don’t be afraid. Listen to me. I have good news for you.”
The angel went on to tell us about the birth of a baby, a Savior, the Savior we’d waited for. He said it was news of great joy for the whole world. Before I had time to think about what he said, the sky filled with more angels, and music. It was as if the stars and angels whirled and danced together.
The sight tore at my heart and caused such an ache of longing deep inside that I clutched my hands to my chest. The song was perfect, the most perfect thing I’d ever heard. It made me long to join them, to raise my cracked warble in the same harmony of praise to Almighty God. Tears ran down my skin and I knew that the message of the angels was for me. God was sending His Son for me, into my stinky, dirty world.
Then, just as suddenly as they came, the angels left. The stars had hardly changed position. The small fire still burned. Everything was the same, and everything was different. We stood there, our hearts thumping wildly.
“Did you see…?”
“Could it be?”
The angel had told us where we could find the baby and we stumbled over rocks and tufts of grass in our eagerness to get there. We stood outside the stable, hesitant for a moment. A man appeared, tired, but smiling slightly. None of us knew what to say to him. Then Jethro stepped forward.
“Please,” he said, “we want to see the Savior, the baby.”
And then we all spoke at once, blurting out bits of our experience. The man didn’t seem too surprised and beckoned us to enter.
My eyes were drawn to the baby, so helpless, lying in a manger. His mother watched us carefully but said nothing as we crowded nearer. I even dared to reach out and touch his soft, tiny head with my rough fingers.
I knew that I couldn’t keep this news to myself. It was too wonderful, too amazing. My family and friends had to know about this birth. I told everyone I met about the baby. And then I went back to the sheep, to the hillside and the night fires, but I wasn’t the same person inside.
God, who lived beyond the stars, was suddenly close. That night I caught a glimpse of His glory. Now, when I go to the Temple and hear the priests’ monotone reading of the glory of God, I think back and even now, my breath catches in my throat.
copyright Lorrie Orr 2009
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