Shepherds ponder their legacy –
to some a pitiful stain on history.
Unlike seeing the evening with anticipation of a promising morn
no contemplation of hope lies before them –
they grow accustom to the stench of sheep
as the flock lingers on them like uncleanness hanging from mortality
but they and the sheep are one as the Father and Word are one
forever an undivided community.
The shepherds care for them as their own,
and the sheep know the shepherd’s voice.
The sun slowly disappears below the hills
as the shepherds’ contemplate the barren ground –
their eyes surveying the land for enemies of the flock.
They know no sleep
Just snatching slumber
Curled in the threads of their subsistence
gnarly fingers wrapped tightly around their staff
eyes squinting watching for treachery traversing the shadows
silhouettes of maliciousness stalking prey – their innocent charges.
They lean on staffs with rods
ready to fend off these night visitors
wolves and roaring lions ready to devour the sheep.
Among the forgotten and oppressed
these pastoral overseers of the helpless
protectors from the ruthless
earn a pittance for their toil.
They live apart from other classes – nomadic – migrants of their era.
Darkness closes unsettlingly around them – anticipating the light in due time –
as it slithers silently into the deep darkness afraid of the Light.
Sporadic bleating from the flock breaks the calm
while in the distance a census of lights commands
flickers in Bethlehem like lamps from virgins anticipating the Bridegroom.
As the evening draws deeper, the night fires become fewer with three remaining lit overseeing Advent.
The shepherds gaze heavenward as one star seems unusually bright
leaving a mystified look on rough, drawn, and dried faces
like weary mystics troubled by three trees they pass on the horizon outside the city
One shepherd stares up at a star growing in size
As its point kisses Bethlehem.
Suddenly angel voices fill the expanse above;
heaven’s symphony burst through the clouds
announcing that God touches humanity with grace and truth.
The Shepherd rejoices with His sheep
as He comes to meet them in their humanity.