I was wanting to do about 5 Bizarre Christmas Bible Stories. So – i started working on one. My first drafts are pretty rough, so if you have suggestions send them on. If you can read it to a kid and send their suggestions, even better! firstname.lastname@example.org
The Stinky Visitors
The Passage: Luke 2:8-18
If God told you He was going to meet you for lunch tomorrow, how would you prepare? What would you wear? Would you take a bath that morning? Would you read your Bible?
Let’s go back in time and listen in on a shepherds’ conversation. Oliver is a shepherd’s apprentice, and Emerson is his big brother. They should be asleep, but the ground is cold and hard this night, so they are sitting up talking.
LET’S GO BACK 2000 YEARS…
“So Oliver, it’s almost the end of your first year of being an apprentice. You will be ready to work alone soon. What do you think? How do you like being a shepherd?”
“I don’t. It stinks out here. We don’t make much money, and people make fun of us.”
“Wow, you woke up on the wrong side of the sheep pen. I had no idea. You do know this is one of the most prestigious jobs in history!”
“Right. I bet all those people in Bethlehem are jealous of us. We get to sleep on rocks while they have to sleep in comfy beds.”
Emerson felt awful. He really wanted his brother to enjoy being a shepherd like he did, and his father before him. So, he decided to give Oliver a little Bible lesson.
“I’m curious Oliver, do you know what Abraham’s job was – Abraham from the book of Genesis? Go ahead you can say it.”
“Right, and he was rich! And Isaac, what did he do?
“Yeah, I know, he was a shepherd too.”
“Right. And his son Jacob, what did he and Rachel do?”
“OK, I get it, they watched sheep. Big deal.”
“But it doesn’t end there, how about Jacob’s 12 sons? Shepherds, every one of them. And who was the greatest leader Israel ever had? Moses. What made him so great? Not growing up as some rich mansy pansy Egyptian wimp. Nope, it took God forty years of having him work as a shepherd to make a man out of him. And – see if you know this one – who was the greatest King who ever lived?”
“Well, Solomon was the wisest, but I like David best.”
“David, you bet. He is the one who put the kingdom together. And what was his first occupation? A shepherd. We were the best, the top of the social ladder – rich, rugged and important.”
“Right Emerson, I know all those stories – well most of them – but being a shepherd isn’t fun anymore. It’s been 1000 years since David was king. Now someone else owns the sheep, and we are stuck out here homeless, living outside, no chance for an education or a future. What’s so great about that?”
Emerson was stuck. It had been 1000 years since David was king. Rich people in Jerusalem did own the sheep – the shepherds just managed the sheep for the owners. Oliver was starting to wonder what he liked about being a shepherd, and then he remembered.
“Sure, we’re homeless, but no one can tell us what to do. We have the tower of Eder to take refuge in, used for over a thousand years! We get to wrap up the new lambs there in swaddling clothes to make sure they stay spotless for Temple sacrifices, and lay them in the mangers until they calm down. Of course, we also have the sweet smell of sheep, uh, droppings.
I’ll admit, our language is a little rough, just because those city slickers don’t have the guts to say what they really mean. And we’re not all thieves either. Just because we get convicted for every theft in town doesn’t mean we’re guilty of ‘em. If they paid us what our sheep were worth, we wouldn’t have to steal so much! It’s their fault. Idiots, unfair jerks – let me tell you what I really think!”
“EMERSON, STOP! THIS IS A CHILDREN’S BOOK!”
“Sorry. It’s hard for an old shepherd to watch his language. Anyway, I like having no boss looking over my shoulder, paying no taxes. . . “
“That’s because we have no money to pay taxes with!”
“Well, I love sleeping out under the stars.”
“That’s because we have no house to go to!”
“OK then, at least we don’t have to go to church.”
“Right – that’s because they wouldn’t let us in the Temple if we wanted in!”
“So tell me Oliver, little shepherd, what would you rather do?”
“You don’t want to be a shepherd? Why? How can you say that? What’s bothering you little brother?”
“OK, here’s the truth. I hate sheep. Roman warhorses are cool. Dogs can herd sheep. Cats can catch mice. What good are sheep? They continually get lost, they will eat themselves sick, they stink, they’re stubborn, and they’re dumb enough to follow each other off a cliff.”
“Well, there’s that. I just always figured it was job security, them being too dumb and stubborn to make it on their own. They need a shepherd to feed and protect them. Then they are OK!”
“No, then they still stink.”
“Mercy, you’re a hard case. Yes, sheep will always stink. Nothing we can do about that. Once you’re my age though, you get to appreciate the smell. It’s an acquired taste – like coffee and dirty socks. A shepherd has to get down and dirty with his sheep. He has to love them and hold them – dirt, blood, manure and all.
So you don’t like sheep. We can deal with that. Any other reason you don’t wanna be a shepherd?”
“Yeah, there is. Don’t laugh at me Emerson, but I’d like to go to the Temple. Just once, I’d like to be able to worship with everyone else. You remember bringing the lambs to Passover last spring, don’t you? That priest was such a jerk. All we asked to do was to go into the Temple outer courts after selling him the lambs. ‘Oh no, I couldn’t let you do that,’ he whined, ‘you shepherds are unclean. All of you are. God would be furious if I let your kind into the Temple. God is pure, and you people are unclean! You can’t come into the presence of God.’ I’ll never forget him telling us that.”
“Right – but do you remember what I did then? ‘You’re dirty too!’ I shouted, and slapped him in the face. He couldn’t enter the temple for the entire Passover season because he was touched by an ‘unclean shepherd.’ Pompous idiot. It served him right.”
“Yeah, that was great! But, I’d still like to worship – I’d like to see what the Temple looks like on the inside – to smell the incense and hear the music.”
“You’re right, being a shepherd makes us outcasts. Maybe the priest was right too, maybe we’re not good enough to come to God. But when you’re out here, under the stars, it seems as if God has already come to us. Maybe we’re as close to God here as we would be at the Temple. Our prophet Isaiah says that God knows how many stars there are, and He has named every one of them. I use to count the stars at night, and I think there’s at least 300 of them! If God cares about stars, maybe He cares about shepherds too.
There’s another thing shepherds get that priests don’t. We get the stars, and we get the angels. The priests think they are so special, but the angels came to us! You remember, don’t you? We were camping by the Tower of Edar, by Bethlehem. We found that baby in the bottom of the tower. He was wrapped up in priests underwear, just like we wrap up the lambs so they can be a spotless sacrifice at the Temple. Tell me what you remember.”
[Genesis 35:19-31 the tower, “Mig-dal Ay-dar” in Hebrew, was there at the time of Jacob. From Micah 4:8 and 5:2-5, it seems this was the likely birthplace of Jesus. This view has come and gone, revived by Alfred Edersheim in The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, chapter 6. Edersheim also talks about the swaddling clothes. Priests would donate their undergarments after the feast days to the poor, who would use them as swaddling clothes. Shepherds would wrap up the lambs that were bred for the Temple sacrifices in the free garments to make sure they stayed “without blemish.” Since Jerusalem was only 4 miles away from Bethlehem, and since this area was used to raise temple lambs, it seems likely that Jesus, our High Priest was wrapped up in discarded priests undergarments as an infant.]
“Well, that night we were in the fields outside the village, guarding our flocks of sheep. Suddenly, God’s angel stood among us. God’s glory blazed around us. We were terrified.
But the angel reassured us. ‘Don’t be afraid!’ he said. ‘I bring you good news of great joy for everyone! A Savior has just been born in David’s town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. And this is how you will recognize him: You will find a baby lying in a manger, wrapped snuggly in strips of cloth!’
Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God: ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to all whom God favors.’
When the angels had returned to heaven, we said to each other, ‘Come on, let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this wonderful thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’
We ran to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. Seeing was believing. We told everyone we met what the angels had said about this child. All who heard our story were astonished!” [Adapted from Luke 8:8-18]
What do you think it would have been like to be there that night? To see Mary and Joseph? To see Jesus?
Emerson was amazed. “Wow Oliver, you are a terrific story teller. You should wrote that down!”
“Nah, it would never sell”
“What I remember best is kneeling down next to that manger. I felt closer to God there then I’ve ever felt before, even out here under these stars. You see, when I’m out here, I know God is out there somewhere. But kneeling by the manger – it was like God was down here, with us, right inside that little kid. Then – you must remember Mary offering for you to hold her baby, and He reached out to you? It was as if He loved you, sheep stink and all. That Priest, he wouldn’t let us touch him, but this Baby, He reached right into your heart.”
Oliver looked down. The hardest thing ever for him to do was to admit his older brother might be right. But he was getting sleepy now – sleepy enough to crash on cold rocks. So he admitted, “Sometimes, you’re right. As much as I’d like to worship in the Temple, I wouldn’t change that one night for a lifetime of temple worship. And it didn’t end when we left the manger. Do you remember telling everyone we saw about the angels and the baby? That was cool. I can’t imagine anything being as exciting as telling someone else that you have met the Messiah! Can you imagine knowing Jesus and not telling others about Him? Now that would be insane. Even shepherds know better than that.”
“I’ve one more thought for you Oliver, before you give up being a shepherd. That night the angel said, ‘Unto YOU a savior is born.’ This baby with God inside didn’t come to some smart mouth pompous priest. The angels didn’t go to the Temple, or to Herod or Caesar. They didn’t even go to the closest Rabbi. They came to us. Maybe God doesn’t see us as unclean. Maybe God our Shepherd loves us in spite of our dirt.
So, What Should I Do?
Don’t argue with your big brother – he will almost always win anyway.
Don’t slap a priest. They sometimes slap back.
Don’t ever let your sin keep you separated from God. Turn from it and go to God, He can handle it.
Where Else Is This Taught?
The Lord is my shepherd; I have everything I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name. Even when I walk through the dark valley of death, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You welcome me as a guest, anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings. Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever. [Psalms 23:1-6]
The LORD doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” [1 Samuel 16:7]
Jesus said: “I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me, just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice my life for the sheep.” [John 10:14-15]