There’s a little voice in my head asking what’s wrong with the Christmas stories in the Bible, that I feel the need to write new ones. But I can hardly hear that little voice, because of a much louder voice howling like a wolf – “Aarroooooo!”
Here’s this year’s story … (The biblical background is Isaiah 11.1-9)
Once upon a time, far away on a hillside outside a little village called Bethlehem, there were some shepherds looking after their sheep. They took it in turns to keep watch through the frosty, moonlit night, because they knew that they might not be the only ones watching the sheep.
Sure enough, hidden in the shadow of a big rock, was a wolf, and he was also keeping a close eye on the sheep. In particular, he was keeping a close eye on one of the lambs, just a few weeks old, who looked very tender and tasty.
Suddenly, the sky grew bright as if the sun had risen in the middle of the night, and the wolf slipped behind the rock. He could hear a voice, but he couldn’t understand human speech – although the voice didn’t sound like any human he’d heard before. Then there was some singing, and then everything went quiet and dark and normal again.
The wolf peered around the rock and was delighted to see that the shepherds were walking down the hillside towards the village – every single one of them – leaving the sheep completely unprotected. The wolf couldn’t believe his luck! That lamb was his for the taking. He started slinking slowly out of the shadows, towards the flock of sheep. But then, as if out of nowhere, a big old wolf blocked his way.
“Where do you think you’re going?” asked the old wolf.
“I’m hungry, and that lamb is my supper,” replied the younger wolf.
“The sheep belong to God tonight,” said the old wolf.
“But God doesn’t eat sheep!”
“True, but God protects the weak and saves the lost.”
The young wolf felt very frustrated. “I am weak with hunger,” he pleaded, “and I am frightened of men, with their slings and their sticks. The men have gone. Surely God has given that lamb to me. Let me eat.”
The old wolf shook his shaggy mane, making himself seem even bigger than before. He said, “The men have gone to see God’s son, who has been born tonight in the village. God has sent them to worship the baby. God is looking after his sheep tonight.”
“But what about me?” asked the young wolf. “Doesn’t God care about me too?”
“That’s why the baby has been born,” said the old wolf gently. “The baby is God come into the world to make peace. Peace between God and the world, and peace between all God’s creatures. Tell me – do you enjoy being frightened? Do you enjoy being feared?
“No,” admitted the young wolf. “I do not enjoy fear from either side of it. But it is the way the world is. It has always been like that and always will be.”
“It is the way the world is,” said the old wolf, “because the world is broken by fear. This baby makes peace. He will heal the world and make it new. The wolf will live in peace with the lamb, the leopard with the goat, the calf with the lion, and a little child will lead them. That child in Bethlehem – he will lead the world to peace.”
“That is a wonderful thought,” said the young wolf. “Tonight, in honour of God and his baby son, I will live in peace with that lamb.” And he bowed his head low.
When he lifted his head, the old wolf was nowhere to be seen. There wasn’t even a paw-print in the frost. But the young wolf knew that he had been in the presence of God. He didn’t feel hungry and frightened any more. He felt a warm glow of life within him and he leapt up onto the rock and lifted his head to the stars.
And some say that when the angels sang that starry night above the fields of Bethlehem, amongst the sopranos and altos, the tenors and basses, you could hear a wolf lifting his voice in praise to God – Aaroooooooo!