by Carolyn Hampton, illustrated by Gina Burgess
Safta watched the children play chase and catch laughing as they scattered away from Hannah who was trying to catch them. Safta is Hebrew grandchildren call their grandmother. Joy filled her heart as she cherished their laughter.
“I got you!” Hannah squealed.
“No, you didn’t!” screamed Tomas.
Safta could tell the children needed some time to rest, so she called, “Come children, I will tell you a story!”
They always liked to hear her stories, and today she would tell them one very story. As they hurriedly sat down around her feet, they were still arguing over who caught who. “Hush, children. No matter who caught who,” she said, “I’m going to tell you a story of great importance.”READ MORE
“It happened here in Bethlehem many years ago. Back then it was a very small and unimportant place just as it is today almost a century later,” Safta told them as she settled onto a small stool that her Papa had made for her when she was no older than the youngest sitting at her feet. The stool was a treasure she had saved because it was a token of Papa’s love for her. She picked up the newest member to her goat heard and cuddled the kid. She began, “This is the way Papa told the story to Mama and the rest of the family right after it happened. It became a favorite story for the family to hear every year.
Makaniah awakened. She lay there not moving and certainly not wanting to get off her mat. The sheep skin that covered her was so warm protecting her from wind whistling through the cracks and crevices of their simple house made of mud bricks and sticks. She yawned and shivered.
Papa grumbled against the cold as he dressed quickly, then called out to her, “Makaniah, make the scrip ready. Pack enough for several days.” A scrip is a leather bag just large enough for a few supplies.
It was quite early and Makaniah was barely awake. But she smiled and lovingly replied, “Yes, Papa.” She leaned over and slipped on her sandals and tunic that were next to her sleeping mat that lay on the floor of dirt and hay. Then she rolled up and neatly put away the mat her mother had made for her to sleep on at night. Her mother wove it from wool that was sheared from their sheep. It was thick and warm and oh so comfortable.
Hurriedly she packed the scrip with bread, dried fruit, olives, and cheese. She picked up her very own scrip Papa had made her to keep her own shepherd things in while tending precious little lamb, Shemah. It was her job to care for the small lamb. She opened the bag and put in her sling, a pipe her papa had made to play soothing music for the sheep, and the doll her mama had made for her birthday.
She picked up the staff Papa had made her that was curved on one end to fit around the neck of a sheep that strayed. The other end was formed like a shovel for scooping up dirt or mud on them to get their attention and make them come closer to the herd. She used it like her Papa used his to keep Shemah safe and close by.
She quickly ran out of the house. Catching up with Papa as she heard him call. “Tahhoo!! Tahhoo !!” This was Papa’s call for his sheep. They knew the sound of their shepherd’s voice and would only obey his call.
The sheep lifted their heads and after a slight scrambling, they begin to move slowly past the gatekeeper.
“Shemah, you are my favorite,” Makaniah said, as she always did kneeling down and hugging her with a big smile. Taking care of Shemah was her job because little lambs needed much love and care. She snuggled into Shemah’s white wool and whispered, “I love you! I love you!” Then she grinned up at Papa.COLLAPSE
This is a sweet and informative look into the life of the shepherds who visited the Christ child. The author did an excellent job of weaving fact and fiction into the story of the birth of our Messiah. You can tell that Ms. Hampton has a great love for children and their relationship with the Lord.
Carolyn Hampton is a retired elementary school teacher. She has a deep love for children working with them in Sunday School and Vacation Bible School for many years. She taught many of her students daughters and sons and several of her students grandchildren. This story was inspired by a conversation between her granddaughter, Kristina, and her.
Gina Burgess has been painting and illustrating since the 1960s. Reading has been a passion since her second grade teacher took the story of Bambi out of her hands to read to the class. It was the illustrations that drew her to that book. She has taught Sunday School, VBS, Training Union, and Bible studies since 1972. She earned her MA in 2013 and has been editing and illustrating since.