The cool evening air rolled over the hillside making the small fire flutter as if trying to extinguish it. The old man sitting beside it pulled his cloak tighter and also used it to cover the newborn lamb that was lying on his lap. Stroking the small fuzzy frame, he raised his eyes to look out as the sun sank lower and lower to its nightly resting place. It would be another long, cold but hopefully quiet night.
While looking up he spotted a couple coming up the slope on the rough path that led into the small nearby town. The woman was riding on a donkey all hunched over as if by doing so she could feel some bit of protection from the wind. He could see they were a young couple, and that they were cold. Even though he expected to be ignored as shepherds always were, he extended his right hand almost in supplication and asked them to come and warm themselves by the fire. “Just for a few minutes”, he implored, “your woman looks cold”.
He thought that they might just go on by, when the man leading the donkey turned to look at the young woman, his face forming an unspoken question, to which she raised her head to look back and say, “I could use the warmth but we can’t stay too long”.
Huddling around the fire, the shepherd asked where they were from and why they were traveling so late. He could see that she was pregnant and thought to himself that it was foolish for them to be traveling for someone in her condition. After explanations were made, the young woman commented that he must be a good man for tenderly taking a little lamb under his cloak; that such care was truly a gift.
The old man raised his eyes to her and after a moment’s hesitation he said, “My father always told me that every person is born with a gift.” Then pointing at her swollen midriff, he continued, “and you are carrying yours’, to which she replied with the question, “And then, what is your gift”? He gave a small wry chuckle he answered, “Nothing, but my gift is the hope of waiting for one”.
After they had gone, the nights silence was broken only by the muted sound of sheep moving to keep themselves warm. As the shepherd watched the sky, one particularly bright star seemed to grow in size until he felt that it would fall onto the earth, when all of a sudden a form like that of a man stood in the middle of that light.
“Don’t be afraid”, because the keeper of the sheep had shrunk back in absolute fear, “I’m here to give you good news of great joy for all people”. Not daring to move even one muscle, the man listened to the rest of the message, and all of a sudden it felt like the sky was filled with light and what sounded like songs of thanks to God.
After recovering from the vision, the shepherd called his companions who had also seen it and together they left the sheep and went to the small town of Bethlehem where they were to look for a baby, in a stable of all places!
When they found the child of vision, they cautiously approached and without saying a word fell to their knees and stared at the child. Tears rolled down the old man’s face as he realized that of all the people in the world who the angel should have told, it was the rejected ones of society that received the news first. His hope of a gift had just been realized in this little baby.
I adapted this story from the movie The Nativity Story because when I first saw it years ago, I realized that this is what we want to share at the kitchen when we deal with those who are without a reason to live.
Hope! What better picture is there of Christmas! From all of us at the Potters Hands kitchen and our families, MERRY CHRISTMAS RED DEER.
Chris Salomons is the kitchen co-ordinator of Potter’s Hands in Red Deer.