Lost lamb teaches Christmas lesson
"What is it Armond? Why do you grieve so? You look so sullen..." Armond's wife, Lilly, asked while checking a pot roast before allowing it to disappear in the oven again. Armond had just returned from the high pasture with, Grettle, his border collie and family friend of some five years. "A lamb's missing, mother. I counted them thrice. And, there are only 99. There was an even hundred there last I counted. I've been everywhere, not a sign of the little beggar."
Armond sat down dejectedly at the small table they shared, near the hearth ablaze on a cold evening in December. Lilly rubbed her hands on her apron to remove the slick fat of the roast. She put her arm around Armond and consoled him, knowing how much he loved his flock of registered Suffolk sheep.
Armond was beside himself. There were reports of wolves and a mountain lion lurking near in the neighboring woodlands. He prided himself on his care of his flock. Besides, it was all he and Lilly had to themselves anymore, as their children had all grown and left for the nearby city. He had worked so hard...those sleepless nights lambing out his old ewes in the dead of winter.
Armond was nearly 70. Lilly worried about his heart and this loss was not being taken very lightly. She could see the anguish in him more so that all these 50 years the two had been together.
As they sat down to dinner, Lilly spread a table fit for a king. Armond folded his hands in prayer with Lilly following. A short prayer was offered to include a quick return of their precious lamb. Armond hardly touched his food. Lilly could see he was totally consumed. Even Grettle could see her master was unsettled.
"Lilly, I can't sit here while that lamb might be in harms way. I've got to go out and search everywhere until I find her." Armond's mind was set. Lilly could only kiss him on the cheek as he dashed out the door, with Grettle not far in tow.
A front out of the north was moving in as the apex of the clouds consumed the light of the nearly full moon, leaving a halo around it.
"Grettle it looks like it will snow before morn. We better get going and find a lamb soon before she becomes dinner for wild dogs or cats of this countryside."
The light of the little hamlet in the valley could be seen in the distance, and sweet voices could be heard in the distance. For some reason, Armond sensed he and Grettle needed to venture in that direction. "Minah! Minah!" Armond hoarsely called the shepherd'"s call he learned when he and Lilly toured the Holy Land in years past. He had heard the local shepherds in that country call, to their sheep to round them up. "Good for them, good for me, eh Grettle?" He pondered in his spirit when he took up shepherding.
As they neared the little village, the Christmas carols were clear and crisp. He could see the gathering of town folk at the front of a local chapel. A small shed had been erected out in front of the steps of this hallowed place for a nativity scene. It flooded Armond with memories of his past. It had been years since he had stepped foot in a church, choosing to tend his flock. Lilly would go every Sunday morning. As he stood in the shadows of a tall oak, gazing somewhat out of guilt at the holy spectacle.
All of the sudden Grettle's ears perked skyward, and a image of a lamb came to him near the corner of the scene. He drew closer. "It couldn't be?" He pondered. "Why would it come this far, to this place?" He could now hear the one clothed like a shepherd, say "The wolf will dwell with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the kid, and the calf and the young lion, and the fatling together, a little boy will lead them..."
Armond stood without breathing for a moment. His troubles and anxiety -- immediate and past -- seemed to wither like an autumn flower. A tear came to his eye. For some reason, he was moved to kneel down. Grettle, the collie she was, nuzzled her cold nose into his face and licked him warmly. Suddenly, Armond felt a touch on his shoulder. Startled, he looked behind to find Lilly gazing down on his tearstained face. "Armond, please forgive me. I took the lamb without asking you today. They said they needed one in the nativity." Lilly sheepishly responded, hoping not to get the wrath of Armond.
Armond rose to embrace her in his arms. " That's OK Lilly. That's OK. You see...I'm overjoyed! I have found our lamb. It was lost, now it is found, that's all that matters." Armond beamed, "Lilly, I also found something else, something I've been searching for most of my life. Come on dear, let's go back to the house, I think I'll finish the dinner I left!"