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. This photo was taken about 8 years ago. I imagine most of these youngsters are now in their teens. I was teaching an after-school drama class at our church. It was just weeks away from Christmas. I had a class of ten boys and two angelic little girls. This is not the best time to get into character development or acting skills, because each of those darling children couldn’t wait for it to be Christmas and that was their main focus.
So, I took a look at this impatient bunch and decided to write a play about patience. Hopefully some valuable lessons would be learned. Can you imagine being a shepherd in the time of Jesus’ birth? Shepherds would spend day and night out in the fields tending their flocks. Most likely they would gather in the evening around a campfire and tell stories. These young men undoubtedly had heard the story of the coming Messiah. It was part of their heritage for generations. Years went by and it seemed the promise would never be fulfilled. Think about the sheep too. The most precious sacrifice given to God was an unblemished lamb. They’d probably seen many of their relatives sacrificed over time. Add to that first Christmas Eve, the heavenly hosts which announced the birth of the Messiah. Their voices would herald the good news – even though there were only two in this story, they had nice loud voices which carried throughout the hills and valleys.
To keep the boisterous little boys quiet, I tried to remind them that shepherds would try not to disturb the sheep with their uproarious behavior. That lasted for about two minutes. Kids coming out of a full day of classes and going into another learning situation isn’t always going to work. The two angels stood by quietly, waiting for their time on stage. One worried if she’d be able to say the word – Alleluia – without getting her tongue tied. The other was more concerned with keeping her halo in place. The sheep finally fell asleep, except for Bob and Joe – the rowdy ones.
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. Each rehearsal became more interesting. Real life was infiltrating the scenario. Soon it became apparent that the kids were absorbing the story as they had never done before. We talked about Jesus’ cousin, John, the baptist, who was born right before Jesus. 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.
The entire event was such a learning experience for me. When we wait for something for such a long time, we often begin to doubt if it will ever happen. Our faith weakens – we become impatient. But when we are waiting for the King of Creation to be born as one of us – to live as our brother – to experience all that we do – it is definitely worth the wait.