I was listening to some Christmas music today at work and a song came on that I knew was familiar but that I just couldn’t seem to place. Where had I heard it before? My toes started tapping when the trumpets blew. It was just orchestral music, but yet- oh, yes thats it!
I suddenly remembered that this song had been used in a church Christmas show (The Twin Living Christmas Trees) I had taken part in when I was younger. At the time, I was told old to be an angel, too young to be Mary, and didn’t want to be in the “King’s Entourage.” (They had funny hats.)
I wanted to be a shepherd girl. I really wanted to be a shepherd girl. You got break one of the top ten rules in church and RUN in the sanctuary, you didn’t have to wear shoes, and you got to be on stage for an entire song.
But there were only shepherd men at that time and in my memory never had been any women. I think it was my dad who finally went to one of the organizers (after my badgering) and asked if it would be all right if we had a shepherd girl this year. After I’m sure making quite a case, for Pete’s sake there had to have been at least one shepherd girl that night, my dad got them to agree!
I was beyond excited that first night as I ran around the sanctuary, stopping in all the right spots, looking “in awe,” pointing to the star, asking audience members if they had seen the child- that boy up there in the manger, slowly winding my way to the stable scene at the front where I (most like too dramatically) knelt before the baby. I knew that my newly ironed purple robe, rose-colored sash, and braids were incredibly authentic. I had even taken off my blue toe nail polish so that people would know I was an authentic shepherd girl.
While the song played and I reminisced about this moment, I was also working on a draft for a new program PEP is starting. In the villages we’re in, some girls are forced to drop out in 4th or 5th grade to get married, some parents are still unwilling to send their girls to school, and women have little to no health or financial education. PEP is creating Women’s Empowerment Groups to see if we can change some of those behaviors.
Now, I’ve been a little (maybe more than a little at times) mopey about Christmas. After all, everyone wants to be home for the holidays, hang up stockings by the fireplace (be in a place cold enough to need a fireplace), eat sausage balls, spend time with family, drive around looking at lights, and drink Chick-Fil-A peppermint chocolate chip milkshakes.
But I’m resolving to remember, in those times when I get mopey, just how badly I wanted to be a shepherd girl. And how much more these girls want, need, desire, and deserve to be educated. If I can do anything to help them run around their communities with confidence, point to their future and say I can change that, see a light of hope, feel valuable, or show them that beautiful baby in a manger- then I think that is worth doing. I think that’s the work of Christmas- to bring everyone, even the shepherd girls and the shepherd-girl hopefuls, to the King and remind them in whose image they were created.