After the cloud cover the past few days, the clear sky made the millions of stars look like a tightly woven blanket of light high overhead. It also accentuated the change of seasons; this was the first really cold night of the year. Jez pulled his cloak tighter around him.
"Perhaps 'hate' is too strong a word," he thought. "Perhaps it is more correct to say I dislike this job and barely endure it, especially when we get stuck with the night watches."
He looked around at the lumps of blankets where the other six members of his watch slept peacefully. In an hour, he would wake Jonah and get some sleep himself. They were all on duty, but only one had to be alert at this hour of the night. The stirring of the flock would quickly tell the watchman if a predator -- either animal or human -- was creeping in.
The thoughts continued to creep in like the brisk breeze whooshing down the hillside. "'Why can't you be content as a shepherd?' my mother said. 'Caring for the sheep was good enough for your father and your grandfather and his father before him. Even our ancestor David was a shepherd before the Eternal chose him to be the king of Israel!' Couldn't she see that David left the sheep joyfully? That is how I would leave, too!"
But, here he was. Stuck. Mired in an occupation that always left him wondering if he could find a way out. It didn't matter that he had quickly risen to the leadership of his watch or that the chief shepherd quietly told him that one day he could surely be the leader of them all. He didn't want to be a shepherd!
"Jezreel. They named me Jezreel. Even my name means 'scattered'. Don't they know that my life ambition is to be scattered far from this village?"
Jez looked again at the stars overhead. "O Eternal, You who created the heavens and the earth, I cry out to you. Please deliver me from this hillside and these smelly sheep..."
To my readers: the events surrounding the birth of Christ are given extensive coverage in Scripture. The parts we don't always know about are the human elements, especially from the viewpoint of Jesus' participants. My attempt this Christmas is to stay true to the Biblical text, while shading in what it may have been like "between the lines." Please distinguish my ruminations from God's Word by reading the first few chapters of Matthew and Luke. My hope is that reading my words impacts you even a tiny percentage as much as writing them has impacted me.