The lamb's tale
By Rachel Boxer
It was a still, dark night. On the hillsides just outside Bethlehem a little lamb huddled up to her mother for comfort.
‘It’s daa-rk, Mummy!’ she bleated nervously.
‘I know Maa-rtha, dear,’ her mother replied. ‘But don’t worry, the shepherds will take care of us. They always do!’
Martha was the shepherds’ favourite. She was small and soft and timid and had a ‘please-take-care-of-me’ look in her dark, brown eyes.
As darkness gathered around them the shepherds settled the sheep in their pens for the night, then sat down around the crackling fire for warmth.
Martha could hear them talking and laughing together, their gentle faces glowing in the light of the fire. She could feel her eyes getting heavy and the sound of the shepherds’ voices seemed to get fainter and fainter as she drifted off to sleep, snuggled closely to her mother.
Suddenly the night came alive with startled shouting and Martha woke with a frightened bleat of shock from her peaceful slumber, her heart thumping in her chest. What had happened? What danger was out there? Was it a lion...or a bear..? But it wasn’t either of those things.
Instead the night was bright with light, brighter than day, and to Martha’s surprise every one of the shepherds was down on his knees, trembling with terror. Then, from out of the brightness came a voice: ‘Do not be afraid!’ To her surprise, Martha found that she wasn’t afraid! Instead she found herself being drawn to the voice that spoke and she edged forward to the entrance of the pen.
It was beautiful! Martha had never seen anything like this before...and before she realised it, she was out of the pen and at the front of the huddle of shepherds. She gazed up at the sky in total wonder.
And then the voice spoke again: ‘I bring you good news of great joy that is for everyone. Today, in Bethlehem, the Saviour has been born! You will find the baby wrapped in cloth and lying in a manger.’
The shepherds all started talking at once, falling over each other in an effort to get up and be the first to leave. And then one of them spoke to Martha: ‘What are you doing out here, little one? There’s no time to put you back with the others – so you’ll have to come with us!’
Martha felt herself being scooped up and tucked under the shepherd’s arm. She was going too!
The shepherd’s ran down the hillside towards Bethlehem. Martha heard them whispering nervously as they crept through the doorway into a tumbled-down stable. Martha felt herself being lowered to the ground and she was just about to let out a worried little bleat when she caught sight of something familiar - hay - in a feeding trough. 'Dinner!'
Forgetting where she was and who they’d come to see, Martha eagerly pulled at a few strands of hay and chewed gratefully. It was sweet and warm and delicious!
She stopped mid-mouthful and peeped nervously at the trough. There was a baby, who was wrapped in cloth, just as the bright voices had said he would be. This was the baby’s bed and she was eating it!
But the baby didn’t seem to mind...or his mother either, who smiled, her eyes full of joy. ‘His name is Jesus,’ she announced to the kneeling shepherds. So this was the Saviour that the shining voices had spoken about...this was the ‘good news for all people.’
The shepherds were silent too, their faces bright with hope, lost in wonder as they gazed at this new life.
No-one really wanted the night to end. Reluctantly, with Martha once more tucked securely under an arm, the shepherds returned to their hillsides and their sheep, telling anyone and everyone they met on the way about what they had seen and how life would never be the same again.
And what a tale Martha had to tell too: about an extraordinary adventure; about the baby, lying in a feeding trough, who was good news for all the world. The Saviour - whose bed she had nibbled!