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,
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.
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,
His gaze fell upon me.
“For unto you is born this day
in the city of David a Savior,
which is Christ the Lord.”
“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.
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.
Just a shepherd.
Bathed in Spirit,
no longer just a shadow
but now more a vessel of His light,
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
A shepherd in the field.
O Father of us all,
enthroned in the wellspring of glory,
I trust in thine eye,
reach across eternity,
and as thy Son did on that night,
light me afire
Photo by Ben Minson
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