Joyce Wheeler Rusty was on the alert. His eyes scanned the horizon around the camp, watching for his enemies, wolves and sheep-rustlers. Something was different about that night-he could smell it in the air. His senses told him that unseen forces were at work.
His masters, the Shepherds, lay sleeping peacefully except for Eli, who sat beside him. He glanced at Eli and was surprised that he showed no sign of what Rusty felt. No matter, Rusty was ready to warn them the second anything happened. Although Rusty was not a typical Sheep Dog, since he was a Toy Poodle, he was the back-up for Mattie, a typical Canaan dog.
On this night, however, Mattie was busy giving birth to some new little Sheep Dogs of her own, so Rusty was on duty and he had every bit of confidence that he could do the job very well.
As the night wore on the darkness became like a blanket covering the hillside, but still Rusty was on his guard. Suddenly the sky lit up the night. Rusty barked his loudest warning and as he did so, a Living Being appeared high above him with his arms outstretched. Rusty had never seen anything like it! He jerked his head around to look at the Shepherds and saw that each one of them was on his knees, filled with fear! He looked back at the Being just as He said, “Don’t be afraid!” His voice was like nothing Rusty had ever heard. It was loud like a trumpet, yet soft and gentle. “I bring you Good News that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!
And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”
“Good News?” thought Rusty, that means this Being is not an enemy. He looked at the Shepherds again and saw that their fear was gone and in its place was something else. Something Rusty had not seen before. It was as if they were surprised by something they had waited a very long time to hear.
Suddenly, the heavens were filled with Living Beings and they were saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”
“Wow!” thought Rusty. “Those Beings came with a message from the Living God who created me!” That thought brought an excitement to his little heart such as he had never known. His thoughts were interrupted by the Shepherds’ shouts and laughter. “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this baby the Angel told us about,” they were saying. “So that’s who they were,” thought Rusty, “Angels.”
The Shepherds were beside themselves with laughter and praises to God and took off running, forgetting all about the sheep. “I’m not going to be left behind,” Rusty thought to himself. “I want to go too!” Rusty ran as fast as his short legs could carry him. At that point he wished he was a Great Dane instead of a Poodle. He had a hard time keeping up but the Shepherds were just entering a stable when he caught up with them. Rusty quickly ran in the door and suddenly stopped. There was a man and a woman sitting beside a low manger. Rusty knew that a manger was used to put food in for the animals but tonight that manger had a different purpose. As he crept slowly forward, toward the manger, his heart pounded. He was amazed that no one stopped him. When he was close enough he looked at the man and woman and was surprised that they smiled at him as if they were saying, “It’s OK! Go ahead and take a look.”
He raised himself up, put his front legs on the edge of the manger and gazed at the strange sight. He couldn’t believe his eyes! There, in an animal’s manger was a tiny baby. He was so surprised he almost fell over backward. He ran to Eli and barked softly as if to say, “Do you see what I see?” Eli smiled and said, “Yes, Rusty, this tiny baby is the Messiah and we’ve been waiting all our lives to see Him!”
Then Eli turned to the other Shepherds and whispered, “Let’s go into town and tell everyone what has happened!”
They all slipped outside quietly but once they were a short distance away they all started shouting, crying and laughing. “We have really seen the Messiah! Thank You, God!” they yelled. Rusty joined them by barking as loud as he could. Rusty, too, was saying “Thank You, God for letting me be part of this Miracle Night.”
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