A Broken Staff He Will Not Despise
The shepherds stood fixed and wide-eyed at the sudden appearance of the angel clothed in garments whiter than white. If only Arnon could have been there to see him, to hear the angel’s announcement, and to listen to the packed choir of heavenly angels.
“… Today is born, in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. …You will find a Babe…
“Glory to God in the highest…
But for Arnon, the only shepherd who never got a chance to see the new-born King, that night would hold no glory, only gloom.
While his fellow shepherds traveled to Bethlehem to see all that the angel had told them, Arnon lay in bed, nursing his regrets.
He had failed to comply with the Chief Shepherd’s rules.
Every shepherd was required to have two staffs just in case his staff broke while caring for the sheep. Just as sheep needed a shepherd, a shepherd needed his staff to keep the sheep in line, protect them from dangerous animals, or manage the rocky steeps on his way to more fertile pastures.
All the shepherds knew how strongly the Chief Shepherd applied the rules. But Arnon chose to ignore them. Only one staff was required at work, he speculated, so who would know? His decision was a ticking time bomb waiting to expose his thinking. The answer came sooner than expected.
His accident earlier that day certainly was not his fault. He had not seen the jagged tip of a rock, waiting like a trap to catch the unsuspecting. Arnon fell prey to what had been partially hidden beneath the surface. So much of life happens that way.
Although he sustained no injuries after his fall, his staff lay broken in half beside him. How could that have happened? The merchant who sold him the staff had given him a lifetime guarantee against breakage.
Sometimes, you can’t tell the strength of a staff until you lean on it, and then test it where the earth dips downward, rocky and steep.
With trembling thoughts at what might happen should the chief shepherd find out that he had no spare staff, Arnon returned at once to the tent where emergency staffs were stored. His eyes darted from side to side, as he picked the first staff he saw, not caring to whom it belonged. Just as he exited the tent, he spotted another shepherd coming towards him, the owner of the stolen staff. Arnon did not deny the shepherd’s accusations, instead he begged for secrecy – unsuccessfully.
When Arnon responded to a summons to the Chief Shepherd’s office, he was immediately fined for his aborted theft and suspended three days without pay for breaking the rules.
Scheduled for night duty the night when the Angel visited and Angelic hosts filled the heavens, instead Arnon lay in bed and wondered at the hard times that had befallen him. Sleep came slowly and like the tossing of an empty barrel caught in a whirlwind; to dream, perhaps to sleep.
He dreamt of an angel, clothed in a garment whiter than white that stood before him. A gentle touch relieved his fears. And then the angel spoke.
“I bring you good news. Rejoice, for tonight the curse of sin will soon be broken. The King of Kings has come.” And then the sound of music, as if from heaven:
Glory to God in the Highest, Glory to God in the Highest, Glory to God in the Highest, Peace has come to earth.
Arnon awoke with beads of sweat drenching his pillow. What had he heard, what had he seen in his dreams? Throughout his suspension, he could not stop thinking about the change he felt inside. Something had happened, but he couldn’t explain it.
After his suspension, Arnon returned to the fields.
“You have no idea what you missed, Arnon,” the shepherds boasted. “On the first night of your suspension, we saw the Baby Jesus. The Messiah has come to earth.”
“Oh, I know,” Arnon responded. “I couldn’t come to Him so He came to me.”
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