Shepherds in the Field

Yesterday, I was reminded of the part of the nativity story which recounts that “the shepherds were abiding in the fields” (Luke 2:8) when I had the opportunity to meet this shepherd in the fields near Bethlehem.

His name is Hajj Ali, which means that he has been on the Muslim hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia. And unfortunately, in contrast to the shepherds of Luke 2, Hajj Ali only recognizes Jesus as a prophet and not yet as the “Saviour who is Christ the Lord” (2:11).

He was a friendly man who told me that he had been grazing his sheep in this area for more than 50 years. He seemed very pleased that I would stop and talk with him, though it was challenging because he only speaks Arabic. We did the best we could and had a friendly exchange.

I asked if I could take some pictures, and he gave me his approval, but suggested that I should give him some money for doing so. I dug around through the change in my pocket and found a 10 shekel coin and put it into his weathered hand. I understood from his grunts and hand gestures that 10 shekels wasn’t enough; he wanted the rest of the change in my hand, which all together totaled about 12 1/2 shekels. A small price to pay for the nice photos that I got and the joy that my daughter Grace had running amongst his sheep.

If I understood him correctly, he intended to use the money he got from me to buy some tobacco for his pipe, which was a prominent feature in most of the photo-opps he offered.

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