There was a chilly bite in the air as I walked further up the hill. As if I was being wrapped in a blanket that had come straight out of the fridge. The moon was full and gleaming, like a big shiny mirror in the sky. So bright that I could see my own shadow in the silvery light as I walked. I was looking for a lamb, the one that was always running off. Right and left I looked, but at the moment all was quiet. The snow crunched like cornflakes under my feet as I trudged along. It didn’t normally snow, not often anyway, but it made the night feel like a special one somehow. I bent down and rolled myself a large snowball. I couldn’t resist doing it. It was soft and made my palms tingle with the cold. I drew back my arm and threw it straight up into the sky. So high that when it fell back down and hit me on the head it was moving so fast that it shattered into tiny bursts of crisp white crystals. ‘Ow!’ I said, rubbing my head, but it didn’t really hurt. I did look around though to make sure no one had heard me shout out. Then I made another snowball, an even bigger one, and this time I threw it towards some bushes. There was a yelp as it smashed against something. So I ran towards the sound, hoping I hadn’t disturbed a wolf. Two little eyes shone in the dark and blinked at me. So I crouched down and crawled closer, my knees leaving trails in the snow. I could hear the animal breathing, so I went closer still, little by little. A few more snowflakes fell, a couple landing on my nose. I wanted to brush them off but didn’t want to make too much movement. I kept going, closer and closer, and then I saw it, and our eyes were fixed on each other, staring, only inches from one another. My little lost lamb. The one that was always running off.
‘Come here!’ I whispered and I leapt up and grabbed at the little creature, but the animal was too quick, and I slipped and fell forward straight into the snow. Headfirst. Splat! My eyes were still open and blinking as I got a face full of cold snow. It was everywhere, in my ears, up my nose, in my mouth. I leapt up, blowing out the snow and shaking myself like a large wet dog, and saying ‘Flum! flum! Brrrrr!’ loudly as I shook myself. Then I caught a glimpse of the little lamb, which was now running down the hill towards the twinkling lights of the town.
‘Wait!’ I called but of course it didn’t.
I started running after it, kicking up little clouds of snow as I went. On and on we raced, me and the lamb, picking up speed as we headed for the houses below. In the town there everyone lived in small homes, with their animals close by, and most were asleep by now. But one or two had little lamps lighting up the windows. The lamb seemed to be heading somewhere in particular, because it stopped by the road, looked up and down a few times then spotted a house and ran straight for it. I followed then stopped suddenly, my heels scraping on the cold ground as I did so. What was going on? I could see some of my friends here, the other shepherds. Shouldn’t they be up on the hill looking after the rest of the sheep? I looked up to see a bright light in the sky, it dazzled me, a star hovering over my head. And as I moved closer, still following the lamb, I heard everyone talking in hushed voices. They were gathered around a fire at the back of one of the houses, well no wonder, it was cold cold cold now! I moved closer to get a better look. Then I heard another noise. It wasn’t a fire they were gathered round. It was a man and a woman, and they were look a little shocked. The woman was holding something. Perhaps a parcel of food. No, it was moving, maybe it was my little lamb? Had she picked it up? No… no… oh! Oh! Oh goodness!
It was a baby! A tiny bright eyed baby. And suddenly I got the strangest feeling, as if I had gone over a big bump. My stomach leapt and my heart skipped a beat. All at the same time.
The others were saying something about angels flying in the sky. And how this new baby, which had only just been born, was going to grow up and help us all. I had the strangest feeling that they might be right somehow. They all watched for a while then the man yawned the biggest, noisiest yawn and suggested we give them some space. So we did. As the others wandered off down the street, they were making such a racket that people came out to see what the fuss was about. So they started telling everyone. I stood still under that bright star wondering what to do. I wanted to tell someone about the baby but felt confused and nervous, and didn’t really know what to say. Then I spotted the lamb again, bounding up to a small house as an old lady appeared in the doorway. She bent over to pat the little sheep.
‘What’s going on?’ she asked. So I told her what I knew, and her face lit up, as she smiled the biggest smile.
She listened and nodded and her smile grew brighter and brighter and I thought perhaps she understood things better than I did. We spent so long talking that I didn’t notice when the lamb skipped off again. Where was he now? I said goodbye to the lady and started back up the hill. I walked for a while looking all over the hill and thinking about the new baby, and then, just when I was getting worried I heard the sound of another cry. My lamb bleating. In the dark. He was trapped in a very thorny bush. Without thinking I dived in to rescue him. I grabbed him in my arms but then – oh no – the thorns had dug into my clothes and the more I tried to pull the lamb free the more I got caught in the bush myself. I pulled and twisted and turned and did my best, but with every attempt I was getting trapped. The night was cold and we couldn’t stay out there. What could I do?
Then I heard a footstep crunching in the snow, I turned just as I felt a strong hand on my arm. There was a man in white leaning into the bush. He was very tall and as he pulled us out he glowed whiter than ever. Somehow he pulled us free and we stood there looking up at him. He smiled down at the lamb and the lamb bleated back at him.
‘Thank you,’ I said, very happy to be free, ‘I was trying to rescue my lost sheep but now you’ve rescued both of us.’
He nodded. ‘No problem,’ he said and he smiled again.
‘What were you doing all the way up here in the dark?’ I asked. ‘Usually it’s just us shepherds with our sheep.’
He started to walk away, but looked back as he spoke. ‘Oh I was up hear to do a job anyway. Which reminds me, I don’t think I saw you earlier – did you hear about the new baby?’
‘I saw him,’ I said. ‘My lamb led me to him.’
‘Good,’ said the stranger, ‘you have a clever lamb.’
And he turned and walked away, and as he got further away it almost looked as if he started to fly upwards into the dark night sky.
‘Come on,’ I said to my lamb, ‘let’s get you back with the others.’
And we walked on. It had been quite a night.