Those Were No Ordinary Sheep


In our collection of Advent and Christmas reading there is a book written by Ruth Bell Graham which is a lovely collection of stories, poems, photos, and recipes.  She says she was so touched by a story in The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah by Alfred Edersheim that she wrote the poem which follows.

The story is from Jewish tradition. It was believed that the longed for Messiah would be born in Bethlehem and that he was to be revealed from Migdal Eder, a watch tower for the flocks which pastured beyond the town on the road to Jerusalem. It is said that the sheep pastured there were destined to be Temple sacrifices.  The shepherds who watched them were under the ban of Rabbinism because of the way they lived which made it impossible to observe strict religious ordinances.  ” Of the deep symbolic significance of such a coincidence, it is needless to speak.”

Those were no ordinary sheep
no common flocks;
huddled in sleep
among the fields,
the layered rocks,
Near Bethlehem
That Night;
but those
selected for the Temple sacrifice:
theirs to atone
for sins
they had not done.
How right
the angels should appear
to them
That Night.
Those were no unusual shepherds
but outcast shepherds
whose unusual care
of special sheep
made it impossible to keep
Rabbinic law,
which therefore banned them.
How right
the angels should appear
to them
That Night.

from  A Quiet Knowing Christmas

by Ruth Bell Graham

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