Vicar's Sermon - Christmas Morning, 2014

Christmas morning: 2014

In that region there was a wolf, a lone wolf, circling the flock of sheep. She was hungry and the flock offered a ready meal for her and the cubs that she was carrying.

Under the olive trees Mabel was moaning again. ‘I told you they were no good’ she baahed. ‘This lot are a bunch of fools, only interested in cheap wine and easy women. Now look what they’ve done.’

It was certainly unusual. Sheep without a single shepherd up on the hills in the dead of night. The shepherd’s fire had burned low and gone out. It would have been pitch dark were it not for the light of a star that had been coming ever closer over the last few evenings.

‘We’re doomed’ baahed Gladys, who had a tendency towards the dramatic!  ‘Stay close together’ ordered  Mildred who liked to think she was in charge of the flock. ‘we can’t stay under these trees, there’s too much shadow, if we get out into the fields at least we’ll be able to see one another.’  ‘Joy unbounded’ shrugged the flock as it shuffled to its knees and then onto four legs to scamper after their commanding officer.

One sheep decided enough was enough. Young, foolish, determined not to bossed about by a bunch of women, the black sheep Albert took his chance. ‘I’m off’ – separating from the rest of the flock he headed out into the darkness alone. ‘I can do this...who needs a shepherd anyhow.’

Down in the village the shepherds had roused half the town. ‘A baby, a boy’ they shouted. ‘A Lamb’ said the oldest‘ the Lamb of God.’

‘No, a Shepherd’ said another ‘a good shepherd, like David the shepherd boy’.

‘Greater than David’ declared a third ‘ he will bring peace to the whole world’.

The evening had been like any other until they all saw the brightest of lights – like lightning, but continuous and with no thunder clap to follow. A light that reached deep into each one of them, uncovering the deepest longings of their hearts and the hearts of their ancient people. The angel’s message confirmed what they already knew in the depths of their souls. ‘It’s all going to be OK. God knows, God cares, God will save’.

They had run, such dignity as they had left thrown to the winds. Helping each other down from the fields into the village, led (who knows how) by their faith in God’s goodness to a stable door where they had plucked up the courage to enter to see the child.

They were changed men, the first of many who would leave everything to follow this child as he grew to adulthood. There would be fishermen who would leave their nets, tax collectors who would walk out of their offices leaving their cash to the poor, women who would support and care for him (regardless of what others said or thought about them). ‘We have left family and fields and homes for you’ Peter would say in years to come. ‘Follow me’ the Good Shepherd would say. ‘Don’t look back’.

He would encourage them with His stories – The kingdom is like a merchant who sold everything in order to buy the most wonderful pearl in the world.  It is like a man who finds a treasure in a field and gives everything to buy the field and get the treasure. ‘It’s all or nothing’ says the Christ. ‘Come, follow me.’

Drunk with excitement, eyes wide open to the beauty of a new day dawning the shepherds made their way back to the edges of the town and on, out into the fields that had taken on a harvest whiteness as the frost had fallen.  ‘Well lads there are sheep to be gathered in’ said the oldest. For some reason calling the flock together didn’t seem such a chore. Gladys, Mildred and Mabel swore the grass that night had taken on a spring sweetness – they had not moved very far and had not been troubled or scattered.

’94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99...’  There’s one missing. ‘I’ll go’ said the young ‘un. ‘It’s Albert, the black sheep, he’ll know my voice.’

He feared the worst.  A carcass on the bare hillside as the sun rose above it, blood and recrimination from those who knew nothing of sheep and what it cost to protect them. He found the sheep, curled up asleep beside a lone wolf – the most curious of sights as the lamb lay down with the wolf.  The two woke as he approached, the wolf nodded at the shepherd and trotted away. It would surely return in the spring time, hungry and ready to fight but the night had been filled with wonders. He gently shouldered the sheep and brought it back to the flock.

The Good Shepherd smiled and snuggled back down under the covers of the manger – His time would come.