A Christmas Reflection – An Interview with the Three Shepherds

Let’s take ourselves back, back in time, Its forty years after the birth of Jesus, and some of the shepherd’s who were in Bethlehem that night have been gathered together to be reflect on what really happened as they watched their flocks that night.

The First Shepherd – Josiah

I’m an old man now, and perhaps my memory is dimmed with age, but since you ask, I do still remember that night years ago – a night much like any other I suppose, mmmm colder perhaps, yes cold alright, I remember sitting by the fire.

And… there was a baby, yes that’s true enough, but all this talk since of angels, holy voices, travelling stars, hmmmph what to make of that? Well all I can say is you try sitting the night in a paddock, keeping watch, listening for every little noise, peering through the darkness for any movement, you do that night in night out, over the years and you’ll end up seeing and hearing enough things to make your hair stand on end.

Now, was that night any different?

Hmmm..  I can’t say now for sure, it was so long ago….  Certainly we wandered into town, something drew us there, leaving young Simon to keep watch for a while, yes we went … in search of warmth… or wine more likely. And we found ourselves in a place, near the inn, and there was a baby in a smelly stall surrounded and warmed by the misty breath of the animals tethered there. Yes there was a baby, but a miracle you say? Well any birth is a miracle, that’s what I say. But no, this was just one more, another born poor, to a couple of kids just passing through from somewhere else, another hungry mouth to feed in a world of hunger.

There’s talk of who he became. Yes I’ve heard some of it, but never took much note… no, my job is fattening sheep for market so they can feed the mouths of hungry children like that one. And so their fleece can clothe them. Yes I admit, there was a baby, but that’s all I recall from that night, nothing more.

The Second Shepherd – Jacob

Josiah, your mind’s gone dim with age old man, of course there were angels, you were there, come on, there were thousands of them, a sky-full of them. Yes it was a cold night, you’re right there, but we were warmed and comforted by the praise of the angel song.

Oh Josiah’s right enough, you do see and hear all manner of things at night in the fields, strange inexplicable things, but none stranger than that light which rose above our campfire and dimmed it to insignificance. There’s no denying that strange eerie song which captured us and spoke to our hearts…”Go to Bethlehem, to see a child in a manger” We knew all about Bethlehem, King David’s town, the place the Saviour would be born – everyone knew that, we lived with that hope, carried it in our hearts every day. We only had to hear the Angel’s message and we fairly bolted into town. And there was a child sure enough, lying in a manger, wrapped in swaddling cloths, just like King Solomon. Josiah’s right – there was wine too, but I swear that came later… in celebration, once we had seen the child.

Yes that baby did grow up to be a great Rabbi, or so I heard, a great teacher, he even had disciples. And I used to think to myself “and we were there at his birth”… a famous person, a great person.

But I didn’t take too much notice after that… it got a bit dangerous – I hear he met with a nasty end, got on the wrong side of the Romans and the establishment, so it was safer to keep one’s distance – but nothing can take that night away from me, the hope, the beauty of it, the angels, the baby in the manger… it will live with me forever… I doubt if there’s a day goes by that I don’t think of it. Just beautiful…..

The Third Shepherd – Samuel

You know, I think of it differently these days. Sure.., when I look back on that night I can say that Jacob and old Josiah are both right… in a way.  There were strange lights, there was a birth, yes.. there was wine too, probably did go to our heads a bit… yes that’s all true… but… so much has happened since then. You see I asked around at the time, found out this family had come from Nazareth or they settled there afterwards, or some such story. And so when, years later, a famous teacher appeared  from there, Nazareth of all places, I figured it out. Right age you see? And yes, it was said he was born in Bethlehem.

And so I guess it was curiosity, at first, that led me to go and hear him, and I ended up leaving everything to follow him – and what a teacher he was – it was like, now how can I say this…. it was like he told you everything you already knew, but it was like something you’d never heard before. I know that sounds silly but that’s the only way I can describe it.

And if the Angels singing in the fields that night felt like a… like a… how did you describe it Jacob? like a warm comforting blanket, well that was nothing compared to his words, when he spoke it was like what he said went straight into your heart and felt like fire and energy and peace and freedom all at once.

And it wasn’t just what he said either, but what he did for people. He brought them together, all sorts, he helped them, just his touch brought peace or healing… and to look into his eyes was like, was like…. Well it’s probably blasphemous to say this but it was like meeting God.

Yes I followed him, I couldn’t stay away, but not because of his birth or even, in the end, because of what he said, but no if I had to get right down to it, I followed him because of how it felt in here… in my heart.

Yes he did meet with a sticky end, Jacob’s right there, but even that wasn’t really the end, well it sure felt like it at first, we were shattered, but somehow, in time, the hope and the love he had seemed to spill over into his followers and beyond, it lived on.

And when I heard some say they’d seen him after the crucifixion, somehow transformed, with a message of peace – well my head said “no way this is too wierd!” but my heart said “yes” and then, at that point,  and it’s funny you asking me about the birth after all these years, because it was at that point that I did think back and remember that night in the fields and the light and radiance of that vision, and that small birth, that fragile gift of new life, and somehow it all seemed to fit in, it felt right, and again I heard the voice of my heart say “yes”……..

Christmas Sermon 2018