A bundle of Nativity nerves

Three years ago, our neighbors decided to host a live Nativity. They spread fresh straw in their barn, mounted a star in the rafters, and built a makeshift cradle in the manger. We got a call: Could we loan them a lamb? We said we’d love to help, but in December lambs are pretty much full-grown sheep. They are not handled, either, so they are somewhat wild full-grown sheep. We were afraid that when the children started doing what children do, the sheep might change their peaceful Nativity into a rollicking rodeo.

No problem, our neighbors said. It’ll all be just fine.

We did have one ewe that had been at the fair, so she’d had a halter on at least once in her life. Our grandson, Jordan, knew how to lead a sheep and agreed to be her shepherd. We prayed for the best.

On the day of the event, my husband, Jerry, went to the corral to catch the ewe, who was not pleased about it. Finally, the halter was secure, the sheep loaded in the pickup and headed for the neighbors’ barn, and Jerry and I had our fingers firmly crossed.

As he handed the rope to Jordan, Jerry reminded him to keep her head up and keep a short rope. As an afterthought, he suggested that if the sheep began to baa, Jordan might put his hand gently over her mouth. Meanwhile, in the Nativity, the wise men and women gazed with wonder and awe at the shining star in heaven as the young Mary and Joseph entered the stable with the pretend babe and laid him in the manger. Jerry and I wondered if a pretend sheep might have been a good idea, too, but it was a little late for that.

As the violins began playing “Silent Night,” Jordan led the sheep into the stable. Miraculously, as if sensing the solemnity of the occasion, she quietly walked up to the manger and looked in. We held our breath, but she never made a sound.

She didn’t so much as move a muscle during the entire narration for both performances. In the end, all the children hurried up to pet and hug her. Some had never seen a sheep. Our ewe just stood there, calm and respectful, as the children adored her.

When Jerry unloaded her into the corral, she returned to her old self. The moment the gate was down, she leaped from the truck, bounded down the chute, and rocketed over to her sheep friends, baaing all the way. Maybe she was eager to tell them about the miracle of the Christmas story, but she’d given us a little miracle of her own that day! —Barbara Buchanan, Tremonton, Utah, from Country

Learning is easy and fun!

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