“In Shepherds’ Field,” Ensign, Dec. 2008, 19
While attending Brigham Young University, I studied in Jerusalem with approximately 170 students during the fall of 1998. As the Christmas season approached, we began to focus our studies and field trips around the birth of the Savior.
It was cool and windy the evening that 40 of us pulled up to our last and most anticipated stop for the day. Tradition held that Shepherds’ Field, located just outside of Bethlehem, was the place where the ancient shepherds sat watching sheep on the night of the Savior’s birth, never anticipating what would soon be proclaimed to them.
The field was nothing like I had imagined. I saw a terraced hill with hardly any greenery. We walked down a rocky path, and each of us found a quiet place to sit and write in our journals. I finally found a large rock to sit on. It was cold, uncomfortable, and surrounded by thorns.
When we were told we would be able to see the local shepherds and their sheep, I wasn’t prepared to see children in rags. But even though they were dressed in worn, secondhand clothing, their eyes were bright. Open-palmed, they approached our group’s chaperone. After asking the children their names, she gave each one a few shekels. One of the children carried a newborn lamb. He approached me and offered to let me hold it.
As I took the warm baby lamb in my arms, I began to see the situation differently.
The Savior knew about the life of a shepherd. He knew about the cold nights, rocky trails, and danger of thieves and predators. He knew shepherds sometimes held the baby lambs in their arms, standing watch while waiting for the darkness to pass.
While the Wise Men were able to bring the Christ child gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, the shepherds could offer little in the way of material gifts. Their sacrifice was simply in coming to offer humble hearts and joyful spirits in partaking in the celebration of their infant Lord.
The Savior has brought the gift of joy to our cold and dreary world. He has promised to stand watch through the long, dark night, despite the terrors and hardships this life can bring. He knows us, His sheep. He is our Shepherd.
That night, for the first time, I began to understand the promise in the gift of our Savior.