Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas! Hope you all have a wonderful time with friends and family. Below is a Christmas story I wrote for my Sunday school class this Christmas.

The First Christmas

It was dark. It was cold. Out in the field a fire was burning. Shepherds were huddling around it, trying to stay warm, their sheep sleeping nearby. Yaved and Asher had been allowed to come with their fathers their day, and they huddled together by the fire as well. It had been a boring day. They had expected all kinds of excitement – fighting off wolves and lions who would try to steal their sheep – but none of that had happened. Their fathers had been relieved at finally having a quiet day, but Yaved and Asher were annoyed.

“Being a shepherd is no fun,” Asher complained to his friend. “I thought it would be so exciting.”

“I know,” Yaved agreed. “We didn’t get to fight anything and did you see how people looked at us? As if they hated us.”

Asher sighed. “It would be so much better to be a Roman soldier,” he said. “Everyone is afraid of you and you get to ride around in chariots. Youssef saw them in Jerusalem and he said they have four horsepower chariots now.”

“Four horsepower?” Yaved whistled. “Those would be so fast! I wish I had one of those.”

“Well, as a shepherd we would never be able to afford one of those,” Asher grumped.

“Being a shepherd is the worst,” Yaved agreed.

They huddled even closer to the fire. Their faces were glowing with heat, but their backs were still cold. The other shepherds were talking amongst themselves and paying no attention to the boys. Asher threw sticks in the fire and stifled a yawn. Despite the lack of excitement in the day, he was getting tired. There had been a lot of walking. But he did not want to go to sleep before his friend. Yaved still looked very much awake, as he was trying to listen in on the other shepherds.

The shepherds were talking about the Saviour. Yaved had heard them talking about the Saviour many times before and it was almost getting boring. But at the same time there was something comforting about hearing the familiar stories and he was too tired to talk anymore.

Asher nudged him. “Do you really think the Saviour will come any time soon?”

Yaved looked at his friend and shrugged. “They have been talking about it for as long as I can remember, and the prophesy is hundreds of years old. I don’t think it’s going to happen anytime soon.”

“It would be cool though,” Asher said. “He will come to save us. Everything will be different.”

Yaved snorted. “We don’t even go to temple and when was the last time you went to the synagogue? If the Saviour comes, I am sure he will come to the Pharisees and the priests. He is going to be King, he will hardly want to have anything to do with lowly shepherds.”

Asher was quiet, but he felt stung by his friend’s words. The worst part was that he knew Yaved was right.

“Don’t speak like that.”

Yaved looked up. His father looked at him sternly.

“The Saviour will come for everyone, not just the rich and famous. Wasn’t David a shepherd boy? And did not God make David king over Israel?”

Yaved coloured and Asher stared at the ground. Yaved’s father was right: King David had been a simple shepherd boy before he was made king, but it still felt incredible that the Saviour would also come for the shepherds. Yaved had always thought King David must have been a special shepherd boy. He had probably been much cleaner and had gone to temple and the synagogue all the time. He could not possibly have been like them: dirty and despised.

Suddenly the sky brightened. It looked like the sun had come up in the middle of the night and when Yaved peered up, he gasped. An apparition appeared in the sky, an angel. Around the fire, his father and the other shepherds scrambled to their feet, their staffs and slingshots in hand. Asher covered his head with his arms and whimpered. He felt sure they were all about to die.

Then the angel spoke: “Don’t be afraid. I am bringing you some good news. It will be a joy to all the people. Today your Saviour was born in David’s town. He is your Christ, the Lord. This is how you will know him: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a feeding box.”

The light grew even brighter and Yaved saw that the whole sky was filled with angels. All the men were standing now, and Asher had joined Yaved and his father. The angels sung. It was a sound unlike anything Yaved had ever heard,, It was glorious and triumphant. It took him a while to make out the words, but this is what the angels were singing:

“Give glory to God in heaven, and on earth let there be peace to the people who please God.”

Then, as suddenly as they had appeared, the angels were gone. It was dark once more and Asher blinked to adjust his eyes to the sudden darkness. Yaved pulled his hand excitedly.

“Let’s go and find the baby!”

The shepherds shook themselves as if waking up. “Where do we go?” asked one of them.

“To Bethlehem,” said Asher’s father. “David’s town is Bethlehem.”

“We can’t just rush off and leave the sheep,” said one of the other shepherds.

“Sure we can,” said Asher. “The angel said we should go looking for the Saviour, so surely God will look after the sheep for us.”

Asher’s father riffled his hair, something he usually found very annoying. But tonight he was too excited to care.

“The boy is right,” said Asher’s father. “We should trust God to look after the sheep.”

It was hard to find the way in the dark. Asher’s father and Yaved’s father led with two torches and some of the other men carried torches as well, but it was still quite dark. They finally made it to Bethlehem. Asher’s father knocked on the first inn they came to. The innkeeper did not look happy when he opened the door, much less so when he saw a group of shepherds on his doorstep. He sent them away, saying he did not have people staying in the stable.

The next few inns were the same, but finally a grumpy innkeeper pointed them to the stable in the back of the courtyard. Asher’s heart was pounding in his throat as they approached the stable door. Yaved’s father knocked respectfully and after a few minutes the door was opened by a young man. He looked surprised to see the shepherds.

“We have come to see them baby,” Yaved shouted excitedly. “Can we see him?”

Yaved’s father laid a hand on Yaved’s shoulder. “The boy is very excited,” he told the man. “We have heard news of the Saviour being born in a stable, is this the right place?”

The man’s face broke open in a big smile and he thrust out his hand. “I am Joseph,” he said. “Please come in. This is Mary and there in the feeding box is Jesus, the Saviour.”

The shepherds entered the stable. They were quiet now, and even Yaved felt in saw of what he was about to witness. The stable was shabby and Mary was lying on some blankets in the hay. She smiled shyly at the men crowding in the stable. Joseph lifted the baby out of the feeding box and handed him to Asher’s father. Asher peeked at the baby’s face. It looked like an ordinary baby. There was nothing special about him. And yet, God Himself had told them through the angel that this was his Son, the Saviour of all mankind.

As if reading his mind, Asher’s father turned to him and said: “We are all born the same, as little babies. Who we grow up to be is up to God.”

Yaved looked around the stable. It was not the sort of place he had expected the Saviour to be born on and he felt very much put in his place. It seemed that God did not care about riches and important people. Yaved looked at Joseph and Mary who looked like two ordinary, poor people. Nothing flashy or important about them either. And God had chosen them, the despised shepherds, to be the first to hear the news of the birth of the Saviour. He felt warm with happiness at the realisation.

Finally the baby was passed back to his mother and the shepherds left the stable. It was getting light out, they had stayed a long time. Once they were out of the stable it seemed like the spell broke and everyone started talking at once.

“Can you believe we saw the Saviour?” Asher asked Yaved.

“I know! It’s so cool. And he is so normal, you wouldn’t even know he is so important.”

Every time the shepherds saw other people out in the streets, they stopped to tell them the exciting news. At first, people were not willing to believe a bunch of dirty shepherds, even accused them of talking rubbish. But after the shepherds had told them the whole story, people would thank them and rush off. Yaved glowed with pride. They were the messengers of God, and people finally took them seriously.

When they came back to the field, all the sheep were still there, quietly eating grass and being generally unimpressed with what had happened that night. The shepherds gathered their things and started moving the sheep to the next field.

“Still think being a shepherd is boring, Yaved?” his father teased.

Yaved blushed. “Not so much anymore, dad.”