Murray, KY – A Christmas Carol, Frosty the Snowman and the Nativity of Jesus, the winter holiday season is filled with stories classic and new, festive and religious. Commentator and storyteller Robert Valentine shares a holiday story titled "The Guardian" about a shepherd named Adonikam, who is greeted in the night by a mysterious stranger, long ago.
Adonikam sat alone on the grassy hill overlooking the sleeping town. Around him, the sheep grazed and slept by fits and turns. The silence of the night was broken only by an occasional bleat.
There would be no lions this close to a town, he knew, but wolves would gladly venture close to where people lived. His father and uncles had moved the sheep from the wilderness to the edge of the town, but they had not done so just to make him safe from danger. Wolves were nothing compared to hungry men, and hungry men were more plentiful in towns than in the pasture. He felt the smooth stone in his sling and rubbed the hard knob of wood at the end of this staff. Wolf or man, he was prepared.
"You are alone, shepherd," said a deep voice from behind. Adonikam leapt up and dropped the stone in its sling to his side.
"Peace be with you," said the man. He was tall and thin, and had no hair on his bare head. He was dressed like a shepherd, but was bare of foot. "I am going to the town, but I need to rest. A man could do worse than to sit in the warmth of the sheep."
He sat on a spare bit of grass, and two of the sheep moved slowly toward him. He reached out to scratch the ear of one. Adonikam knew he was right; sheep clustered in herds, and a man alone might keep himself from freezing if the sheep drew in around him.
"I am guardian of these sheep," he said. "My father and uncles have gone to the town."
"I know," said the man. "I go for the same reason."
Adonikam did not know the reason. He knew only that the men had come into the camp of the sheep herds and taken him to guard the flock. They spoke of a "messenger" or of "singers," and they were in great haste, but he did not understand why they had to go into the town, nor why he had to stay with the sheep. Always, before, an older man would mind the flocks.
"I know not the reason," said Adonikam, sitting back on his rock. He felt strangely at ease with the stranger, who had not yet told his name or his tribe as the courtesy of the flock demanded.
"Then I will tell you," said the tall man. He leaned back against a ram that lay behind him. "They go to the town because they have heard that the Messiah is come. Do you know who is the Messiah, Adonikam?"
"No," said the boy.
"He is God on the earth. He is a great teacher, and will bring hope to all men. That is his star," he said, pointing to the bright star which seemed to hover over the town, "And that is the place of his birth among men." He nodded down the hill toward the quiet town.
"Is that what the singers said?" asked the boy. "Is that the message of which I heard?"
"Yes," said the man.
"Why did I not hear such messengers? I have come as far as the men, and now I am here with the sheep while they go to see a Messiah."
"You have heard a messenger," smiled the man, as he stood and stretched his arms. "You have heard the message as you should have heard it," he said. Adonikam saw that all the sheep had now moved to surround the man, so than neither human could move. Every sheep looked at the tall man with the smiling face. "Now, I must go, Adonikam, and you must stay to guard the sheep. They will be safe with you this night, and you with them."
The man moved as if through a wheat field of sheep, which parted for his passing and then closed behind him. "Shalom alekam," said the boy, as he raised his arm.
"The peace of God is with you, too, Adonikam," said the man, without turning. He walked onto the road toward the town and soon was gone in the darkness, despite the bright star overhead.
It was only then that Adonikam thought, "I never told him my name or tribe, yet he called me by my name three times." Around him, the sheep were still silent. Every head was turned toward the place where the man had disappeared.
The peace of God was very still and very bright there in the darkness.
Robert Valentine is a professional Speaker, Storyteller, and Senior Lecturer at Murray State University in the Department of Journalism and Mass Communications. Visit his website, here.