The first year I was a parish pastor, at Holden Village in the North Cascade mountains of Washington State, I thought I should tell a story to the children as part of the Christmas Eve service. I don’t remember exactly what that story was – I think it had to do with a cat – but I did continue to create a story each year wherever I was. In my third Christmas at Faith Lutheran Church in Seattle in 1983 I wrote a story about a sheep named Sherman. The next Fall, the parish children started coming to me asking, “Pastor Winder, Pastor Winder, is Sherman coming to Christmas again?” So every year for 25 years I told a new story about Sherman. They were collected from time and time and published in the congregation, with delightful drawings by Rebecca Rickabaugh, a friend of Faith members Sandi and Bob Dexter. So this Twelfth Day celebrates Sherman the Christmas Sheep with the first story from 1983.
For the Animals, Too.
In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Luke 2:8
You know the story. Angels appeared in the sky and sang “Glory to God” and told the shepherds to go to Bethlehem and see the baby Jesus. The shepherds were so shocked and excited because of the angels that they went right away, leaving their sheep behind! Now the sheep had seen and heard the angels, too, and they were very surprised when the shepherds ran off without them. One sheep, whose name was Sherman, said, “I think we should go to Bethlehem.” Another sheep said, “No, we’d better stay here. The shepherds will be angry if we go there.” And another said, “It’s cold and dark and way past the lambs’ bedtime. I’m scared. Let’s all stay here.” And another sheep said, “This is a people event. They don’t want animals.” But Sherman said, “We all heard the message of the angels. They said this was peace for all the earth, and sheep are about as earthy as you can get. I am going to Bethlehem.” So Sherman started down the hillside. Many of the sheep went with him, but others stayed behind with the lambs.
When they got to the road, they were confused. It was very dark. But Sherman said, “I know the way. Come with me.” As the sheep trotted down the road, the dark night became brighter and brighter. There were more stars than ever before, and the moon seemed as bright as the sun. As they came to Bethlehem, they saw a wonderfully huge and welcoming light from an old stable behind an inn. “Come on,” said Sherman. “That is the place!” And the sheep began to run.
When they came to the stable, they stopped suddenly and looked with amazement. There were their shepherds. Some were kneeling and some were standing, but they were all quietly laughing and crying all at once, with looks on their faces like the sheep had never seen before. And there were animals: a donkey, a cow, a lot of birds, a little dog, and a couple of cats. “See!” said Sherman. “I told you it was for the animals!” And they were all looking at the manger where there was a little baby. The baby cried a little, and Sherman realized that it was really very cold in that stable. And then Sherman knew why the sheep had to be there. Silently, he led the other sheep up to the manger. They all gathered round, and Sherman leaned closely into the manger to give the baby Jesus the warm, woolly heat of his body. And the baby stopped crying and went to sleep. And there was never a happier sheep than Sherman was that night.
Story by Nancy L. Winder. Do not reproduce without permission.