Eli’s First Christmas
A Story written by Dick Staub for children of all ages and first read on December 25, 2011.
When Handel wrote his Messiah
He spoke of “shepherd’s watching their flocks by night, when an angel appeared.”
But apparently he knew nothing of Eli, Poof and Goof.
Handel said. “All we like sheep have gone astray
We’ve turned everyone to our own way,”
But he obviously knew nothing of Bunny, Bobo and Bullwinkle.
There are those who take offense at my telling of Eli’s story.
They feel it trivializes the great tale of Jesus birth.
But from the standpoint of young Eli,
Nothing could be further from the truth, as you are about to see.
And I just felt you deserved to know…the rest of the story.
So here it is.
Eli’s First Christmas
Once upon a time there was a young shepherd named Eli *who lived in Bethlehem, a suburb of Jerusalem. His family had been shepherds for so many generations. They each wore a button in the shape of a mutton,That said, “Sheep R Us. One wintry night over 2000 years ago, Eli was very excited as he got dressed for work. That very night he would for the first time take charge of all the sheep, and all the other shepherds. He was the youngest boy ever to be honored in this way. Centuries earlier a legendary shepherd boy named Davidwas only 17 years-old when he was put in charge.Not since then had such a young man been chosen and Eli felt very honored. The owners of the sheep trusted Eli to do a great job And that is what he set out to do on that cold December night.I will leave it to you to decide whether or not Eli succeeded. The minute Eli arrived in the fields he could tell trouble was brewing;Trouble with the sheep AND trouble with the shepherds. The assistant shepherds on duty that night were Goof and Poof, And they announced to EliThat they had lost Not one, Not two, But THREE Sheep already, And the night was still young!Eli listened as Poof and Goof explained how Bunny, Bobo and Bullwinkle had all wandered off and were nowhere to be found. “Great,” Eli muttered, “my first night in charge and already Bunny, Bobo and Bullwinkle have gone missing.” If you feel the names of these sheep do not convey dignity, you, oh reader are perceptive indeed, for I don’t know what you know about sheep, but I can tell you this, when you look at them from a distance they may look soft, cute and huggable, but get up close and your typical sheep stinks like the county dump. Furthermore, and there is no delicate way to put it dear friends,Sheep are often thought to be downright stupid.“It has been said that sheep are the only domesticated animal that cannot go wild. They are slow and they have no protective fangs like a wolf, No claws like a cat, no shell like an armadillo, Not even a spray like a skunk.One sheep expert claims that “Cats, dogs, birds, horses, pigs, even cows, If you set them loose in the world They’ll get thin, they’ll get smart, and they’ll get by. What about Sheep? ….Set them loose in the world and they’ll get eaten.” Dogs bark, cats hiss, rattlesnakes rattle… Sheep say Baaa! Baaa! That’s the barnyard equivalent of saying‘I’m soft and cute, Please don’t eat me, please don’t eat me!”* Despite their stupidity and essential helplessness, Or should I say, because of it, Sheep love to wander off the path into mischief And that is just what had happened on this fateful night. Eli sent Goof and Poof off in search of the missing sheep. Did you know if a sheep rolls over on its back it cannot get back on its feet? That’s how Goof found Bobo, Lying helplessly on his back in a moonlit meadow, With his little legs of lamb churning and flailing away Like Elvis turned upside down dancing the Charleston While covered with willowy white cotton candy. A few minutes later Poof saw a patch of white hanging like a cloudTwenty feet up the top of a ladder in a nearby barn. “Who do you think you are Brian Wright?” yelled Poof.*** Bunny sheepishly bleated, “I got up here, but I can’t get down.”Poof climbed up and lifted Bunny onto his shoulders And carried her to where Goof, Bobo And the other sheep had gathered with Eli, Who was relieved that on his big night only one sheep was now missing. Bullwinkle. Things were looking up! Eli sat down on a rock and thought about what to do about Bullwinkle.He warmed himself while roasting chestnuts on the open fire. Of his 100 sheep, Bullwinkle was the one who always managed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Eli worried about Bullwinkle and where he might be on this cold dark night. Dark ravines, steep cliffs, wolve’s dens, These were the kinds of places this prodigal, baaaad sheep was often found. When Eli read the book, “why bad things happen to good sheep,” He thought, based in his experience as a shepherd, A better title would have been, “Why do good sheep often do bad or really stupid things?” He looked up at the night sky as dark as Orcas Islandor a Katherine Taylor chocolate. ****Eli gazed at the silvery moon and dazzling white stars above. He marveled that he was now watching sheep Under the same sky that David the shepherd boy and then King Did 1000 years earlier. Eli had just resolved to search for Bullwinkle,When all at once there arose such a clatter He jumped from the rock to see what was the matter. There in front of him in dazzling white was a man who looked like he was wearing a radioactive bathrobe. A spotlight shined on this creature and yeah verily, Eli found himself sore afraid. Then Eli heard a voice that sounded like Yoda.“Fear not; for behold good tidings of great joy I bring you, for unto you is born this day in the City of David, A Savior, which is Christ the Lord.” When Poof and Goof saw the bright light They came with haste and found Eli staring up at the sky, Where suddenly there was with the first angel A multitude of the heavenly hosts, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth, goodwill towards men.” “Great”, muttered Eli under his breath,“My first night in charge and a multitude of the heavenly host shows up.” For centuries shepherds had heard stories That one-day in the little town of Bethlehem, A virgin would give birth to a baby boy, Who would be called Jesus the Christ, the messiah, the anointed one. This child would establish the throne of the Shepherd-King David forever. Eli thought about this: “Could it be, 1000 years after David the Shepherd-King of Israel, That I Eli, on my first night in charge of the sheep, Have been chosen to see this newborn Son of God?” Eli was eager to head off to Bethlehem,But then he remembered Bullwinkle.“The shepherd’s job is to find and protect his sheep.”His mind was made up. He said to Poof and Goof, Let’s secure these 99 mangy sheep. You go to Bethlehem to find the newborn child! I will go off in search of Bullwinkle. Poof and Goof went to the Bethlehem synagogue, Figuring this is where the messiah would be born, But they found only a group of old men called elders arguing among themselves. They rushed off to the Holy-land Hilton, but found only wealthy tourists Dressed in their finery and eating bagels and lox as if they were in Miami Beach. oof and Goof had just about given upWhen they came upon a cheap hotel in the bad part of town.They saw a small crowd gathered outside the camel’s stalls. And there in the midst of cows, camels, roosters and chickensWas a most amazing sight… It was Bullwinkle the missing sheep!Lying flat on his back with his little legs of lamb churning and flailing away Like Elvis turned upside down dancing the Charleston while covered with willowy white cotton candy.
As Poof and Goof turned Bullwinkle upright and onto his feet, Eli arrived on the scene, having heard Bullwinkle’s cry. While Poof and Goof attended to Bullwinkle, Eli could not take his eyes off the newborn baby boy lying in a manger. Jesus the Christ, the messiah, the one God had promised. Legend has it you can tell a good shepherd at birth. Eyes attentive to danger, hands gentle but strong, A quick mind and shepherd’s heart, brave, tender and true. King David had written a song about a great shepherd, one who would guide, protect, nurture and restore. Eli gazed down on the child who would one day be called the Good Shepherd.The Shepherd would leave the 99 sheep to find the one lost one.And who would one day sacrifice his own life for his sheep. Eli got on his knees and wept at his good fortune to be witnessing this great sight.I am a shepherd of the sheep, he said, But this is the Lord, MY shepherd. Over the next years Eli watched as self-righteous religious people turned their backs on this Jesus, while sinners flocked to him. It always reminded Eli of Bullwinkle the lost sheep who found Jesus before Eli did. And how that even though he was just a baby, Jesus had found Bullwinkle before Poof, Goof or Eli did! So that is my story of Eli. It is now 2000 years later and I am a shepherd of sorts trusted with a local flock on Orcas Island.*****Often when I walk among the sheep, rain-drenched and soaked,Watching my flock of Bullwinkles,I think of the wonder of those first shepherds when they came upon the Christ child in the manger stall.And I think of the wandering sheep both then and now. And I think of our wonderful ShepherdJesus, the Messiah, The Hope and Savior of mankind.The one who invites all to join in the dance. Now and evermore.The End* Eli is the name of my first and only (so far) grandson.
** The extended section in quote brackets is inspired by and adapted from a sermon on the 23rd Psalm by Rob Brink @ http://revsmilez.com/2010/04/28/sermon-23rd-psalm/
*** Brian Wright is a friend of mine who fell from a latter feet up, had back surgery and is recovering right now. He was in church with a body brace on, laying across five chairs in his pajamas on Christmas Sunday when I read this for the first time.
**** I live on Orcas Island where it is really dark at night. The best homemade chocolates in the world are made right here at Kathryn Taylor Chocolates, and yes, you can order online.
***** I graduated from seminary 35 years ago and am pastoring for the first time since then at a wonderful place called Orcas Island Community Church.
©CRS Communications, DICK STAUB, December 2011