Chapter 3 -- Angels and Ewe

When they arrived at the fields above Bethlehem, all the other angels were there and practicing their flying, even Brother Boaz, who was being very slow and careful. Down below, four shepherds were stretched out around a little camp and a ewe had snuggled up between two of them. Bernard divided up the angels so that they made a circle around the shepherds. He put Brother Friedeman far away – just in case. Zacharias and Xaviera hovered next to each other.

"Does everybody know the song?" Bernard asked.

"Theoretically, yes," Renata replied, snippy with nerves.

"I have compared thee, O my love, to a company of horses in Pharaoh’s chariots," Zacharias sang out loud to Xaviera. She smiled at him and sang back, "As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the sons."

Bishop Bernard said sternly, "I DO BEG YOUR PARDON!"

Visibly embarrassed, Zacharias and Xaviera murmured simultaneously, "Sorry, wrong song."

"The Song of Solomon can wait. Let's try "Glory to God in the Highest" instead," Bernard said with a sigh, wondering if this were going to work, and what kind of miracle would be necessary to see this through. Probaby the same order of miracle that had parted the Red Sea for Moses and sent fire from heaven down for Elijah. "Now the key word is 'manger.' As soon as you hear that, you start to shine, all right?"

Everybody nodded. Friedeman took a deep breath. Praying for the best, the bishop flew closer to the shepherds and began to shine. Three of the four shepherds woke up and stared fearfully at him. The ewe lifted its head as well, and at first, Bernard thought he heard it bleat, but then realized that it was the fourth shepherd, snoring.

"Fear not," Bernard said quickly, "for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David –"

The bishop lifted his arm in the direction of the city –

"—a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger."

At the word "manger," the other angels started to shine as well. All amazed, the shepherds glanced around as the angels sang. Bishop Bernard glanced around, too, and discovered that the miracles were already starting to happen. Friedeman was singing loudly, but not unbearably. Boaz had been flying very close to the ground, with small, weak wingstrokes, but now he was lifted up, higher and stronger. Zacharias and Xaviera flew so close that their wingtips were touching – well, maybe that wasn’t exactly a wonder. But Renata was singing and her voice was absolutely beautiful.

The song came to an end. The angels stopped shining and flew away to where Tiberius was waiting with the wagon. Naturally, Xaviera and Zacharias stayed close, grinning at each other as they pulled off their wings and put them back in the wagon. Renata, however, stayed where she was, pressing her fingers to her mouth and throat as though unable to believe that they belonged to her. Having heard an inexplicable improvement in his own voice, Bernard knew exactly how she felt.

Down below, the shepherds looked at each other, then slowly turned in the direction of the city.

"Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us," the first shepherd said. They all started to march away, but at that moment, the fourth shepherd woke up. "Oy! Whither would ye go?”

They all turned around and the first shepherd said, "A saviour is born this day, which is Christ the Lord."

The second shepherd added, "In the city of David." He lifted his hand and pointed in that direction.

The third shepherd said, "We must see this thing and tell all the people!"

"Suffer me to come with you!" the fourth shepherd called out.

"Nay, for thou sawest not the angels," said the third shepherd. "Thou hast slept a deep sleep."

"And thou hast snored, that not even the song of the angels could awaken thee,” the second shepherd said.

“There must be a man to stay here with the sheep. For behold, the ewe draweth near to her time,” said the first shepherd.

The three shepherds went away, and the fourth sank resignedly to the ground.

Glad that he was not yet on the earth and forced to speak forsoothly, finding all the right verb endings and knowing the difference between "thou" and "thee," Bishop Bernard turned away from the shepherds. A growing feeling of contentment warmed his insides; their task was complete and miracles had happened – even to him! Unwilling to let the moment to end, but realizing that he had to return to the pre-existence eventually, he started to fly away.

Although Bernard extended his hand to encourage Renata along, she remained where she was, staring down at the fourth shepherd. Bernard followed her gaze. The shepherd had started plucking sadly at the grass and flinging it in the ewe's direction. Now he said mournfully, “Had I awoken and seen the angels, yea, behold, I, even I, could go unto Bethlehem and see the saviour.”

He stopped plucking at the grass and knelt down. After he’d pressed his hands together, he bowed his head, and though he did not speak out loud, Bernard could still hear his prayer. "Behold thy manservant, I pray, and send him thy message, too."

In that instant, however, Bernard and Renata had to fly hastily out of the way, because Tiberius came swooping down like a destroying angel. He stood in front of the fourth shepherd, began to shine, and said, "Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger."

The shepherd stared at Tiberius with his mouth hanging open. All at once, Bernard realized that Tiberius was going to break into song. He flew down quickly to give the boy a little support. To his surprise, Renata came, too, and together, they began to shine and sing. “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

As soon as they had finished, Tiberius said to the shepherd, “Rejoice, o shepherd! Now canst thou, even thou, go unto Bethlehem and see the Saviour.”

The shepherd stood up rejoicing, and was just about to set out when the sheep at his side suddenly gave a long, loud bleat. The excitement drained from the shepherd’s face and he said sadly, “Behold, the ewe travaileth in birth.”

"We'll take care of it," said Tiberius excitedly, either not knowing how to translate that phrase into "forsooth speech," or not caring. "We were called especially for this service, weren't we, bishop?"

Unsure of how to answer that, Bernard settled for a feeble, "Uh …"

To his great astonishment, Renata stepped closer and said, "Yes, indeed! I'm even a member of the Guardian Angel Emergency Services and we've been trained to deal with all kinds of sticky situations, especially birth. Your sheep will be in good hands with us. And anyway, we're angels. Miracles always happen around us."

"Right," Tiberius stated and nodded in agreement. Both angels stared pointedly at Bernard, and he had no choice but to nod as well.

"I thank you and praise you!" said the shepherd, grinning. He lifted his hand as though to touch them, then let it sink, and ran towards Bethlehem as fast as he could, repeating it over and over again. "I thank you and praise you!"

The ewe bleated again, and Renata knelt down and patted its head.

"It was a good thing that I came, too, wasn't it, bishop?" Tiberius asked proudly. "I was able to answer his prayer! Did you see how happy he was?"

"Yes, you did that very well," Bernard replied.

"And my voice sounded even better the second time around," said Renata in amazement. "I was only going to pretend that I was singing, but then I started up anyway and … a miracle happened! To me!"

"You really couldn't sing before?" Tiberius asked, kneeling down on the other side of the sheep and patting it as well.

"Not a bit! I was always happy that I could at least be a guardian angel. But now I could almost think about joining the choir."

"I wish I could be something like a guardian angel," said Tiberius. "Or at least have a calling where I could answer prayers. It's such an … exciting feeling!"

"Indeed it is," Renata agreed. "Saving lives, answering prayers, or even helping in any way … that’s the best thing. But singing … isn't bad, either."

She and Tiberius smiled at each other. Before Bernard could mention how well they were doing and how little they needed him, the ewe bleated again and Tiberius called out, "Look, bishop, the lamb is being born!"

Bernard looked, grimaced, and quickly averted his eyes. Desperately, he looked around for the little town of Bethlehem, where another lamb was also being born – the Lamb of God.

The End

Story © by respective author(s)
Licensed under the Creative Commons License