Shepherds are not an unusual sight around here, one of the perks of Christmas in Kenya. We still get arbitrary politics, pregnant teenagers, donkeys used for transportation, people and animals sheltering together, stars so vivid you can nearly touch them. And the joy of births, many, which we coach and struggle through and celebrate.
Only I got home, and found that our dog Star was AWOL. She is 14, and lumpy and slow and sometimes gets confused. I've run with her for years and years, but now she drags behind and sometimes takes wrong turns. So I was worried she might walk off and be unable to get back home. We called for her. Then Scott went out on a short walk looking for her as I got started on the massive cookie project (I'm estimating I made several hundred). No sign of Star.
On my way home I had passed three guys trimming the thorny hedge on a path near our house. I thanked them for their pre-Christmas spiffing work. They were not familiar faces to me, and looked on the thin and scruffy side. Every time I went out the door they seemed to pause in their work and watch. It made us feel a little stalked, as I took in laundry. But I decided to tell them about the missing dog, and ask if they'd seen her. They had, in the yard, some hours back. Oh well. Jack came home and we sent him out to look further afield on his piki (motorcycle). No Star.
By this time I had accumulated cookie help so I decided to go out searching for her myself. As I walked out the door, the young men I had talked to called to me. They said they had seen Star. I was having a hard time understanding where, so I just followed them. Two houses over there is a trash pit, about 6 feet deep. There she was, in the bottom of the pit, looking shaky and forlorn. I ran home to get Jack (they guys were clearly a little hesitant about the dog) who climbed into the pit and lifted her out. Rescue success. Jack the hero.
But not the only hero. If those guys had not been hauling off the cut branches in a wheel barrow, they would not have seen her. She was not barking. I'm afraid in her state she might have just died down there. Two days before Caleb and Luke get home. That would have been so hard. I was so thankful for the watchful help from these strangers. I gathered up a plateful of Christmas cookies for them.
It was easy to feel a little suspicious of these laborers lingering over a job, watching our house. Privacy is a luxury. Need leads to community, I find. I would not have found Star without the kindness and willingness of strangers to watch out for us, to get involved. The Shepherds in Luke were probably the age and economic station of these three. Perhaps a bit marginal, perhaps the kind of people who one would not want lingering around the manger. But they were watching. And they had the privilege of finding a real star, and the saviour. In western culture, these might not be the people we would choose to come visit our newborn. But God chose them to watch, and to see.
Real community is like that, watching for signs, alert to the angels, ready to celebrate and to help. I'm thankful for that today.
(A few pictures from more community, the evening Advent open houses we've been having rotating around Lower Station. About 40 people came last night . . . a real party!)
And to end, a CELEBRATORY PICTURE, JULIA IS HOME!!!!