Night after night, as the darkness deepened and the temperature fell. As the sounds of the day grew fainter and the pinpricks of stars grew brighter, we watched.
It wasn’t much of a job description, to be honest: be here; keep watch. Not exactly highly skilled labour. I know my parents wanted more for me. I felt like I’d let them down, but it was a wage, at least. So I watched.
Then one night the lads and I saw – I don’t know how to describe it – angels, I guess, if you believe in that sort of thing. At first it was just one, but then there were hundreds of them, thousands, mighty warriors, burning like the sun, and shouting with the sound of a great victory. It was blinding, deafening, terrifying.
Yet in the heart of the fear I found excitement. A hope stronger than I’d ever felt before.
This baby they told us of – it sounded incredible, yet we believed them when they said that he was the promised messiah, the king we had heard about Sabbath after Sabbath, the one all Israel had been watching for.
We left the sheep – some things are more important than your job – and went to check it out.
Someone suggested we should take a gift, an offering of some sort, but what could we take? ‘If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb’, right? Wrong. Those lambs weren’t ours; we were just the hired hands. What kind of gift is a stolen sheep?
In the end we decided that we needed to just go, or we’d lose our chance. We thought there would be so many gifts that anything we had to offer would be lost in the pile anyway. We just had to get there.
We thought the streets would be thronged with people desperate for a glimpse of this promised child, but the town was empty, save for the usual array of drunkards, loose women and nightwatchmen. Had no-one but us seen the angels? How could they have missed the noise, the light?
Yet when we reached the place where the baby lay, we were the only ones. Us. Shepherds. The only people to see the miracle of God made man.
We had nothing to give but our presence. So we gave that and, silently, reverently, our hearts full, we watched.