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The First Christmas Eve

To recount the Christmas story from a different narrative stance.

by Kate Fleming

Suitable for Key Stage 2


To recount the Christmas story from a different narrative stance.

Preparation and materials

  • Teacher-in-role as Gib the Shepherd, or any interested adult associated with the school.
  • Five Year 6 children to play the parts of Mary, Joseph and the three shepherds in the nativity tableau at the end of the story.
  • Costumes for nativity tableau.
  • Shepherd's costume for teacher in role/actor (optional).


The teacher or other adult as Gib the Shepherd enters and looks searchingly out to the children, then tells the story as follows:

... fifteen, sixteen seventeen, eighteen, nineteen ... now where's the twentieth? I'm counting my sheep - not, I might add, to send me to sleep, more to keep me awake on this dark, cold winter's night.

(continues to search)

It's my guess it's the spotted one - she's gone astray before. Ah! There she, is all present and correct. They don't often wander off, my sheep, but they can go missing (touches nose) know what I mean? Yes, sheep stealers, rogues who roam the hills looking for unattended sheep, or preferably lambs, and whisking them away. Always more likely, at this time of the year, Christmas time - that's when it happens.

Special time though, Christmas, well it is for me, I can tell you! The first Christmas Eve I spent on these hills just above Bethlehem down there. I was about your age I suppose - eight? nine? ten? And I'll never forget it. My father and my Uncle Coll owned the sheep then, and I was their shepherd boy - that meant I did all the jobs they didn't want to do! That year, that special year, we'd had quite a few sheep gone missing.

Gib (that's my name), Gib, my father had said, we need you tonight, we need another pair of sharp eyes to watch the sheep while Coll and I look out for stealers. I was so excited to be out all night and to be trusted and treated like a grown-up at last.

Like tonight, the weather was spiteful. Winds were bitter and the frost so hard that by the time darkness fell the ground was like steel and crunched as we rounded up the sheep. That's what caught the stealer - we heard the crunching of his feet and Dad and Uncle Coll set off in chase of a well-known rogue called Mak. The lamb was soon back in the fold, I can tell you!

Little did I know then that this was going to be the first Christmas Eve. Sometimes I still wonder if I was dreaming, but if I was then we all had the same dream. Suddenly there was an amazing blaze of light like sheet lightning, but it was the voice that woke us from our sleep and filled us with shock and fear. The voice 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 sky seemed full of angelic figures as far as the eye could see. Then they disappeared as quickly and as astonishingly as they appeared, leaving a bright new star in the sky, as if we needed a reminder of what had happened. Dad and Uncle Coll were, like, stunned. The City of David, I said, that's Bethlehem down there. We MUST go now! We MUST find this baby lying in a manger. It is the SAVIOUR!

To my amazement, Dad and Uncle Coll gathered up their crooks, built up the fire and were ready to leave. No argument, no worries about the flock, only anxiety about what present we should take for the baby. Never dreaming that they would agree, I suggested the lamb we had retrieved from the old rogue Mak earlier that evening. Splendid idea, said Dad, and Uncle Coll agreed - a sign, they said it was. So, leading the lamb, we set off down the hill to Bethlehem, following in the direction of that brilliant new star.

Bethlehem was busy, all manner of folk about the place, something to do with an order from Caesar Augustus that everyone had to be taxed in the City where they were born. We were pushed and shoved by the crowds; everyone seemed to have a mule laden with all their worldly goods and nowhere to stay. Uncle Coll picked up the lamb and put it round his neck to keep it safe. Suddenly he stopped. It must be here, he said, if we are to believe that star. And the angel, I ventured to add.

You know where we'd stopped, don't you? Yes, by a stable door.

(At this point the nativity tableau forms behind Gib the Shepherd as he speaks)

We cautiously went in, and there, in the warmth and cosiness of the stable, were Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus.

(Uncle Coll presents the lamb)

Uncle Coll presented the lamb. I so wanted to give something just from me. What could I give? Well, this is what I gave, and what I give - this story! I've told and told this story to anyone who'll listen - just like I'm telling it to you now. I told it to a Doctor Luke once - he said he'd write it down so I'll never forget that night, and perhaps nobody will ever forget it!

Time for reflection

Dear God,
This Christmas, help us to remember the first Christmas Eve,
and enjoy the true spirit of Christmas.
Help us to appreciate the love and generosity of our family and friends
and to cherish the gift of giving.


'Rise up Shepherd' (Come and Praise, 116)

Curriculum links

RE, English

Publication date: December 2000   (Vol.2 No.12)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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