knows, one of the sheep may have even tried to chew an angel’s gown!”
Fr. Richards paused, detecting a slight grin on Sam’s face and a little more light in Joey’s eyes.
“The important thing is that the shepherds went and saw the baby in the manger and they believed! So many people this time of year celebrate Christmas and miss the baby. Remember the pin some of the people are wearing on their coats this year, ‘Jesus is the reason for the season?’ Well, that’s the whole point of it. It’s about more than just falling into a pile of straw.”
Samantha giggled and then caught herself. Joey sat up a little straighter. Both set about to eat at least a little of their oatmeal.
“No matter what problems people face – even big ones like sheep stampedes…” Sam and Joey laughed. “No matter what, the important thing is that we don’t let that keep us from seeing the baby in the manger. He is our Savior and Lord! Tonight a lot of people are counting on you and your friends to lead them to the baby. Don’t let anything stop you from this important ministry. Even Mr. Williams is coming tonight.”
Both children gasped. Everyone at St. Bart’s knew that Mr. Williams hadn’t been to Mass in many years, ever since their only daughter had been crippled by one of those childhood diseases. Joey had heard his dad say that Mr. Williams was blaming God for it. Even as a seven year-old, he couldn’t understand how that could be.
Standing on the stage that evening, Joey kept hearing the words of the pastor racing through his mind, “Don’t let anything stop you… a lot of people are counting on you to lead them to the baby.”
Joey looked up at his sister, again hanging like a prize fish. “Do a good job, Sis… remember what Father Richards said!”
“Brothers,” she muttered as she smiled.
Bill Wesley was never in better form. His narration was the best he had ever done… all the actors were on cue… in fact, everyone was doing a great job. It looked as if this year’s pageant would be presented without incident.
After being flawlessly lowered into the mob of shepherds by Mr. Oswald, Samantha confidently called out her lines. “Fear not, for I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
This was the cue for the shepherds. They were to walk across the stage from the sheep pen to the manger. As they walked slowly, Joey glanced out at the audience. In the front row, he saw his parents sitting attentively. They smiled brightly as they caught Joey’s glance. Next to them he saw Mrs. Williams, her eyes glowing with pride. By her side, Mr. Williams sat motionless. He looked like an angry bulldog, barely tolerating the whole ordeal.
At that moment Joey broke ranks with the other shepherds and bolted down the stairs to the floor of the parish hall. He ran up to Mr. Williams and grabbed his hand.
“Mr. Williams, you’ve got to come with me. You’ve got to come see the baby. I know He loves you, you have to go see Him! Have you seen the baby, Mr. Williams? Come with me, please!”
Not even knowing why, Mr. Williams rose and, hand-in-hand, walked with Joey up the stairs and to the manger. The two knelt down with the other shepherds and looked at the infant that was lying in the cradle.
Mrs. Williams was on her feet, her hands clasped over her mouth in horror and disbelief. Just then, Mr. Williams turned around and looked at her; tears were streaming down his face. She ran up to the platform and knelt beside her husband who was looking with new eyes at the child before them.
Rarely at a loss for words, Fr. Richards quickly stood and walked up to the platform. “‘And the shepherds went back,’” he declared, “‘glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.’ As you may now understand, some of us tonight have seen the child, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, with new eyes.
"So I ask each of you: Have you seen the baby? Have you really looked upon Him who is the Savior and Redeemer of the World? May all of us leave this hall with a greater view of the babe in the manger. May all of us here truly see the baby for who He truly is.”
- - -
Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
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