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.
Ten of my actors were boys, so they were designated to be the 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 outside of Bethlehem. The things that went on during rehearsal created some of my fondest memories.
Since I was working in a Christian 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 as one worried if she’d be able to say the word – Alleluia – without getting her tongue tied and and her halo in place. 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.
Each rehearsal became more interesting. 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 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.
This is an old post, but it brings the story of Jesus’ birth to life in so many ways. When we come to the manger as those shepherds did over two thousand years ago, we should come with that same childlike faith. I imagine those kids are about to enter high school now or maybe they’re already there, but that story is probably imprinted on their hearts as much as it is mine.