Sunday, December 14, 2008

Day 24: Star

Joy! I'm actually posting before 11:00 pm! We'll see if my writing is better or worse if I write earlier. *grin*

Tonight, the story of a shepherd on a hill. (To clarify, I set the story of the Nativity in the spring for this piece, just so you aren't confused. Because why not?)

There are days in the springtime on the hillsides outside of Bethlehem where the clouds seem to hover just under the sky. Where everything is distinct and clear and bright. The light takes on almost a golden hue, and everything--from the pebbles on the road to the birds soaring the air, are distinct and beautiful.

It was on such an afternoon that I wrapped my small dinner in a bundle of cloth: salty goat cheese, a dried fig, and some good, flat bread. Holding it in one hand along with a small earthen jug of cool water and taking my staff, which was light but strong, in the other hand, I set off for the hills.

Walking happily through the bustling, busy streets of Bethlehem, I nodded at strangers coming and going. All these people had come to our small town to be taxed by the Romans, and our usually quiet homes buzzed and bustled with the movement. It was hard to find a place to step in the streets.

I saw men selling and men buying. I saw women laughing as they chose food at market stalls and children darting in and out between people and animals. Foreign Roman soldiers struggling to walk in their armor amongst the crowds. The hated tax collectors at their tables, with their scrolls. The throngs parting hastily for a man passing with leprosy, calling out, "Unclean." A beggar with twisted legs leaning against a wall with his eyes closed, asleep. All of these people I saw as I walked toward the city gates.

Then out into the clean, fresh air. The breeze could reach me here, and swung my cloaks about my legs as I walked. The bright, new grain swayed laughingly in the wind. My heart felt light as I rose up into the rocky hills above the city where I would find my family's flocks and help to tend them for the night.

All our sheep were known to me, by their black faces and simple eyes. When they heard my voice, they would come. It was lambing season, and so we had leaping, wobbling new lambs with their rough wooly coats scampering amongst the rocks. I would spend much of my time counting and re-counting to make sure that we had every one, that none of them had strayed. Each of them were precious to me. They were our livelyhood, and our way of living, but they were also under my care, for I was their shepherd and they trusted me to keep them safe.

I joined my friends on the hill and we talked as we watched our sheep graze. We talked of the Romans and their taxes. We talked of the Passover soon to come. We talked of our children, and of our scripture. As the sun drifted and sank below the horizon in a blaze of crimson light, we gathered our sheep and lit fires of sweet wood. Sitting down, we opened our bundles and ate.

After supper, some of the shepherds lay down to rest. The night was deep and warm, and the stars glittering in the sky. I stood among my flock, and rested my cheek against my cool staff. I could see the lights of the town below, which looked so clean and orderly from this distance. Slowly, the lights in the windows went out. All was quiet and still except for the soft bleating of a sheep every now and then.

Suddenly, without warning, there was a blaze of light. In an instant, I raised my hand to shield my eyes and crouched slightly. Without realizing it, my ears waited for a crack of thunder. But the light wasn't a flash--it was still there. Lowering my hand slowly, I raised my eyes. I took a violent step backwards and gave a small cry. The other shepherds on the hill all stood, like me, frozen in place. Some had fallen to their knees. Others hid their faces in their hands 0r with their heads turned like they were waiting for a blow.

There, above us in the air, was a person. A man. As radiant as the sun in the middle of the day, breathtaking and beautiful. He held out his hand slightly and said, in a firm deep voice, "Fear not, for I bring unto you glad tidings of great joy." His rich voice filled my ears and seemed to fill every fiber of my body. I clutched my staff tighter and leaned forward, just slightly, as he continued to speak. "For unto you is born this day, in the City of David, a Savior who is Christ the Lord."

Tears were wet upon my face at these words. My hands released my staff and I fell slowly to my knees. A Savior. I could not breathe for joy. I tore my gaze away from the heavenly visitor and glanced at my fellow companions--I caught the eye of my brother and he suddenly beamed at me. The promised Messiah.

The angel told us that we were to seek the newborn infant, and that we would find him wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. I felt that I could've flown over the hills and gates of the city in that instant. Suddenly, bursting with even greater light than I'd ever dreamed possible, an entire host of angels could not be restrained from our sight, singing, declaring with power "Glory to God in the highest! On earth, peace good will toward men." The very hills seemed to drink in their song and respond in an echo. Glory to God in the highest.

Fading, shimmering, and slipping away into the night, we were left in the rich, deep silence that followed. For one moment, we continued to gaze upward at the darkness, except for a new star that had appeared, filling the world with it's light. We picked up our staffs and we ran, while below us, the city slept.


Becca said...

Okay, so my husband didn't really like this entry--or, I guess, it would be more accurate to say that it was kind of "blah" for him. He said, correctly, that it didn't really offer anything new. What I was trying to do, and I want to figure out how to do *better* is to describe (bring to life) the feelings of these shepherds (regular people) on that night. Going from a normal night, to terror, to non-comprehending awe, to joy. I think you would have a million thoughts all at once. If this were to be a children's book for example, then I would want to cut WAY down on the word count, while still keeping the truth of the story. He also thought that the voice wasn't authentic--it was first person, but that person didn't know what they were really talking about. (Um. Yeah. That's true.) Anybody else have any thoughts?

Cristina said...

I must agree with Dave: it doesn't sound very authentic to me either. But I think we are both biased, because we know you were not there :-) I think writing it as a third person would already improve it quite a lot. Then the reaction to the angel could be nuanced a bit. Isn't there some shock first? Don't they get to talk to each other to make sure they all saw the same thing? What happens when the news starts to sink in, 20 minutes later? The description of how the previous day went could also help (maybe?). Keep in mind, shepherds are very simple minded people, usually. It's a nice idea though, and it put me in Christmas mood (and you know we Europeans don't do Christmas until at least December 20th or so :-) To make it a children story, you would need to simplify it quite a bit indeed.


InkMom said...

I agree with the other comments. There just isn't enough to this for it to be really interesting or even really believable.

You might try writing a character sketch of the shepherd that doesn't have anything to do with the angelic visitation. He may have been changed for the rest of his life after that event happened, but before, he was the same person he had been his entire life. If you explore exactly who he was before that experience, you'll have a fresh perspective from which to write this story all over again.

Good luck!