I believe the picture says it all. These young shepherds show how antsy little boys get when they have to wait. The story of the shepherds that were in their fields at the time of the Savior’s birth had heard the promise repeated for many years. Many of them had given up, but still the story continued. Patience finally saw its reward when the child, Jesus was born and He was definitely worth the wait.
This is the time of year for Christmas Pageants – for children – a time of waiting and anticipation. A number of years ago I wrote a play for my drama kids about the birth of Jesus, from the perspective of the shepherds. Since most of my actors were boys, it seemed appropriate to designated them all to the role of shepherds or sheep. The girls would be angels. There was no fighting over who would be Mary, because she wasn’t in this version of the story. The action took place in the fields with the shepherds, their sheep and the angels. The play was serious at times and funny too, but the things that went on during rehearsal created the fondest memories.
Since I was working in a parochial school, they already knew the Christmas story, but there were still a ton of questions regarding the circumstances surrounding that special event. It turned out to be one of my favorite teachable moments.
Having a class after school is always a challenge. The children are always ready to get away from learning when the school bell ends the day, but we all soon discovered there was a lot more they needed to know. As they entered our acting area, their plan was to have a snack and cut loose for the remainder of the hour. I reminded them that shepherds would not have been so boisterous and rowdy if they were trying to keep their sheep quiet.
The angels sat quietly and waited for their time on stage and one worried if she would be able to say the word – Alleluia – without getting her tongue tied. One was very concerned that her halo would fall off and the other enjoyed picking feathers off her wings as she waited.
I wondered what those first shepherds did as they watched their sheep that night. They most likely were bored and tired of working all day. Some of them probably fell asleep, but most of them were ready to cut loose. The sheep were finally asleep – except for Bob and Joe, the rowdy ones.
The script led to discussion on what the shepherds thought about the Messiah’s birth. In order to connect this to an exciting upcoming event, we talked about a super hero coming to wipe out their enemies. Suddenly those little boys settled down and ears perked up. I knew I had them. Sometimes you have to relate things to what they know.
Some of the boys had long lines, which required a lot of concentration and focus. The ones with shorter lines, often forgot theirs. Each rehearsal became more interesting as time progressed. Real life was infiltrating the scenario and sometimes you couldn’t tell the difference between reality and acting. The sheep were nibbling on imaginary grass as they talked about hearing these stories about a Messiah for years and years, Soon it became apparent that the kids were absorbing the story as they had never done before.
We discussed the fact that the shepherds had to wait so long. We talked about how impatient we get when we wait. We shared ideas about waiting and most of them said they didn’t enjoy it much. As I continued beyond the script, I talked about Jesus’ cousin, John, the Baptist. One boy said, “He’s the one who got his head cut off,” which completely turned everything 180 degrees. I was able to wrap it up by saying that Jesus came to take away the sins of the world – even the guy that chopped off John’s head. You had to be there.
We shared thoughts on why Jesus came to save us from our greatest enemy – the devil. He could’ve come like a muscle-bound super hero, but He chose to be born in deepest humility. He came to take our place – to carry our sin to the cross and rise again in pure glory.