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The First Christmas Eve

Updated: Feb 2

The man brushed off his fine tunic, unaware of my fingers in his purse. "Watch where you're going." He cursed as I disappeared into the crowd. I was out of earshot before he yelled, "Thief!" I put the spoils in the inner pocket of my tunic. There would be time to count it later.

"Shepherds in town."

I glanced around and prepared to make a dash for it.

A tall pharisee stood behind me. He was talking to a group of students. "You must learn a skill, my boys, so you don't become like this poor sinner." The Pharisee's long tassels fluttered around his legs as he turned to me. "You best get back to your flock before I call the guard."

Pharisees. A shepherd's best customer. Yet, everyone would be mortified if a shepherd showed up for the actual sacrifice. I grinned at him, then spun on my heel and sprinted away—his tefillin in my pocket. It held no value to me—a little wooden box with leather strings and a small piece of scripture hidden within—but imagining his pious face scrunching up when he discovered it missing was worth more than gold.

I pushed through to the outer wall of the city, picking up another trinket, before sneaking out the gate. Time to head back to the sheep. The pharisee was right about one thing, I would relish the opportunity to learn a skill, so I didn't have to walk around with a rich man's sheep all day. Standing out in the heat, watching for dangerous beasts, herding the stupidest of all God's creatures. Disrespected by all. Even beggars were better looked upon than us shepherds.

The first scattered "baas" met me as I approached the creek side. I slowed my pace, not in a hurry to get back to the others. I wrapped the tefillin's long leather strings around my finger--winding and unwinding it slowly. The words of the LORD hidden inside the small box. I sniffed, wiping my nose on my sleeve, then flung the tefillin over the bank and into the quiet stream. God doesn't speak to shepherds.

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