The Little Shepherd Boy
The green hills of Judea echoed with the plaintive melody of a
shepherd's pipe as young Aram nestled onto his mat for the night. His
father was out there somewhere, along with Aram's two uncles,
tending the flocks. Aram wished he could be with them, but that was
impossible. His right arm was withered from birth and had little
strength. So he stayed in the cave that his father and uncles had
hacked into the white stone that lay just below the soil, and helped his
mother whenever he could.
The chill night of the Winter Solstice drifted through the cave. Aram
raised up on his good arm and looked across the valley to Bethlehem.
He knew the town was filled with people from all over Judea and
Galilee -- even from Egypt -- ordered there by Caesar to be counted
in the census. Aram could see the white stone buildings clearly, even
though there was no moon. A very bright star had risen for the first
time the night before, hung directly over Bethlehem, and was nearly as
brilliant as a full moon. His father worried about the star. Could it be a
sign of a coming calamity? Such things had happened before, he told
Aram was almost asleep when he heard a sudden commotion outside
the cave. He looked out and saw his father and uncles hurrying down
the path. Something terrible must have happened! Aram jumped up,
threw his cloak over his shoulders, and ran to meet them.
"What is wrong, Father?" he shouted. "Where are you going?"
"To Bethlehem," came the breathless reply. "Where is your mother?"
"Asleep, I think," Aram answered. Then he asked, "Why are you
going to Bethlehem. Where are the flocks?"
The three men paused a moment. "Back in the hills," his father said.
He opened his mouth to speak again, but was distracted by two more
shepherds running up a second path towards them. They both had
wild looks in their eyes. Aram's father spoke. "So you have seen
"Angels," one of the men answered breathlessly. "A host of angels
came out of the sky. We saw this with our own eyes."
"So did we," Aram's father replied. "So we were not dreaming."
"Angels?" Aram asked.
"Yes, my son. Angels just appeared to us and said that the
long-awaited Messiah had just been born in Bethlehem."
"In a stable in Bethlehem!" one of the strangers shouted in disbelief.
"Why would a Savior be born in a place like Bethlehem?"
"Do you not remember the words of the prophet Micah?" answered
Aram's father. "'But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small
among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will
be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient
times.' We are going to Bethlehem now to see this thing which has
Aram was beside himself with excitement. "Can I go too, Father?"
"Yes. Come with us. We will all go to see this child."
Bethlehem, basking in the silvery light of the bright star overhead,
was even more crowded than Aram had imagined. Travelers were
sleeping in every available space, their cloaks pulled up over their
chins to ward off the biting air. The shepherds had to walk carefully
lest they accidentally step on someone.
They asked a few people if they knew of a woman who had a new
baby that night. Aram had been to Bethlehem once or twice in the
past year. He knew that shepherds were held in low regard by the
people. Shepherds were nomadic and had no roots. Furthermore,
most of them were as dirty as their sheep. So most of his father's
questions were answered by curt replies. One man, sitting outside a
crowded hostel, began cursing when Aram's father asked about the
"Get away from me you filthy pigs," he shouted, disturbing the other
sleepers. "Go back to your sheep. They're the only ones who can
stand the stink of you!"
The commotion brought out the innkeeper's wife. "What is this?" she
Aram's father calmly explained they were looking for a woman who
had just had a baby.
"There was a couple here earlier -- from Galilee, I think," the
innkeeper's wife replied tartly. "We had no room for them so we sent
the pair to a small cave that we use as a stable. You can find it if you
follow the path behind the inn." Then she waved her hands in the air.
"Now go, so our guests can get some sleep."
The shepherds hurried to the rear of the inn where they easily found
the well-worn path. A hundred feet later, they came to an opening --
a man-made cave hollowed into the side of the hill -- just like Aram's
home. A young man stood at the entrance and watched them as they
"A thousand pardons for disturbing you, sir," Aram's father said,
bowing low in the custom of Jews when intruding. "We seek a new
born baby. We were in the fields with our flock when angels
appeared and told us that the long-awaited Messiah had been born in
the City of David."
The young man did not seem surprised at the news. In fact, he acted
like he had expected their visit. "I am Joseph of Nazareth," he said
quietly. "My wife Mary is inside, and she has just delivered a son."
"May we see the child?" Aram's father asked. "We wouldn't ask
otherwise, but angels sent us here."
"Just a moment," Joseph said as he disappeared into the cave. In a
instant he returned, holding out his hand in welcome.
Inside the cave a flickering oil lamp cast a yellow pall over the
interior. The smell of sweet straw mingled with the earthy odors of
animals in their stalls. Beside the lamp sat a young woman with long,
dark hair, who could not have been more than 14 or 15 years old.
She smiled at the visitors.
"The child you seek is in the manger," Joseph said.
Aram was thrilled beyond words. If this was the Messiah that God
had promised Israel, he would be among the first to see him -- poor
little Aram, the shepherd boy with the withered arm, was about to see
The shepherds moved closer to the manger, a crude wooden box
with chips and dents in the side where the animals had chewed on it.
Mary stood up and reached into the manger, pulling back a mass of
swaddling cloths to reveal a wrinkled, red little face. Aram and the
rest of the shepherds fell down on their knees to worship the new
king, but Aram remained standing. He was transfixed by the baby.
Mary said nothing. Instead she reached into the manger and tenderly
lifted her child. He held it to her breast for a moment, smiling at Aram.
Then, to his amazement, she held it out for him to take.
Aram's father saw what was happening. "Sir," he said, addressing
Joseph because it would be unseemly to talk directly to his wife. "Do
not allow your wife to let my son Aram hold the child. He has a
withered arm and will drop the baby."
Joseph glanced nervously at his wife who only smiled and continued
holding the child out to Aram. Everyone held their breath. It would
have been bad manners to protest further. Aram reached over and
took the infant, being careful to support his head. To the amazement
of all, he held the child securely. Aram smiled at the sleeping infant in
his arms. Then he asked Mary, "What is his name?"
"Jesus," she replied softly. "The child's name is Jesus."
A few moments later, the shepherds bid their goodbyes to the family
and left the cave. At the top of the hill, they turned right and headed
out of Bethlehem, toward their flocks still grazing in the hills. They had
not worried about the animals straying. Surely God would tend to
them while they were on their mission. Instead of worrying about their
animals, they shouted and praised God for his goodness and mercy
toward all mankind.
As they walked toward the Judean hills, Aram's father also marveled
at what he had seen, but admitted that he had had a nervous moment
when the woman had given Aram the baby to hold. "I did not think
you had such strength in that arm," he said.
"Have you not noticed?" one of the others said.
"Yes, your son's arm. Am I the only one of us, including Aram, that
has actually seen what has happened? Take a close look."
Aram's father fell to his knees and squinted at the arm through the
darkness. Then he let out a little cry of joy and praised God. The
withered arm had been healed.
[ by: Ed Price -- from 'Themestream' ]
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