(Welcome to part 2 of a fictional story about the shepherds on the night of Jesus’ birth. If you missed part 1, just click HERE. You’ll find some discussion questions below the short story along with a fun fact for parents…)
I still could not believe what my eyes had just seen. The most majestic being telling me to not be afraid as I laid there trembling, while the night was lit up more than noon on the brightest day, and Rod just laying there chillin’ like this was normal. I wanted to yell, “ROD! This is not an ordinary night! Did you hear the angel? The Messiah, the One we’ve been waiting for! The one Nonna talked about all the time! HE IS HERE!”
But I didn’t have time to yell at Rod. Dan, Eli, and Solly were kicking up dust. Solly, with his long legs, had already caught up to Eli, and they were almost to the top of the hill. Suddenly, my arm was pulled so hard in their direction that my feet had no choice but to get moving. It was Uri, he would never leave without me. He drug me for a few steps and then my legs regained their strength. I had never been able to keep up with Uri, but this night was different, I ran with everything I had.
We caught up to Dan as we crested the hill, then all three of us sprinted towards Eli and Solly. Bethlehem was in our sights, we were almost there. We neared the area where our lambs were born, and that’s when I heard Him. I stopped in my tracks. Uri and Dan slowed to a walk, “Did you hear that” I gasped for breath. Dan shook his head side to side. “Boys,” Uri yelled towards Eli and Solly. They turned and headed back our way.
There it was again. Some ewes who were supposed to give birth soon were in for the night, but that was not their bleating I was hearing. I walked quietly toward the stalls. Well, as quietly as I could, I was still trying to catch my breath. I eased around the side and there on the far end stood a donkey right outside of the last stall. His ears were a little floppier than most, but he was a cute little guy, who was clearly exhausted. I looked back, the boys were all walking in different directions trying to figure out where the faint cry had come from. “This way,” I whispered as loud as a whisper could be. But I wasn’t waiting on them, I didn’t want to startle the donkey, but my eyes had to see…and quick.
Uri was on my heels, but he wasn’t going to outrun me. I rounded the side of the stall and caught my breath. This time not because I had run from the hillside, but from the sight. There He was! Born in Bethlehem of Judea, just like my Nonna had always said!
Uri stood speechless right beside me. Then Dan filed in, standing behind me, he looked over my shoulder. Eli was next, and then here came Solly. Not only did Solly have long legs, but his big feet got in his way quite a bit. He stumbled as he tried to slow down, hitting Eli, who tumbled into Dan. When Dan tried to balance himself with his flailing arms, he pushed me in the back, which sent me flying right into the middle of the stall. I caught myself just before my face hit the ground. Solly and those big feet!
I didn’t even take the time to look back at the boys. When I raised my head, I was eye level with the manger. I eased up on my knees and peered down. He was wrapped so snug, in cloths just like we used to swaddle our little lambs when they were born. We always had to keep them safe from blemishes, so we would wrap them tight and lay them in the manger until they stopped squirming everywhere. But this little One, He was no lamb, He was the One we had been waiting for.
He seemed to have a head full of dark hair which went right along with his olive skin. He cooed and squinted his nose, I couldn’t help but smile. He was perfect.
My thoughts were interrupted by someone giggling beside me. I looked over, she had one hand covering her mouth, trying not to laugh too loud, and the other one reached out for mine. “My name is Mary,” she stopped chuckling for a moment, “and you?”
I was still smiling and couldn’t help but laugh a little too, “I’m Asher.”
I turned to look back where they boys had been standing. There was another man with them, he was helping Solly stand back up on his big feet. My brother stretched out his arm, “I’m Uri, you won’t believe what brought us here!” The other guy had broad shoulders and a pointy chin. He raised his eyebrows, “You might be surprised! Come on in, it sounds like we have a lot to catch up on. I’m Joseph, by the way.” He shook Uri’s hand and motioned them all into the stall.
I piped us as they made their way in, “Boys, this is Mary, and this little guy, He is the One…” Just then, Joseph leaned over the manger and proudly said, “Jesus is His name. He is our Immanuel, we have no doubt, God is with us!” We all nodded our heads, still astonished with our not so ordinary night…which was only beginning.
1. Asher’s Nonna knew her scriptures and had taken the time to teach Asher. Is there someone in your life who takes the time to teach you about God and His word, if so, how do they teach you?
Be sure to take the time to let them know. You could make them a card, write them a letter, or give them a big hug and tell them how much you appreciate them teaching you. That might be the greatest Christmas gift they receive this year!
2. Have you ever had to wait on someone? What is it like when you have been waiting for them and they finally arrive?
Asher and all the Jews had been waiting on the arrival of Jesus for their entire lives. The shepherds were the first to hear of His arrival and meet Him. Had you been Asher, looking over into the manger, what emotions and thoughts would you have had?
3. When Asher looked into the manger and saw baby Jesus, where he was used to seeing baby lambs lay after they were born, he noted, “this was no lamb”, but John would call Jesus, “The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” Why did John call Jesus this? (Parents, see the note for you below)
4. Isaiah prophesied that Jesus would be called Immanuel, which means, “God is with us” Why would Joseph, Mary, and the shepherds all have no doubt that God was with them?
(Stay tuned for the final installment of “The Shepherd’s Not So Ordinary Night”. Be sure to sign up to receive new blog posts in your inbox.)
Parent fun fact: As I was researching how far Asher and the boys may have run and how in the world did they know where to run to (they were not following a star), I was amazed by the research. It’s too good not to share!
In Micah 4:8 where he is talking about the Lord’s future reign, he says, “As for you, tower of the flock, Hill of the daughter of Zion, To you it will come– Even the former dominion will come, The kingdom of the daughter of Jerusalem.” (emphasis added)
There was a place in Bethlehem called Migdal Eder, which translates “tower of the flock” (you know the nerd in me looked it up in Hebrew to make sure). The sheep around Bethlehem were not your typical sheep, they were being raised to become sacrifices in the Temple in Jerusalem.
“These were not just any flock and herd. The shepherds who kept them were men who were specifically trained for this royal task. They were educated in what an animal that was to be sacrificed had to be and it was their job to make sure that none of the animals were hurt, damaged or blemished. During lambing season the sheep were brought to the tower from the fields, as the lower level functioned as the birthing room for sacrificial lambs. Being themselves under special rabbinical care, these priests would strictly maintain a ceremonially clean birthing place. Once birthed, the priestly shepherds would routinely place two lambs in the double-hewn depression of a limestone rock known as “the manger” and “wrap the newborn lambs in swaddling clothes,” preventing them from thrashing about and harming themselves “until they had calmed down” so they could be inspected for the quality of being “without spot or blemish”. In fact, the Mishnah from where this information is found (Baba K. vii. 7)” Harold Smith, www.hethathasanear.com
How just like Him to have this much detail in the birth of “The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29). To be born in Bethlehem, the City of David, where the lambs were born to be sacrifices for sin, where they were wrapped in swaddling cloths, and kept without blemish. The shepherds would have known right where to look, Migdal Eder, “The Tower of the Flock” at Bethlehem. Wrapped up and laid in a manger, where His cries would echo the little ones bleating around him, the ones who would head for sacrifice in Jerusalem. Their sacrifice was temporary. But the little one swaddled that night, He would take away the sins of the world once and for all!
“Behold! The Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world!” Praise be to God!