The Wheeler family purchased a property of several acres, but the land hadn’t been put to much use by previous owners. After they moved in, the first thing Mr. Wheeler set about to do was build some wooden fencing to enclose the backyard. A fence would separate the family’s recreational activities from other functions the property would serve. The project would make a good learning opportunity for his teenage son, Erik.
He drew a diagram on a sheet of paper and reviewed the process with Erik to give him a vision of the end product. Then they began the first step.
This week, I’m doing something a little different. I haven’t written a poem since I attended Utah State University, but at the beginning of this month, an idea took root in my mind and quickly grew. The perspective expressed through these lines makes the Christmas story more relatable and realistic to me. I hope you enjoy it, and I wish you and your loved ones a merry Christmas.
Just a Shepherd by Ben Minson
A shepherd in the field, I stood at the sheepfold gate, my eye on my flock, on each sheep and lamb as they settled down to sleep, trusting my watchful care.
Bathed in the night, I looked at my hands, hardly seeing them, barely there, like a ghost haunting the pastures unseen by the larger world.
A Roman emperor beyond the sea, Rome-appointed kings feasting in their fortresses and halls, the Lord’s covenant people yet in captivity, a Messiah prophesied since the days of Adam but not yet appeared—
Does anyone on earth notice this shepherd in the field? Does the Lord of heaven spare a thought? Am I more than a shadow?
I looked up into the vast darkness of the sky and hoped someone was looking back.
Suddenly someone was.
Whiteness surrounded me and those near.
Bathed in the light, I could not at first see. A figure took shape before us, hand stretched forth; shaking, we gripped our crooks, nearly fell to our knees.
But the being said, “Fear not, for I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.”
I stared at that hand, that face; my legs took strength, straightened.
His gaze fell upon me. Saw me.
“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.”
The Messiah. Here? Now?
“Ye shall find the babe” said the light-wrapt messenger, who was then joined by countless more in a transcendent chorus praising the Almighty.
“Ye shall find” said the visitor— so we went seeking.
We found a humble shelter not fit for any offspring of God let alone His Only Begotten, yet the angel’s sign, the babe in swaddling clothes and manger, plain before us, told us we had found Him.
My sandal scraped on the stone floor and hay; the baby stirred, awoke, fussed. His mother freed His arms, and He calmed. My knees again weak, I sank next to the manger— I leaned, wanting Him to notice me, see me— without thought, I reached a finger toward Him.
He saw it even with His new eyes, took it in the hand that had fashioned the earth. The pure and innocent grasped the callused and soiled.
Though I knew a babe cannot yet really see, somehow …
His gaze fell upon me. Saw me.
Just a shepherd.
Bathed in Spirit, no longer just a shadow but now more a vessel of His light, I wept and bowed before Him.
I left that place made sacred by His presence still just a shepherd but no longer merely that.
Though the emperor in Rome and his appointed kings in their fortresses and halls take no notice of this shepherd, just as I look upon and watch my sheep and lambs, there is a King and Emperor who looks across a dark ocean of stars upon this earth and sees, takes notice, of me. A shepherd in the field.
O Father of us all, enthroned in the wellspring of glory, I trust in thine eye, thy watchcare; reach across eternity, and as thy Son did on that night, light me afire once again and always.
Photo by Ben Minson
On commenting: Please share your thoughts! You can leave an email address, but it’s not required. Leaving an email address may prompt you to sign in with a social media or WordPress account.
In the Parable of the Mansion, Jack and Francine face a most bizarre and unlikely scenario. Their house hunt looks hopeless until their real estate agent shows them a magnificent mansion and presents them with a “once in a lifetime” deal. If they can come up with a down payment, the agent will pay the balance of the cost of the house. In other words, the agent will buy the fabulous mansion for the young couple, provided they can come up with a reasonable down payment. Unbelievable, right?
In a recent post, I discussed how my mother took on a Christlike role in repairing something I had broken, and, in the process, brought peace to me. Another story of the role of a parent came to mind recently.
When Joseph Smith, the first prophet called by the Lord in modern times, was a boy of only seven years, he suffered typhoid fever. The illness caused an infection in the bone of one of his legs.