I do not know exactly how many years I have been writing a Christmas story to read to the children in church on Christmas Day, but it is at least thirty.

A Story for Christmas Day 2019

It is not good to get lost. But Lila got lost a lot.

Lila was a small lamb with tight curly white wool and a tiny black face. Her legs were black up to her knee; so, it looked like she was wearing knee socks. Lila was not very strong and, like most lambs, she was a little bit absent-minded.

When the shepherd led her out to pasture with the other sheep, Lila would put her head down and nibble the grass happily all day, following wherever the sweetest juiciest grass seemed to lead. She often forgot to look up and notice the position of the sun. So, sometimes Lila missed the point when the sun was getting low in the sky. She knew she was supposed to pay attention; but it was so easy to get distracted.

When the sun got down close to the hills in the distance, this was the signal it was time to head back to safety. All the sheep would gather around the shepherd who sat near the fire, warming himself against the approaching cold as his sheep returned for the night.

If one sheep failed to return, the weary shepherd would whistle or call into the growing dark until the stray sheep heard the sound and found its way home. Sometimes the sun might have gone all the way down behind the hills before the missing sheep heard shepherd calling and could find its way back to join the rest of the flock.

Lila went missing more than any of the other sheep. But she always heard the call of the shepherd and the sound guided her home…

… except for one dark and stormy night. Lila had nibbled away at the sweet grass in the pasture without noticing that the sun was slipping quietly down behind the hills. When Lila finally raised her head and looked around, she had no idea where was. It was growing dark and cold. Lila listened carefully for the sound of the shepherd. She knew he would be calling. But a strong wind had come up and any sound the shepherd might have made was carried away over the hills.

Lila walked and walked. She wasn’t interested in grass any more. She only wanted to get back to the other sheep and join the warmth of the flock and the safety of the shepherd’s protection.

Lila had heard terrifying stories of wolves who lived out in these wilderness places. She knew they hunted for sheep who wandered away from their shepherd. Lila knew she was helpless against the fury of a hungry wolf. There was nothing she could do to keep herself safe against the wild beasts of the night. She was cold. She was lonely and frightened and sad. Lila felt very small.

Then the rain started. Sheep don’t mind rain, but Lila was still just a lamb and the wool that covered her back and sides was not as full and thick as the adult sheep. The rain soaked into her matted coat and she began to shiver.

Cold can kill a lamb almost as quickly as a wolf.

Lila looked around. She could not see far in the deepening darkness. Nothing looked familiar. There were sharp rocks sticking up out of the uneven ground on the winding path she was following.

Suddenly, Lila realized she was walking along the edge of a steep ravine. She knew it was dangerous to walk on this narrow trail. If one foot slipped just a little to the right, she would lose her balance and plunge down into the dark below. She had to be careful. There was so much danger. It was getting too late for her shepherd to venture out to find her. He would stay near the fire and hope that in the morning the wind would have died down and the sound his call would carry over the rough terrain and find his lost little lamb.

Lila decided to settle down for the night. She found a slightly sheltered spot under a scraggly tree, put her back up against the rough bark and lay down to try to sleep. But as soon as she was still, Lila heard sounds coming from the dark. They were not comforting sounds. She heard growling, snarling and howling. It was a pack of wolves prowling nearby, hunting, sniffing for little lost lambs who had wandered away from their fold.

Lila had no idea where this narrow trail on the edge of a cliff might lead but she could not stay still in the wind and the rain surrounded by the threatening sound of wolves. She wobbled to her feet and stumbled along the path. She walked slowly, carefully, fearfully, putting one little hoof in front of the other and moving ahead in the dark.

Lila felt hungry; but now there was no grass to nibble only sharp bare rocks and gravel. She felt so alone longing for the comfort of the other sheep. Her little heart beat fast; tears welled up in her eyes. She wondered if she would ever again see the warm friendly face of her shepherd.

That was when she saw it, off in the distance down the trail ahead. At first it was faint, but gradually as she got closer, the glow grew brighter. She was approaching a small village perched on the edge of the cliff. At the edge of the village there was a small shed behind a larger building. The shed shimmered with light.

Lila knew it was never a good idea to approach humans who were strangers. A lost little lamb who stumbles into the presence of strangers might end up in a stewing pot for dinner. But the darkness drove Lila forward.

As she approached the shed, Lila realized it was not a place where she would be likely to encounter humans. Certainly, it was no place for wild wolves. So, Lila thought it might be a safe shelter against the stormy night.

The door was open a crack. Cautiously Lila pushed on it with her little black nose; the old iron hinges creaked. She peaked around the door, stopped for a moment in fear, then took another step inside. She stopped again; the air was warm with the familiar breath of other animals. Lila looked around the barn and what do you think she saw?

There were animals – two cows and a donkey. But, that’s not all. She could not believe her eyes, there were also sheep, not just any sheep. When Lila looked closely, she realized they were her sheep. Her flock was sheltered here inside the rough walls of this shed. She looked up at a figure standing among the sheep and saw the kind gentle face of her shepherd.

The shepherd moved toward Lila and knelt on the floor in front of her. He took Lila’s face in his hands and looked into her eyes. “We thought you were lost,” he said. “But here you are. You found us.” Then tenderly he led Lila forward past the other sheep to where another man was standing beside a woman seated on a rough old bench. The woman held a small bundle cradled in her arms.

Lila realized that the beautiful warm light she had seen glowing outside in the dark came from this little family. It washed over her with gentleness and a strange strong feeling she had never felt before filled her heart.

Lila stood bathed in the warm light. She knew, that the call of the shepherd had brought her to this safe place. She knew that she could always hear this call if she could be still and quiet. And, she felt, in some strange way, the light shining from this little family would always be with her and with this light she had nothing to fear and would never again be lost.

 C. Page December 2019