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Lost Sheep

Christ as Shepherd is the central image of many favorite Bible passages, including Psalm 23, Isaiah 40:11 and John 10:11-15. There are many
good sermons and studies on these. Instead of attempting another one,
let me offer a related story, about shepherds visiting the infant Christ
(Luke 2:8-20).


The Lamb's Tale

a Nativity story
by Constance Morgenstern


            I do not know what woke me up. The smells were no different from
any other night--my mother behind me, Flute Shepherd nearby.  Long Shepherd
and the Bareface, as usual, were butting each other with words . . .
until that light.
            It crept up our hill like dawning.  Long Shepherd and the Bareface cried out, then fell flat as shadows.  Flute Shepherd ran up the hill, but he too, fell silent. 
It was a new voice I heard.
            “Do not be afraid,” it said in tones as soft as one of Flute Shepherd’s songs.
“I bring you good news.”
            The shepherds gathered their feet under them and stood.  Long Shepherd pointed to the village below us.  Then, while he was still pointing, the light behind
the hilltop grew bright as the sun and I heard as many night songs as the sheep
in our flock, one for each.
            I tried to see over my mother, then tripped around her up the hill.  Bareface ran past me on his way down.
            “I’m going to the village!” he exclaimed.
            “I also must see this thing,” called Long Shepherd.  He turned and found his way more slowly with his staff.  Where were they going?  The flock was asleep here on the hill.
            I looked at Flute Shepherd.  “Come along then, Spring,” he said to me. 
“I won’t leave you here alone.”  Flute Shepherd snatched up his flute and hurried
down the hill after the others.
            Bareface was first, but I would not have followed him.  He once led the flock
to a meadow with Cramp Weed.  Five ewes ate of it.  Two of them died.
            Long Shepherd was next.  I would not have followed him either.  He knows
the good grasses, but has a heart of sand.  When a wolf came for Starlight’s lame twin, Long Shepherd did not fight, even with his staff.  No, I would not follow him. 
He does not know our names.
            “Come along, Spring,” repeated my shepherd, waving his flute.  “We are going to find the Savior.”
            Savior?  Savior?  What was a savior for such running in the night? 
If it was a new kind of grass, it would have to be very juicy.  But where were the grasses here?  We were on a hard path leading to the village.  There was no grass,
just many strange smells.
            “Hurry on, Spring,” called my shepherd, “or I will have to carry you.” 
I knew that he could.  He’d carried even Promise at the rough stream.
            It was like that stream, too, the way the shepherds bounced for the village. 
It was hard for me to catch them--until Bareface stopped at a high wall.  “Messiah in a manger," he breathed. "Where now?"
            Messiah-in-a-manger?  Perhaps it was the name of a new pool, full of sky and sweet water!  I could smell water somewhere, but I did not see any pools.
            At least the shepherds were moving more slowly.  They were searching
for Messiah-in-a-manger as a mother searches for a lost lamb.
            I have been lost myself, I think--more than once.  Last time, I was tangled in thorns and could not get out.  Flute Shepherd was the one who freed me, though it
cut his hands to do it.  “I missed you, Spring,” he said.
            Suddenly Long Shepherd shouted.  “Here!”
            “Yes!  Here!” called my shepherd as he ran into an opening spilling with light.  What was it that was so important?
            I followed him inside.  There was a hard dirt floor with no new grass.  There was no pool either, just two donkeys and an ox.  Farther in, though, was a small pile
of hay.  I was going to try some--just a little--when something tickled my nose!
            It was softer than new grass, but I didn’t know what it was.  Its smell was like a shepherd’s, but it was tiny as a still-wet lamb.  It had eyes like deep water.
            “His name is Jesus,” said a voice that reminded me of my mother’s.
            Long Shepherd bent as he could and smiled at the Jesus.  “He will be our Savior,” said Long Shepherd, but I still didn’t know what that was.
            “It is the Messiah!” bubbled Bareface, but I could not understand his joy.
            Flute Shepherd knelt and held me at his side.  “It is the Good Shepherd,”
he said quietly... and I knew.


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