The Story of the Shepherds
Not everyone important is rich and powerful
by Helen Bryant (adapted)
Suitable for Key Stage 3/4
To reimagine the role that the shepherds played in the Nativity.
Preparation and materials
- You will need a leader and two people to play Shepherd 1 and Shepherd 2 (they can each wear a tea towel on their head as a costume if you wish). The shepherds will need time to rehearse prior to the assembly.
Shepherd 1 rushes in, out of breath.
Shepherd 1: Crikey! I’ve left the sheep on the hill and James is taking ages. Well, he is getting on a bit. Fancy me leaving the sheep on the hill, though! Still, I just had to go. They made me. What they said just made sense; it must have been true. It was an ordinary night really: bit nippy, sheep grazing peacefully, James and I and the stars and then suddenly, out of nowhere . . .
Shepherd 2 (enters halfway through, catching his breath): There he was, floating. I did wonder if it was the beer, but then he spoke. ‘Do not be afraid!’ he said. Easy for you, mate, I thought! John and I just stared at him. Then, we looked at each other and we were both like fish out of water – never seen anything like that before!
Shepherd 1: Then, this floaty guy spoke again and said, ‘I bring you news of great joy. Today, in the town of David (that’s Bethlehem), a saviour has been born to you.’ He was telling us something amazing! Could this be the Saviour who was promised to us? The Messiah that we have waited so long for and been told so much about?
Shepherd 2: I was terrified. I couldn’t listen, so I just hid. When I looked out again, there were more of them - as far as the eye could see! Angels singing praises to God: it was the most beautiful sound. That’s when I knew that it was silly to be afraid and that we had to go and have a proper look.
Shepherd 1: Both of us left the sheep and ran, just as fast as we could . . .
Shepherd 2: Which isn’t that fast for some of us!
Shepherd 1: We got to the town and tried to catch our breath. We knew that we had to find the stable. Imagine, the Messiah, in a stable!
Shepherd 2: Suddenly, John spotted it and we both just stood there for a bit. The stable was at the end of a quiet alley. We edged forwards, neither of us wanting to go in first. Then courage, anticipation and hope grabbed us both and we took a deep breath.
Shepherd 1: There they were: the baby in the manger; his mother kneeling, looking tenderly at her son; and his father, standing protectively over them both. We knew then that what the angels had told us was true.
Shepherd 2: The family looked so peaceful and happy. We sat with them, marvelling about what had happened.
Shepherd 1: We’ve come away now, and we’re bursting with joy at what we’ve seen. We can’t wait to tell everyone!
Shepherd 2: It’s amazing! I really hope that people will believe the good news.
Time for reflection
Leader: So, as we just heard, the first people who came to see Jesus weren’t the rich and powerful of Bethlehem, but they were important nevertheless. They were humble shepherds, working in the field; people who spent their days outside with their animals.
Right from the start of his life, Jesus was associated with people who maybe didn’t appear to be as important as others. Throughout his life, Jesus sought out the poor and those whom society did not seem to value highly.
The shepherds’ story also links with the fact that Jesus calls himself a shepherd. He could have described himself as a king or someone else rich or important, but he chose to describe himself as a shepherd. Jesus uses this description because he cares for and leads his followers, like a shepherd tending his sheep. Christians believe that Jesus will lead them throughout their lives and teach them the right way to live so that eventually they will join with him and God in heaven.
The shepherds show us that Jesus is there for everyone and everyone is important.
Thank you for showing us that your Son came at Christmas for everyone.
Thank you that he leads us, as a shepherd.
Thank you that he is firm, loving and kind, and that we can trust him.
‘While shepherds watched their flocks’, available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eSyUvOUZwxQ&vl=en (2.54 minutes long)
‘The Lord’s my shepherd’ by Stuart Townend, available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-eIQQayhpak (4.01 minutes long)
‘He shall feed his flock’ from Handel’s Messiah, available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VUIO5rse8zM (5.17 minutes long)