An original Christmas story, suitable for reading to your family on Christmas Eve.
It was a chilly night on the Bethlehem hills. Judah and his brothers, Samuel and Micah, huddled under their furs, keeping an eye on the sheep. Micah began to nod off.
Suddenly, the sheep began bleating and scattering. The dogs worked to keep them together, and Jacob rose to look for the animal hunting them. As he strode through the flock, he realized that it was no longer dark, and no predator was in sight.
The light intensified, and soon it was as bright as day – brighter – and the men were terrified.
“I can’t see! It’s too bright! What’s happening?”
“I can hear music!”
They fell on their faces, unable to bear the brilliance in the sky, and a voice spoke, as cool as a breeze on a summer’s day, yet as powerful as a stormy ocean.
“Shepherds! Do not be afraid! I bring you joyful news. Today, in Bethlehem, the Messiah promised by the prophets has been born.”
Jacob risked a glance. In the light, he saw something – like a man, yet not. His heart was galloping. What could this mean?
The voice continued, “And here is a sign for you: you will find the baby wrapped in swaddling clothes, and lying in a manger.”
Instantly, the air was awash in singing: “Glory to God in the Highest, and Peace on earth to men of good will!”
The light faded quickly. Jacob’s heart slowed its panicked beating.
The three looked at each other in disbelief and wonder.
“Did you hear that?” asked Jacob.
“I heard a voice say the Messiah is born,” answered Micah.
“And the music,” added Samuel, “just like heavenly angels.”
The other two stared at him.
“Angels – of course, that’s who they were!” Micah jumped up with excitement. “They told us we’d find the baby in Bethlehem, so we must go!”
“What about the sheep? They’ll wander off if we leave them,” said Samuel.
“Don’t you think the sheep will be safe if angels want us to visit the baby?”
Jacob mumbled, “We’re not special. We’re not holy people. We just keep the sheep safe. Why would God announce anything to us?”
“Just come, Jacob,” said Micah, tugging Jacob’s sleeve and already heading downhill.
“How will we find the baby?” asked Samuel. “There are dozens of stables in town.
“The angels will help us, Samuel. There can’t be too many stables sheltering a newborn baby,” said Micah. “Oh look, see that light down there? It’s coming from that star!”
It was true. The stars were more brilliant than usual, and one star was so bright, that its light focused on one building. They headed that way, just as a dog arrived at Micah’s side, a lamb in its mouth.
Micah knelt down and took the lamb from the dog. There were no bites or scratches on the tiny creature, but it bleated pitifully, and a quick check revealed a broken leg.
“Good dog,” said Micah, patting the animal and releasing him to the flock. He could not tend to the lamb’s injuries here, so he carried it in his arms.
Finally, next to an inn, they found a tumbledown stable. The grunts of animals inside were mixed with another sound: a baby crying.
“This must be the place!” whispered Samuel.
“If he’s really a king, we should bring a gift,” said Jacob.
Micah looked at the lamb in his arms. “Perhaps this lamb, even injured…”
“No, any lamb must be without blemish.”
“We have nothing, then. Perhaps his parents will let us worship him anyway. We must try.”
So they crept inside. The smell of manure was strong, but at least the bodies of the beasts added warmth. Around the corner, they halted in awe.
A tired but lovely young woman held the child to her breast, while a man in rough homespun smoothed out hay in the manger for the baby’s bed.
The woman turned to her husband. “Joseph, look, we have visitors.” Looking at the shepherds, she asked, “How did you come to be here?”
The brothers exchanged looks. Finally, Jacob cleared his throat and nudged Micah to the front. Kneeling before the mother and child, Micah said, “We are only shepherds, but angels came and told us of the birth of the Messiah, so we wanted to see the baby. We are sorry, but we have no gifts. Will you permit us to worship the Holy Child?”
Mary smiled. “Of course. You are our first visitors, and you are welcome. He will be a different kind of king, born in a stable.” She removed the infant from her breast, wiped the milk from his dreamy face, and turned him towards the shepherds. Though the child was only a few hours old, when his eyes met Micah’s, he felt wisdom and love pouring into his soul.
Just then, the lamb struggled out of Micah’s arms. Dragging its broken leg, it went to the child and touched his foot with its nose. Micah retrieved it and held it close, apologizing.
“We must get back to our sheep,” said Jacob. “Thank you for letting us see the young King.”
Hearts beating with joy, they left the stable, laughing, smiling, and dancing their way back to the sheep.
“We must tell everyone!” said Samuel. “The Messiah is born, and we were his first visitors!”
“Really, Samuel, do you think anyone will believe us?” asked Jacob.
“Some day they will. I’m going to tell everyone. How about you, Micah?”
“Yes, I’m going to tell everyone, too, after I tend to this injured baby.”
The sheep were there, the dogs keeping them together.
“See, I told you!” exclaimed Micah triumphantly. “God kept our sheep safe.”
While Samuel rebuilt the fire, Micah felt the lamb’s limbs, but found no injury. Puzzled, he laid it down. The creature stood up and trotted to Micah, bleating.
“Uh, Samuel? Jacob? Look at this,” he said. “You saw the broken leg, didn’t you?”
They nodded. “Well, look at him now. That leg is perfect.”