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By Kathlyn Fauchon

Ben was lying back on the cushions.
He was waiting for his father. Today he was going to work with him. His father was a shepherd and this was the day when Ben would begin to learn how to care for the sheep.
As he was lying there Ben noticed a gecko running across the ceiling. This little creature always amazed him. The gecko started down the walls darting this way and that. Ben decided it would be great fun to catch it and scare his sister with it.
Slowly Ben got up and walked to where the lizard was coming down the wall. He waited, very still, as the lizard came closer and even closer. Then quickly and quietly he made a grab at the unsuspecting creature and held it gently in his fist.
With hands behind his back he walked toward his sister who was studying her scroll. Elizabeth was twelve years old. In five days time she would have her very important day at the synagogue, her bat mitzvah. Quietly Ben walked behind her, raised his hand above her head and dropped the gecko onto her scroll.
Poor Elizabeth screamed and jumped up knocking the scroll to the floor.
‘Ben stop it you silly boy. Mum! Mum! Ben put a gecko on my scroll.’
‘Ben leave your sister alone. Come now! Here is your bag. Tie it around your waist and put on your sandals. Don’t keep your father waiting. Go now!’
Caleb followed his ten-year-old son down the steps from the living area of their home to the lower level where they kept their goat. They put on their sandals and Caleb took up his crook. Anna and Elizabeth followed them to the door to say good-bye.
‘I love you Anna,’ Caleb said to his wife as he kissed her forehead. Then he turned to Elizabeth, put his arms around her shoulder and kissed the top of her head.
‘I love you princess. Be a good girl.’
Soon Caleb and Ben were out in the fields heading toward the sheepfold. Caleb had hired a man to care for his sheep during the night. He didn’t do that very often though. He was really excited now because he would start teaching his son how to care for the precious sheep.
Caleb had 62 sheep and he knew all their names and they knew the sound of his voice. He also had a few goats. As they approached the sheep pen he whistled and called
‘Hey, hey then!’
Ben was amazed to see the sheep running toward his father. Of cause the man he had put in charge of them was sitting in the gateway so they couldn’t get out. It was time to pay the man so he could go home to rest. As the man left Caleb explained to Ben that he would call the sheep and they would follow him. Then he gave Ben some instructions.
‘Ben I want you to follow behind them. Watch the goats don’t stray off. Keep them moving with us.’
So Ben walked behind the sheep obedient to his father. The path they walked was very stoney. Every now and then Ben would shake a stone out of his sandal. They were full of sand as well. He was glad his head was covered from the hot sun. There was no one to talk to and he began to feel lonely. He wished he was back home. There he could snatch a cake off the cooler as soon as his mother cooked them. She would scold him and chase him away. He didn’t like this hot dusty place or the stony ground. Neither did he like walking behind this bunch of smelly sheep and goats.
Suddenly they came to a grassy field. He looked up and saw a little brook too. The water was gurgling over some stones.
‘Oh cool! I’ll skip some stones in the water.’ He said this so loudly that one of the sheep leaped into the air with fright. That made all the sheep behind it leap too. It made Ben laugh.
‘Time to rest Ben,’ said his father.
They found a small tree and sat down in its shade. Ben was so hungry and thirsty. They drank some water from the skin water bag and they ate some little bread rolls that Ben’s mum had packed for them.
‘We must watch out for wolves,’ his father said.

Sometime later, Ben noticed one of the sheep down by the brook on its back. Its legs were in the air waving around. It was really struggling.
‘Dad look! What’s the matter with that sheep? Has a wolf got it?’
‘No, she’s stuck in a hole. Good boy Ben! We will have to pull her out. Come on.’
Caleb hurried with big strong strides to where the sheep lay. Ben was almost running to keep up with him. Gently Caleb picked up the sheep in his strong arms and set it on its feet.
It was late in the day now and time to lead the sheep back to the pen. By the time they reached the pen Ben was so tired he just wanted to go to sleep.
‘We must count the sheep and make sure none are missing,’ said his dad.
‘Dad my feet are sore. I’m tired.’
‘You have done well son. This won’t take long. If there are any missing we will have to go back and look for them.’
He didn’t like the idea of walking all that way back again. It was dark and they would have to carry lanterns. The wolves, how would they be safe from the wolves? Much to Ben’s relief, all the sheep were there.
The sun had set and the sheep were settled. Two more shepherds brought their sheep to the pen and they were counting them. Ben noticed that the stars were coming out. As it became darker there was a horrible sound of howling. Ben was terrified and ran to his father.
‘Dad I can hear wolves.’ He was so scared he wanted to go home. His father put his strong, loving hand on his shoulder.
‘It’s time to light the fire. We light a fire near the gate and we all sit round the fire. This way the wolves won’t come near us. The sheep are safe too,’ said his father. Ben felt very safe with his father. After they had eaten some food Ben was so tired he fell asleep wrapped in his blanket.
About midnight Ben was rudely awakened by a lot of shouting. There was brilliant light right across the sky. All the men were terrified and yelling out. They were all crouched down on the ground. Ben’s heart started pounding. What was it? He crawled to his dad and grabbed onto his clothes. They were shading their eyes from the bright light.
‘Don’t be afraid,’ someone was saying.
‘It’s an angel,’ whispered Caleb.
‘Don’t be afraid,’ the angel said again. ‘I bring you good news. All people will be glad about it. Today your Saviour was born in the city of David. This is the proof. You will find Him wrapped in cloth and lying in an animal feeding box.’
Suddenly there were hundreds of angels in the sky and they were all singing. Ben couldn’t believe his eyes and ears. Then just as suddenly as they came they were gone. The shepherds all looked at each other. They thought they were seeing things until they realised that everyone of them had seen and heard it.
‘Lets go to Bethlehem and see this wonderful thing,’ said Caleb. With that he picked up a little lamb and added, ‘I’m taking this lamb as a present for the baby king.’
Now the shepherds were almost running as they went to Bethlehem
"Ben do you know what this is?" Caleb didn't wait for Ben to answer."Since the days of Adam and Eve we have been waiting for the One God promised. Now he is here. The Messiah is here!"
"Why did God promise to send a Savious papa?" Ben asked.
"You remember son. Adam and Eve decided to go their own way. They knowingly disobeyed God. That's when death, decay and disease entered our world.Before that everything was perfect. So God promised to send someone to put it right."
The other shepherds were speechless; how could this wonderful thing be happening to them? As they reached the town they turned straight toward the inn. This was the only stable they knew about.
"Here we are friends," Caleb announced. He strode straight into the stable and stopped in his tracks the lamb still held close to his chest. The other shepherds almost bumped into him. Some peered round him and some looked over his shoulder. There lying in an ox's feed trough lay the baby just as the angels had said. Ben pushed past his father and walked closer. All the shepherds followed slowly and then suddenly they went down on their knees to worship him.
Mary, the baby's mother and Joseph didn't know what was happening. They were so surprised.
"His name is Jesus," Mary said.
Caleb laid the lamb beside the trough. "A gift for my King," he whispered.
Time seemed to stand still and then one by one they began to praise God. Then suddenly Ben thought of his mother and his sister.
"Papa, let's go and tell mumma!" He could hardly contain his excitement. Wait until mumma and Liz hear about this he thought. With that he began to dance and clap as he headed toward the door. And you know what? All the shepherds did the same thing.
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