First published by CPAS I think, here is part one of the Christmas Story I wrote a few years ago. Part two next week.
‘Daddy’, said the boy. ‘Why aren’t there many shepherds any more?’ This is his story.
Long. Long ago, before <place>, when December 25th was just a date like any other, it was night. It wasn’t that cold. There was no snow. It wasn’t now it was then. It wasn’t here it was there. Near Bethlehem. And there were shepherds, looking after sheep. They weren’t looking after reindeer; there were no robins. Just sheep.
‘Oi’m really barred,’ said the first shepherd.
‘Not only that,’ said the second, ‘But we’re from the Middle East and you’re speaking with a sort of Somerset accent.’
‘That’s because the bloke oose readin’ this can’t do Middle Eastern accents,’ said the first.
‘Well that’s is problem’ said the second, ‘Let’s ignore im.’
Before they had a chance to ignore him, suddenly, kapow. Or to give it its proper name, kaflash. A bright light in the sky and an angel. What did it look like? We don’t know. The light was too bright. The shepherds were scared.
‘Don’t be scared’ said the angel
‘That helps’ said the shepherds forgetting their accents. They were a sarcastic bunch and got more scared. ‘Don’t you know sheep worrying is an offence?’
‘Shut up,’ said the angel, ‘I’ve got a message for you.’
‘Couldn’t you post it like everyone else?’ said the shepherds.
‘What. ‘Some shepherds, a hillside, near Bethlehem.’ Like that’ll get there, durr,’ said the angel, who was getting the hang of sarcasm by now. ‘No, you gotta listen. Today, in the town of David a saviour 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.’
‘Where’s the town of David?’ said the first shepherd, who had never paid attention in RE, geography or ever.
The second shepherd stood up and made strange signs with his thumbs and fingers.
‘Wrapped in cloths
That sounds quite cool
I think I’ll visit him
I’m no fool.’
‘What you doin?’ said the first shepherd, whose accent had now reached Yorkshire.
‘You said the baby needed to be rapped,’ said the second.
‘Not that sort of rap’ said the first shepherd. 'It hasn’t been invented yet. Wrapped up. In cloths. Sort of gift wrapped.'
‘This is a comfortable bed’ said the second shepherd, who reckoned that would be the sort of lie you told if you were born in a manger and could speak straight away.
‘Not that sort of lying’, said the first shepherd, who was getting a bit frustrated with their combined grasp of language. Lying down. He means ‘sleeping in a manger.’
The third shepherd, who had GCSEs and A levels and was only minding sheep as a gap year, had gone a bit quiet. ‘Saviour … Christ … Lord’, he muttered to himself. ‘You don’t mean…’
Before he had a chance to find out if that was what the angel didn’t mean the sky went all Star Wars only this wasn’t CGI. With kaflashes and kapows, kabangs and kabooms there were more angels than anyone knew about doing the praising God thing, the peace thing and the favour-resting thing, whatever that might be.
Then they went. Disappeared. Sort of up, out and along all at the same time which is probably how you get to heaven if you know the trick.
‘Shall we go and see?’ asked the thoughtful, over-qualified shepherd.
‘Yes’ said the others, forgetting the sheep altogether if there was a chance of going near a pub.
So they went. Quickly. And they found a baby. And a Mary and a Joseph. And anyway the pub was full. So they did the respect thing and then the telling everybody thing. And everybody they told did the ‘Wow amazing’ thing.
Because it’s not everyday that an angel tells you to do something. And its not every day that the whole heavenly host all gets booked out on the same job. And it’s not everyday that a story is told that is so special that it gets told every year for ever.
And then the shepherds went back to their sheep. And it all went very boring for a few years. Then, when they were nearly at retirement age, and the gap-year shepherd had made his fortune in angel novelties, their whole industry went a bit quiet. Because although they knew the demand for sacrificial lambs could go down as well as up it went down and down and down until nobody wanted them at all anymore. And from then on they ate a lot of lamb .
If you ever see an angel, it’s probably sensible to be a bit scared. And if you never see an angel don’t feel left out. Very few people do. But you don’t see many shepherds these days.