Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Shepherds story

 So we had Mary story, Joespeh, and the sheep tale.

Yes Mr Dunwoody, I know you told me to write a story for the children and young adults. Though don't we want the adults to take something from Advent.

Bernie the Shepherd told me wanted to tell a story. I cannot say no. (It means I can have a day eating Christmas cake well actually make a last minute one and lick the bowl.)

Good morning, or when ever you are reading this. I asked Rebecca really nicly if I could write a stoty for you. I haven't introuduc myelf yet, well it's a bit complicated. I am called Bernard though my friends call be Bernie though I hope I can be friends with you.  I'm a Shepherd and I must admit that this is kind of a new experience for me. I am seldom asked to speak to a group of people. You see, where I live nobody really cares what a Shepherd has to say. In my neighborhood, a Shepherd occupies one of the lowest rungs of society.

People don't trust us. They think we can't tell the difference between "mine" and "yours". Now, it is true that some Shepherds are less than ethical in their dealings, and some ARE scoundrels, but most of us are honest, God-fearing guys. I guess it is kind of like your politicians. A few are crooks and so all are seen as being dishonest. The tax-collectors have the same problem . . . but they deserve it!

Anyway, most people stay away from us because we aren't thought of as being as good as everyone else. You see, we aren't able to observe all the prescribed ceremonial washings that the religious elite observe. We can't maintain that sense of purity they insist on. So, we are disqualified from many of the religious opportunities. This doesn't make us pigs! We can't help our situation. . . we're Shepherds. What are we supposed to do?

Most of the people think we are odd. The truth is, we Shepherds probably are a different breed of person. O.K. maybe we are a lot different. Our closest friends are sheep! They are special to us. We are committed to protecting them. (Haven't you ever had a pet?) Sheep are very vulnerable, you know. They are easy prey to wild animals and they aren't very smart. If you don't keep an eye on them, they'll wander off before you know it. They need us. (Remeber what happend in the sheep tale?)

When I say we are committed to our sheep you need to know what I mean. A good Shepherd would not only risk his life for his sheep, he would give his life for his sheep.

We take great pride in what we do. My friends and I have a very special job; we care for the sheep raised for temple sacrifices in Jerusalem. Every morning and evening a lamb without blemish is offered in sacrifice. Those lambs have to come from someplace. That someplace is my flock.

At Passover time we are as busy as Turkey farmers at Thanksgiving. It's important we not only protect the sheep but keep them in the best of shape. If we don't do our job, others will be unable to worship.

Most of the time we work alone. So, we talk to our sheep a great deal. We develop a relationship with the sheep. I know, it sounds like we're one bagel short of a basket, but, haven't you ever talked to a family pet when no one else was around???

We talk to our flock so much that it gets to the point that our sheep recognize our voice. All I have to do is call the name of one of my flock and he or she responds instantly. (SURPRISED) You mean you didn't know we had names for all our sheep? We do. You could call their name and you wouldn't get any response at all. They don't recognize your voice. They will respond instantly to my voice. That's why at night I can combine my flock with several other flocks and can take turns at watch. In the morning we simply call for our sheep and they follow their own shepherd. If you've never seen it before, it's really quite an impressive demonstration.

Well, anyhow, the night Messiah was born we had combined our flocks and were taking turns at the watch just outside of Bethlehem. A few of our group were already asleep. I and a couple of others were sitting by the fire enjoying a late night snack of cheese and lentils and swapping a few sheep stories. What happened next is something I will never ever forget.

Suddenly, standing before us was a figure that was radiant and unlike anything we had ever seen before. Instantly, we knew it was a messenger from God and just as instantly we were all petrified. We didn't have to discuss this . . .we just knew. We couldn't even swallow. I think we may have been holding our breath!

We were afraid we were going to be destroyed. Everyone of us knew that no one can see God and live. It was as if we had been turned inside out. Everyone was fully awake and we were so afraid we couldn't move a muscle.

The angel spoke and said, "Don't be afraid! I come to bring you good news, news which will bring joy to everyone. Born to you today in Bethlehem is the Savior, he is Christ the Lord and you can find this baby wrapped in cloths and laying in a manger."

"Born to us?" the Messiah? Was this some kind of Heavenly message to the wrong address?

The sky was suddenly filled with angels who were chanting, "Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests." It was incredible. I'm sure we all stood their with our moths open and our eyes as wide as saucers. I'm still not sure any of us had taken a breath. It was unbelievable, and yet none of us doubted it was really happening.

We could have sat mesmerized all night, and yet, at the same time  it was so intense it was almost painful. And just as suddenly as the angel had appeared the host of Heaven retreated into the sky.

For several minutes we were silent. No one spoke, no one looked at each other, we were all numb and completely absorbed by what had just happened. We were all standing close to each other and felt warm, wonderful, loved and . . . . changed.

The silence continued until, Zarius broke the silence by saying simply, "Blessed be the name of the Lord." What followed was what could best be described as a brief time of worship.

I spoke out next and said, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see the Messiah. I think that is what the angel wanted us to do." And we began walking. It wasn't at all strange then, it was the natural response to what had happened. But looking back, we realize how out of character it was for us to just get up and leave our sheep. Normally we would never leave our sheep without someone there to protect them; but we weren't worried about that then. Maybe we knew instinctively that the God who summoned us, would protect our flock.

It's really not that strange you know. I'm sure you know what I mean. When you meet God; time, other concerns, even your own self fade into the background; you become consumed with the glory and majesty of God. The only thing that matters is Him. And the only response is obedience. I suppose for you who have the Holy Spirit dwelling within it is a common experience, but for us, it was unique.

Most people think it strange to walk off like we did, but, if you knew God wanted you to do something, wouldn't you do it?

It was late at night but we found the manger with little difficulty. It was strange, as if someone was guiding us to the child. I suppose that is exactly what was taking place.

When we walked into the stable there was a strange sense of God's presence in the place. It looked like an old dirty stable but it was also like stepping into Heaven itself.

We were startled in some respects by Mary and Joseph. They seemed so young, so ordinary to play such a prominent role in such an awesome event. Mary looked tired. Joseph was beaming. The baby had just finished nursing and was now asleep. In so many ways the baby was ordinary: rosy cheeks, little tiny fingers, eyes unfocused and seldom opened, arms stretching. But at the same time, we sensed that this was something beyond an ordinary birth. I can't explain it. I guess it would be like that moment when you first realize that Jesus was not THE Savior, but MY Savior. It is an instant that only comes from the Spirit of God.

Mary and Joseph were surprised, maybe even a little frightened to see us. But maybe it was the way we looked at the baby; they relaxed almost immediately. It was like we were all a part of a very special secret.

We asked, "Is this the Christ child?" They looked startled at first, but then smiled. We told them about our experience in the field and they listened with rapt attention. They wanted all the details and wanted to hear the story several times.

I don't know how long we were there. It seemed like minutes, but I'm sure it was hours. All I remember was the profound reluctance to leave.

As we left to return to our flocks, we couldn't help but stop everyone we saw and tell them about the baby. Yes, we shy uncultured shepherds were walking up to strangers and telling them our experiences. You should have seen the looks on people's faces! I'm sure most of them thought we were crazy. But their looks did not stop us from telling our story. We have been telling the story ever since. I mean, when you meet the Savior, the joy is not something you can keep to yourself. . . I know you know what I mean.

I can't imagine anyone who would not be transformed by what we had just witnessed. We had to tell them . . . it was too good to keep to ourselves, "The Long-awaited Deliverer" had come! We had a responsibility to share the news.

Many people looked at us like we were drunk. Some laughed. Others called us ignorant. But it didn't matter. There were some who did listen and some of them went to the stable and they looked, they saw, and they were changed.

When we went to Jerusalem we told people about our experiences as well. Most of them laughed. One man, named Simeon, asked many questions.

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