An elderly drifter studied the dark sapphire sky as a frigid North wind ruffled his overly long, graying hair. The brilliant display of stars glistened from their lofty homes in the heavens, and he was thankful there were no clouds. The shining cosmos would illuminate a path while he looked for the tiny lamb who had strayed.
Only days ago had the drifter joined these shepherds when they found him starving and injured by the side of the road. They tended his leg and shared their food without question or judgement of his circumstance, and even allowed him to accompany them on these last few days of their journey to Bethlehem. His steps crunched across the frosty grass of the pasture just outside the city where they arrived earlier that evening. He felt a twinge of sadness at the thought of parting from the flock, for it was the first time in his life he had a purpose that didn’t serve his own selfish desires. The constant weight of his past pressed firmly on his shoulders. He knew his transgressions were too great to be forgiven.
The starlight did not dim as he entered the trees. Soon a soft bleating caught his ear, and the escapee was located beneath an obliging fern. The drifter scooped up the lamb, looked directly into his shiny, black eyes and spoke, “Although it was you who strayed, little lamb, it was I who was lost. Your existence has given me a purpose. Your innocence has no care of my past sins.” The old man rested his etched brow against the baby’s soft face. He wished his newly-found profession wasn’t coming to an end.
A long, thick branch lay broken on the ground nearby, and the drifter bent down to retrieve it. The makeshift crutch would aid in supporting his injured leg until it was completely healed. He wrapped the lamb around the back of his neck, and, crutch in hand, they made their way to the clearing. The baby heard its mother’s voice from among the grazing sheep and leapt to the ground in search of her. The drifter let his eyes wander from the flock; he looked out across the moon-lit terrain. The outline of Bethlehem was scarcely visible in the distance.
A rush of emotion caught the drifter by surprise. The long branch supported the old man’s weight as he sagged beneath the tears that leaked from his heavily lined eyes. Where would tomorrow take him? What would daylight bring? He bowed his head and wept as past bitterness and present uncertainty soaked his hollowed cheeks. His life had not been a been a beautiful one. His soul had never been good. Or kind. He had no one. No one would have him…and as black despair overwhelmed his freezing senses, he felt white Light surround his being. The pain of his wretchedness was soothed by warmth, and the drifter opened his eyes to see a holy being hovering above the flock. Whether it was mere inches from his face or miles away he could not tell, and his heart pounded with fear. The angel spoke, and a peace which surpassed his understanding descended from the top of his head and sunk through his chest and into the pit of his belly. He fell to his knees.
“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
At that the sapphire sky exploded with angels and light and music and singing, and the drifter was given a small glimpse of the celebration occurring in Heaven on this December night.
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”
Their voices were as pure as a child, as strong as a warrior. He looked about and saw the shepherds in awe, praising God. And then he noticed the flock, all kneeling with their small, wooly heads bowed as the angel choir worshiped above them. In the distance, a single ray of light dropped from the brightest star above and revealed a small stable, lighted from within. There was sure to be a manger inside.
The drifter leaned on his staff and stood with resolve. His first destination was marked by the star. His purpose now clear. With the shepherds, he would go see this baby. And then he would tell others the joyous news of what he had seen. He was a shepherd, now. He would have a flock to care for and lead. The little, lost lamb–who was lost no more–found his way back to the old drifter’s side. Together they went to see the Lamb of God.
Merry Christmas and
-ciao for now-