His eyes pierced the darkness and his ears were tuned to the sounds of the night.
His brothers even boasted that he could smell a lion two hills away. Would life
ever change? He would remind himself of the story of King David. A shepherd...
A king. Why not? For now he would be content to watch his father's flocks, and
if necessary, defend them with his life.
The last rays of the sun dipped
below the Judean hills. Matthias tossed some brush onto a few burning embers.
"Who's there?" he suddenly shouted. Matthias had heard a sound. He was
sure of it. "Nathaniel.. Aaron..?" There was no answer. Matthias' knuckles turned
white as he gripped his staff. His brothers should be along at anytime.
breeze began to pick up. The wind whipping between the rocks seemed to have a
musical quality. Every muscle in his body began to tighten. Matthias was overwhelmed
by a feeling of fear that he could find no equal to in his experiences as a shepherd.
Not a man, nor beast could affect him this way. "Nathaniel! Aaron!" he
cried out in almost desperation. His heart pounded against his ribs. He threw
more brush on the fire, desperately trying to see into the darkness.
sheep!" The thought hit him suddenly, "How are the sheep?" He turned from the
fire. As his eyes adjusted to the darkness, he could see the outline of the flock.
They seemed quite safe and very much at peace. Watching them began to restore
a feeling of tranquility to Matthias.
His father's sheep, they were at
times the most senseless animals. But, he loved them. He fought for them and he
would die for them. Simeon's sons were known as good shepherds. Matthias would
never let his father down.
The shepherd leaned his seventeen-year-old body
against a rock and tried to relax. The breeze tickled his nose. He took a deep
breath. Sweetness filled his nostrils. He smelled a fragrance that was so sweet
he could almost taste it. The feeling of fear was gone, but a sense of awe was
rising in his spirit.
The angel stood inches from Matthias. The sweet fragrance
of his breath was the only clue Matthias had of the heavenly messenger's presence.
The angel stared into Matthias. He admired the man's spirit, his humility, and
his love for his flock. No wonder this man was chosen to be a witness. "In the
image of God..." he mumbled to himself.
"The others are almost here captain,"
said another angel hovering above the seven-foot tall warrior.
glorious night!" The captain thought as he sprung into the air, "and my Matthias
is a part of it."
"Afraid of the dark?"
Matthias jumped when he
heard the voice. "Where have you been?" Matthias growled.
firewood," Aaron laughed.
"It's going to take a lot of timber to keep the
sky lit up all night," Nathaniel added. They both roared as Matthias picked up
another stick and walked over to the fire. Suddenly the sky was ablaze.
to God!" shouted the captain.
"Open their eyes," a resonant voice sounded.
The messenger drew his sword and swung it at the shepherds. The glistening metal
passed through the heads of the boys, but left no mark.
The shepherds fell
with their faces to the ground. Matthias felt he couldn't move and didn't want
to try. Nathaniel and Aaron kept mumbling, "We're going to die!"
radiance, the angel stood before them, his sword flashing with the glory of God.
"Do not be afraid," he said putting his sword back in its sheath.
looked up. The light that shone around them was brighter than the brightest day.
The light was so white and so pure, like fine silk. Their eyes seemed to drink
it in. The glory of the Lord hugged them and they knew a joy that surpassed all
The angel spoke about a child that had been born that day.
Their messiah had come. Tears came to their eyes as they heard about the baby
wrapped in strips of cloth lying in a manger. They listened in awe as they realized
the angel was inviting them, common shepherds, to see their messiah.
to God! May His kingdom reign forever!" the angel began to shout. Immediately
shouts of joy and praise filled the air. The shepherds looked up and saw a great
multitude of angels. They looked like the mightiest of men, but their countenance
was one of peace. The more they praised God, the mightier they seemed. With every
shout of glory they seemed to shine brighter and purer.
The light began
to fade and the angels stepped back into heaven. The messenger once more touched
his sword to the shepherd's eyes, and disappeared.
The cracking of the
fire welcomed the shepherds back to the hillside. They stared at each other not
knowing whether to laugh or cry. There just were no words in the human vocabulary
strong enough to express the emotions they felt.
Finally, Nathaniel spoke,
"Matthias, when you build a fire, you don't mess around."
"You two watch the sheep. I have to go into Bethlehem."
at the youngest brother, Aaron, "Watch the sheep."
Aaron began prodding
the sleeping sheep. "Get up! We're going to Bethlehem."
The town was an
hour walk from the pasture. The shepherds made it in half the time. The streets
were silent when the three shepherds and their flock came into town. The entourage
came to a stable by an inn at the edge of town. Matthias and Nathaniel walked
to the door. Aaron watched as they opened the door and went in.
at the sheep. They seemed alright. Aaron walked toward the door. He peered into
the dark stable. "What are you doing?" Aaron jumped as Matthias put his hand on
"I was looking for you." Aaron defended himself.
walked all the way through. No one was in there," said Matthias.
are the sheep?" Nathaniel asked as he popped through the front door of the stable.
"They're right..." Aaron's heart sank as he looked around and saw no sheep.
The flock of sheep had a special liveliness in their step as they trotted
down the road. They seemed compelled to follow the strange man that was leading
them. The angelic captain smiled as he approached a tiny stable at the back of
an overcrowded inn.
Matthias ran to the street. Half way down the road
he caught a glimpse of a lamb that was straggling behind the rest. "This way!"
he yelled as he raced after the sheep. Nathaniel and Aaron joined in the chase.
Matthias rounded the corner of the inn and came to an abrupt stop.
him was the entire flock. Their strange position captured his attention. Aaron
and Nathaniel caught up. "What are they doing?" asked Aaron.
One by one
the sheep approached the doorway of the stable. They sat upon their front legs
and then would get up and the next one would do the same. "They appear to be bowing,"
The three shepherds stood and watched as the last of
the sheep presented themselves. The little lamb that had straggled behind did
not bow. He stepped on into the stable.
"You go first," Nathaniel said
"Why me? You're older," Aaron protested. Neither one noticed
that Matthias was already by the door. They stopped talking when they saw Matthias
kneel as the sheep did. Both of them joined their older brother.
mean to intrude..." Matthias began to speak. His mouth was dry and the words seemed
to stick in his throat. "Your child is very special, he is the..." A thousand
thoughts began to flood his mind. Would these people think he was crazy? The entire
time the child seemed to be looking at him like he knew the innermost secrets
of his heart. He bowed again and managed to whisper "Messiah".
spoke, "We came to see the child. We heard about him from...well, you might not
believe this, but an angel of the Lord told us about a baby."
at Joseph, "The angel told us to look for him in a manger. Your child is...is...the
Savior...He is the Christ."
Joseph looked at the shepherds. He smiled.
"I know," he said calmly. "He is Emmanuel...He is God with us. At least that's
what the angel told us." The shepherds breathed a sigh of relief.
him Jesus," Mary added. "Jesus, that's a nice name." sighed Aaron.
went the little lamb as he grabbed a mouthful of hay from the manger. The baby
laughed. Matthias turned a little red and scooped up the lamb into his arms. He
started to apologize then stopped. He looked down at the little lamb. It was perfect,
without spot or blemish.
"Would you..." Matthias stammered as he gently
rubbed the lamb's head. "Would you take this lamb as a gift for the child?" Aaron
and Nathaniel nodded in agreement.
"We would be pleased to," Mary answered.
Matthias found a soft pillow of hay to set the lamb on. As he stood up he looked
once again into the baby's eyes. "He is...the one," said Matthias as he turned
to leave. The three shepherds left the stable and gathered up their flock.
the brothers climbed the hill out of Bethlehem they turned and looked back at
the stable. "Look!" shouted Aaron. The shepherds stood in amazement as a brilliant
"A baby...a carpenter...The King!" thought Matthias as a
smile spread across his face.
"What next?" asked Nathaniel.
brothers began walking up a path. The sheep followed behind them. Matthias stretched
out his arms and drew his brothers close to him. "We tell the world, my brothers.
We tell the world!"