Welcome to my 100 words per day Advent challenge. Because I like to write stories and because I want to help add joy, peace and hope to this Christmas season I will embark on this writing voyage. Here in this blog post, I have put them ALL together. I pray this short story will take you on a journey to the Saviour and fill your heart and mind with wonder. We’ll follow two lives: One being a shepherd in AD 0 and the other an accountant in Amble in Northumberland, now in 2021. We will take a peek into their lives seeing how things unfold as the approach the manger.
(The italic writing are the thoughts of the accountant in Amble.)
LIFE RIGHT NOW
DAY 1 – AD 0
The twilight gives way to the light of dawn. My body clock is perfectly attuned to getting up at this time daily. Before I stand, I find a soft patch of grass nearby and get on my knees; to say my morning prayers. I give thanks God to for my livestock. As I offer my thanks, I hear them nearby, bleating – as if in agreement. I have a flock of twenty-two sheep. Another day looking for good pasture. It seems my life is stuck on repeat. At least I get to see the others today…
DAY 2 – AD 2021
My spirit feels unsettled today. I can’t pinpoint what it is; but no time to dilly-dally, it’s almost 7am. The day is upon me. I can’t believe it’s already the 2nd! As I hurry to get the kids up, fed and ready for school – I can already hear the town groaning below. (The paradox of our little place has always made me smile. The west side shows a world so hasty and noisy… But in the front, it’s vastly different.)
I like Christmas usually, but I’m dreading this year’s one. It’s the first one without her…
DAY 3 – AD 0
With my crook in hand, I stood on the ledge and whistled. It’s remarkable how all their heads lift up and turn in my direction. They recognise my voice. So off we headed. (The last time with Abel and Saar, we had arranged a rendezvous for today.) We had planned to walk in three different directions with our flock to scout the land and see where the best grazing was. The areas I explored were barren.
Time with the lads was always good company. Better doing this job with others than alone. Turned out the others also had no luck…
Day 4 – AD 2021
Phew! They’re finally in the car. Doing this singlehandedly is so difficult. With Avril and Simon buckled in, we head along Links Road towards the school. In the rear-view mirror, I noticed Avril gazing out the window looking pensive. “I miss mommy,” she says. I wipe the tear that runs down my cheek. “Me too, my angel.” Rachel died a mere six months ago. Stupid cancer! “Hey, look daddy, it’s a dolphin!” Simon blurts out. Avril and I both look to where he points. He is five and his sister is eight. He is definitely dealing with Rachel’s absence differently.
STATE OF THE WORLD
Day 5 – AD 0
Abel, Saar and I found a vantage point where we took a breather, allowing our flocks to roam nearby. Besides not finding great pasture, we also shared of how we sensed a tension in the surrounding regions. Something in the air was different. There was a hostility and despair among the local villages. The Roman Empire was getting stronger and the people were getting anxious and fearful. Neighbours were skittish with one another. Townsfolk were less hospitable. In the past, we were sometimes offered a drink or a meal – but not now! Now, people just ignored us. Society was sick!
Day 6 – DEC AD 2021
It’s been heck of a year! With Rachel’s passing. And this bloody covid. Closed borders. The uncertainty. When will this end? I feel emotionally heavy. Back to wearing masks again. The hollow in my heart is noticeable. Crying won’t bring her back. I’m not angry with God. But I am in no mood to celebrate His birth into the world. But yet still, I am on my knees with my kids, each night, praying for strength. Praying for Him to look after our beloved mum / wife. How do people go through tragedy without God, baffles me? God, I’m hurting.
JOYS OF THE JOB
Day 7 – AD 0
But it’s not all doom and gloom. In everything there is joy to be found. In our culture (Hebrew) we believe everything is spiritual. We have this deep connectedness to the earth and God sits quietly behind all things. As shepherds, out in the countryside, away from the city and villages, the only lights we see are those of the stars. Some nights, we just lay down looking up. It’s breath-taking! Often, we don’t need to say anything. The silence is enough. And it’s in those moments it almost seems we can feel God’s heartbeat. A silent night, holy night.
Day 8 – AD 2021
Simon is right. The dolphins here are amazing! As I told you earlier, the one side of the apartment overlooks the busy street, but the other has a breath-taking view of the bay. There aren’t many accountants in Amble so gratefully that allows for me to have a big clientele. With the government suggesting that we stay at home and work – I have enjoyed the office setup I have made in the dining room. I can peer over my laptop and gaze out to the sea. The morning sunshine spills in and today the dolphins are at it again.
WHAT IS THIS ALL ABOUT?
Day 9 – AD 0
The others had drifted to sleep. The occasional sheep bleated into the night. Sleep had overtaken us, yet I lay there wide awake. A question poking at me: What is this all about? We tend to our flock each day, then in season we sheer the sheep and sometimes sell their meat too. We get by. But to what end? It feels good to provide for our families. Then the restlessness in the towns. The cruel reign of the Romans. Demanding too much. Greed always seems to be at the centre of all hurt. There must be more to this?
Day 10 – AD 2021
My emotions are a seesaw. Some days are so hard. I know we’ll all live on in her honour. It takes time. I imagine her looking down on us.
It’s strange at Christmas time, it seems that many people are busy-ing themselves – in order not to do with stuff that is happening below their surface. What is this all for?
Then, I looked out at the North Sea below. It dawned on me – we pass on love. As if it were a baton. That’s what I’ll do. Her love for our kids – I can pass that on.
DAY 11 – AD 0
I startled awake. I’ve been speaking of the despair in the surrounding regions. But in my dreams, I see a Figure bathed in light saying to me: ‘What about me?’
What was that? I sat there, watching the morning light creep over the horizon. I think back upon my recent wanderings and my previous knowledge. The ancient words and people have mentioned the coming of a Saviour? He would rescue us. We’d be free.
Saar and Abel got up soon after me. I told them about my dream. They also have heard about this Saviour? But when would He appear?
DAY 12 – AD 2021
Around 2pm I need to go fetch the kids. To avoid the traffic by the school, I park just on the other end of Queen Street, along Bridge Street. I’ve always liked that walk along the high street, feeling connected to others, with casual greetings and taking in the hive of activity around me. I noticed this vacant store on my right. In the window, stencilled in with that glitter to give that snow effect is the word: HOPE. I definitely need that. I, then subconsciously veered off towards St Cuthbert’s Church. I ventured in and sat in the silence…
UNEXPECTED MOMENTS OF KINDNESS
DAY 13 – AD 0
So, you probably assume that we Shepherds are a kind of ragtag type of people? I don’t blame you. We don’t carry a change of clothes and don’t get to wash every day. It’s part of the job.
But there we are on a nondescript Monday and we come across this little boy. He seemed sad. Abel crouches by him and chats to him. Then he gives the boy one of his sheep and sends him away. Saar and I stand there aghast. Abel shrugs, “What? His family were hungry. God has blessed us with so much.” Wow, such kindness!
Day 14 – AD 2021
After I left that church, my soul stirred – I fetched the kids, I love that daily ritual as we walk up the high street, both Avril and Simon recalling their day. As we neared the car, we observed an unexpected scene…
An elderly lady had dropped her shopping bag spilling the contents as she was crossing the street – a teen wearing a hoodie and joggers (how often I usually judge that look) ran towards her, stopped the cars and helped her gather the things carrying them to the other side. He also got her another bag. Such kindness!
HARD TO BELIEVE IN THE UNSEEN
DAY 15 – AD 0
I feel so complex sharing my story with you. Because sometimes, I feel like a yo-yo with my emotions and thoughts. We wander this wilderness and at times, I feel as if God is right there with us: the stars displaying His glory and the silence showing us His heartbeat. But then the murmurs of the villages… have me wrapped up in doubt. The things we were taught from the Torah growing up, filled me with hope… but now: where is this God? A saviour they said? My dream, the other night? “It’s difficult to believe when You remain, unseen.”
DAY 16 – AD 2021
I hit an all-time low today. The kids are sleeping. But I am wide awake on this sofa with my grief. ‘She’s not coming back. She’s not coming back…’
‘God, where are You? It’s so hard to believe in You when I can’t see you and when life is so riddled with pain.’
The wind drives the rain against the windows, the pitter-patter of the raindrops sounds aggressive matching my anguish.
There are pretty Christmas lights strewn across the houses of our street, but still the people look so glum. Why so, who did they lose? Christmas spirit, yeah right…
DAY 17 – AD 0
It was rather unusual – we see thousands of stars every night, but this one; it was strikingly bright!
There we were, our hearts a tug-of-war of downtrodden and hope.
All of sudden, it seemed a hole in the night-time sky was opened and there They were. ‘Do not be afraid, we bring you good news.’ The Angels proceeded to tell us about the long-awaited Saviour to be born in Bethlehem. That wasn’t too far from where we were.
And you know what, we were the first they talked to about the coming Messiah?
So humbled – God sees us.
DAY 18 – AD 2021
Another Christmas, I didn’t want another familiar Nativity play. I needed something more, something real. One Saturday, Simon begs to take his sister and I down to the beach. He wanted to show us something.
He tells us to look out to the sea. Standing between Avril and I, holds our hands, staring hard as if trying to will something out of the water. And then, they appear, three or four dolphins.
Then Simon pulls out a pendent from his pocket. It’s of a dolphin. ‘Mummy says when I see the dolphins, I can be sure she is near.’ Priceless!
DAY 19 – AD 0
Saar just sat there. ‘We must go see this baby.’ I spoke. ‘Messiah’ added Abel.
There we were the weight of the moment between us.
Saar speaks ‘I have dreamt that a Saviour would come. That the ancient prophecies were actually true. But I’m not worthy…’ and he goes on to list his many mistakes.
I extend my arm lifting him to his feet and quote the prophet Isaiah, ‘The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.’
‘Even me’ Saar muses.
I reply, ‘Even me.’
DAY 20 – AD 2021
There at the seaside, seeing the dolphins playing – God met me in my pain. ‘Your fingerprints have been all over my life, I just didn’t realise it.’ I muse. Avril squeezes my hand in agreement.
Simon retells how in the hospital in her final week, Rachel gave him the pendent.
I had given it to her ten years prior on a trip in Tenerife.
It was the first time I had told her; I loved her. She replied, ‘Even me.’
That cute little reply became our thing.
Avril read the moment well, smiled and said: ‘Even me.’ Thank you Jesus!
DAY 21 – AD 0
Our steps were lighter. A weight had come off our shoulders and we hadn’t even met Him yet. We were overcome by joy.
I noticed lizards scurry across the rocks. I saw little shoots had burst through the arid ground. Some stars shot across the sky too. It was as if creation was excited as well.
How was a baby to help? (I wondered.) As if reading my thoughts, Abel declared, “This is God stepping into our humanity.”
And Saar added, “He has indeed seen the misery of His people.”
Our journey went quickly.
And then, we saw the star…
DAY 22 – AD 2021
My shoulders felt lighter. I will always miss her, of course. And yes, there will still be those difficult days.
But I had felt seen by God. He has stepped into my world vividly.
All three of us carried little pieces of Rachel in us.
We would live well, because that’s what she’d have wanted.
And more than that, the gift of daily life that God has given.
That Christmas eve, we stood together in the little church, holding our Christingles and sang:
“Light and life to all He brings
Risen with healing in His wings”
Our journey could continue…
DAY 23 – AD 0
I remember entering the stable and being surprised. It was fairly crowded.
There were magi there from the East. The mom, dad and the Child. There were even some animals inside. (Our very own sheep wanted a peek of this King too.)
Every so often the baby would burst into tears.
But how Mary (I found out that was the mom’s name) held Him. So tender and mild. You could feel the adoration.
I can’t quite put my finger on it.
But there was a certain holiness about the place.
The hay, manure and dung didn’t distract from the awe.
DAY 24 – AD 2021
Our house is quiet.
The kids will be awake soon.
I am sitting here with a cup of coffee.
And I look out to the darkness.
I know the sea is below. Although I can’t see it yet.
(There is probably a lesson in there.)
The sun may shine. Or it may be a grey day.
But still. It will be beautiful day. Christmas day!
In this quiet I sense a holiness.
Jesus is born.
Here in this moment.
It’s been a journey to get to this moment.
The loss and memories of Rachel.
But He has started the healing.
JOY IS HERE
DAY 25 – AD continuous…
Joy is here
Joy is here
Don’t miss the significance of this day.
Embrace the holiness of it.
As the shepherds who met the Saviour all those years ago.
As the widower up in Northumberland has started his journey of healing.
We too are on a journey
In the thick of life.
The rising cases of Omicron.
The rollercoaster of emotions
Joy is here
Joy is here
We celebrate Jesus’ birth all those years ago.
But He can be born in us. Everyday.
Faith, Hope and Love Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end