Note: These scripts are written with the idea that an original participant in the advent story has come into our time to share their story. I presented these as simple monologues. I didn’t dress up or give any particular introduction . . . It didn’t take people long to see what I was doing. Please use these for your own ministry but do NOT publish them as your own. I would also appreciate a note telling me that these words are continuing to be used by God.
Good Morning! My name is Bernie. It’s really Bernard, but my friends call me Bernie and I hope we can be friends. I’m a Shepherd and I must admit that this is kind of a new experience for me. I am seldom asked to speak to a group of people. You see, where I live nobody really cares what a Shepherd has to say. In my neighborhood, a Shepherd occupies one of the lowest rungs of society.
People don’t trust us. They think we can’t tell the difference between “mine” and “yours”. Now, it is true that some Shepherds are less than ethical in their dealings, and some ARE scoundrels, but most of us are honest, God-fearing guys. I guess it is kind of like your politicians. A few are crooks and so all are seen as being dishonest. The tax-collectors have the same problem . . . but they deserve it! (Laughs)
Anyway, most people stay away from us because we aren’t thought of as being as good as everyone else. You see, we aren’t able to observe all the prescribed ceremonial washings that the religious elite observe. We can’t maintain that sense of purity they insist on. So, we are disqualified from many of the religious opportunities. This doesn’t make us pigs! We can’t help our situation. . . we’re Shepherds. What are we supposed to do?
Most of the people think we are odd. The truth is, we Shepherds probably are a different breed of person. O.K. maybe we are a lot different. Our closest friends are sheep! They are special to us. We are committed to protecting them. (Haven’t you ever had a pet?) Sheep are very vulnerable, you know. They are easy prey to wild animals and they aren’t very smart. If you don’t keep an eye on them, they’ll wander off before you know it. They need us.
When I say we are committed to our sheep you need to know what I mean. A good Shepherd would not only risk his life for his sheep, he would give his life for his sheep.
We take great pride in what we do. My friends and I have a very special job; we care for the sheep raised for temple sacrifices in Jerusalem.(1) Every morning and evening a lamb without blemish is offered in sacrifice. Those lambs have to come from someplace. That someplace is my flock.
At Passover time we are as busy as Turkey farmers at Thanksgiving. It’s important we not only protect the sheep but keep them in the best of shape. If we don’t do our job, others will be unable to worship.
Most of the time we work alone. So, we talk to our sheep a great deal. We develop a relationship with the sheep. I know, it sounds like we’re one bagel short of a basket, but, haven’t you ever talked to a family pet when no one else was around???
We talk to our flock so much that it gets to the point that our sheep recognize our voice. All I have to do is call the name of one of my flock and he or she responds instantly. (SURPRISED) You mean you didn’t know we had names for all our sheep? We do. You could call their name and you wouldn’t get any response at all. They don’t recognize your voice. They will respond instantly to my voice. That’s why at night I can combine my flock with several other flocks and can take turns at watch. In the morning we simply call for our sheep and they follow their own shepherd. If you’ve never seen it before, it’s really quite an impressive demonstration.
Well, anyhow, the night Messiah was born we had combined our flocks and were taking turns at the watch just outside of Bethlehem. A few of our group were already asleep. I and a couple of others were sitting by the fire enjoying a late night snack of cheese and lentils and swapping a few sheep stories. What happened next is something I will never ever forget.
Suddenly, standing before us was a figure that was radiant and unlike anything we had ever seen before. Instantly, we knew it was a messenger from God and just as instantly we were all petrified. We didn’t have to discuss this . . .we just knew. We couldn’t even swallow. I think we may have been holding our breath!
We were afraid we were going to be destroyed. Everyone of us knew that no one can see God and live. It was as if we had been turned inside out. Everyone was fully awake and we were so afraid we couldn’t move a muscle.
The angel spoke and said, “Don’t be afraid! I come to bring you good news, news which will bring joy to everyone. Born to you today in Bethlehem is the Savior, he is Christ the Lord and you can find this baby wrapped in cloths and laying in a manger.”
“Born to us?” the Messiah? Was this some kind of Heavenly message to the wrong address?
The sky was suddenly filled with angels who were chanting, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests.” It was incredible. I’m sure we all stood their with our moths open and our eyes as wide as saucers. I’m still not sure any of us had taken a breath. It was unbelievable, and yet none of us doubted it was really happening.
We could have sat mesmerized all night, and yet, at the same time (PAUSE) it was so intense it was almost painful. And just as suddenly as the angel had appeared the host of Heaven retreated into the sky.
For several minutes we were silent. No one spoke, no one looked at each other, we were all numb and completely absorbed by what had just happened. We were all standing close to each other and felt warm, wonderful, loved and . . . . changed.
The silence continued until, Zarius broke the silence by saying simply, “Blessed be the name of the Lord.” What followed was what could best be described as a brief time of worship.
I spoke out next and said, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see the Messiah. I think that is what the angel wanted us to do.” And we began walking. It wasn’t at all strange then, it was the natural response to what had happened. But looking back, we realize how out of character it was for us to just get up and leave our sheep. Normally we would never leave our sheep without someone there to protect them; but we weren’t worried about that then. Maybe we knew instinctively that the God who summoned us, would protect our flock.
It’s really not that strange you know. I’m sure you know what I mean. When you meet God; time, other concerns, even your own self fade into the background; you become consumed with the glory and majesty of God. The only thing that matters is Him. And the only response is obedience. I suppose for you who have the Holy Spirit dwelling within it is a common experience, but for us, it was unique.
Most people think it strange to walk off like we did, but, if you knew God wanted you to do something, wouldn’t you do it?
It was late at night but we found the manger with little difficulty. It was strange, as if someone was guiding us to the child. I suppose that is exactly what was taking place.
When we walked into the stable there was a strange sense of God’s presence in the place. It looked like an old dirty stable but it was also like stepping into Heaven itself.
We were startled in some respects by Mary and Joseph. They seemed so young, so ordinary to play such a prominent role in such an awesome event. Mary looked tired. Joseph was beaming. The baby had just finished nursing and was now asleep. In so many ways the baby was ordinary: rosy cheeks, little tiny fingers, eyes unfocused and seldom opened, arms stretching. But at the same time, we sensed that this was something beyond an ordinary birth. I can’t explain it. I guess it would be like that moment when you first realize that Jesus was not THE Savior, but MY Savior. It is an instant that only comes from the Spirit of God.
Mary and Joseph were surprised, maybe even a little frightened to see us. But maybe it was the way we looked at the baby; they relaxed almost immediately. It was like we were all a part of a very special secret.
We asked, “Is this the Christ child?” They looked startled at first, but then smiled. We told them about our experience in the field and they listened with rapt attention. They wanted all the details and wanted to hear the story several times.
I don’t know how long we were there. It seemed like minutes, but I’m sure it was hours. All I remember was the profound reluctance to leave.
As we left to return to our flocks, we couldn’t help but stop everyone we saw and tell them about the baby. Yes, we shy uncultured shepherds were walking up to strangers and telling them our experiences. You should have seen the looks on people’s faces! I’m sure most of them thought we were crazy. But their looks did not stop us from telling our story. We have been telling the story ever since. I mean, when you meet the Savior, the joy is not something you can keep to yourself. . . I know you know what I mean.
I can’t imagine anyone who would not be transformed by what we had just witnessed. We had to tell them . . . it was too good to keep to ourselves, “The Long-awaited Deliverer” had come! We had a responsibility to share the news.
Many people looked at us like we were drunk. Some laughed. Others called us ignorant. But it didn’t matter. There were some who did listen and some of them went to the stable and they looked, they saw, and they were changed.
When we went to Jerusalem we told people about our experiences as well. Most of them laughed. One man, named Simeon, asked many questions. (2)
“Glory to God in the Highest”. I’ve thought about those words many times. I’ve said them many times. Glory to God….indeed. The promise made to Abraham thousands of years before was fulfilled. Many had lost hope and said it wouldn’t happen; much like many of your day look at the promise of the Savior’s return.
I’m ashamed to admit that I had my doubts about Messiah and had not been as fervent as I should have been. We are a religious people but certainly not an obedient people at times. No one would have blamed God for casting us off and starting over. But, He didn’t. He kept His promise. He always does. Glory to God!
Hundreds of times I’ve asked myself: “Why me?” “Why a Shepherd, out in a field?” The Messiah should have come to a palace. He should have been greeted by priests, royalty, religious leaders – people who were more fully aware of the law. Some who believe He really was Messiah say He came to us first because He wanted to show that He was the Good Shepherd; others say the angels appeared to us because we would have been able to find a stable (laughs); some say we were the only ones awake at the time . . . yeah, right. (3) There are as many theories as there are people. Don’t think I haven’t wondered about it myself.
Why me? Why did God reach out to me in such a special and life transforming way? I’m nobody exceptional. Most people walk by me like I don’t exist and yet God sought me out specially. I suppose everyone who has met Him asks that same question: “Why me?”
Don’t you wonder? Don’t you marvel at the fact that God chose you? Do you ever sit quietly and ponder why you were able to see and others seem blinded to the truth? Why did the Spirit open our eyes? Why us? I guess that’s the nature and mystery of grace.
I don’t know, I think the Lord wanted the world to know from the very first moment that the Messiah was for all. His work was not restricted to the “religious”, or to the rich, or the knowledgeable, or the social elite . . . or even to the social mainstream. He came for all: the poor mother deserted by her husband; the family that no one likes because they are dirty and smell bad; the teenager who made really stupid choices; the husband who has made a shambles of his home; the factory worker, the Fortune 500 Executive; the religious leaders; the drug addict; the Prostitute; the Farmer; the Politician; the Tax Collector and yes, even the Shepherd.
Though the world may have written some of us off as unworthy or insignificant, the Lord has given us all the good news about a baby who’s life and death and resurrection made it possible for us all to become children of the King. For unto YOU is born a Savior. (SOFTLY)…a Savior.
“Glory to God in the Highest” indeed.
2. This is pure hypothesis but seems reasonable to me. If the Shepherds did guard the temple flocks and Simeon always stayed around the temple it would seem possible, maybe even probably that their paths crossed. This might explain why Simeon seemed to be looking for a baby.