After the Angel vanished, there was a long stunned silence. Eventually the First Shepherd spoke.
“You both saw that too, right?”
“Sure did,” said the Second. “I was sore afraid, so I was”.
“Oh, thanks be to Jesus,” burst out the Third Shepherd. ” I thought I was the only one who could see him.”
The other two stared at him. “Thanks be to who?” said the First Shepherd.
“Erm, dunno,” said the Third Shepherd. “The name just popped into my head.”
“Weird”, said the First Shepherd. “Anyway, what was he on about? It was a bit hard to hear him, what with him appearing suddenly in a blaze of light and frightening the shit out of the sheep like that.” He sniffed and then looked down in disgust at the sole of his sandal. “Literally, it would seem,” he added bitterly.
“He told us to Be Not Afraid,” said the Second Shepherd, ” then he said he was bringing us tidings, whatever they are.”
“That’s right,” said the Third Shepherd, “then he said a baby had been born in Bethlehem.”
“Big deal” said the First Shepherd.
“Yeah, but he said that the baby was a King, and we should go and worship him,” said the Third Shepherd.
“Wow, a King,” said the Second Shepherd. ” Imagine what people will say when we tell them that.”
It was the Second Shepherd’s turn to be stared at. “Tell them?” said the First Shepherd. “You don’t think we’re going to tell anyone about this, do you? Look, we get enough slagging in the village about spending all night up here as it is. They keep asking do the sheep wear make-up, and lately they’ve started going on about someplace called Brokeback Mountain, though to be honest I don’t get that bit. If we turn up and say we saw an Angel of the Lord they’re going to think we’ve been drinking the sheep-liniment.”
“Well, we have been,” said the Second Shepherd.
“Yes, but only a couple of pints,” said the Third Shepherd, ” I mean, you have to keep warm somehow.”
They sat in silence for a while. The First Shepherd picked up the sheep-liniment bottle, inverted it hopefully, then sighed. “Anyway, a baby, you say? We could just pop in and say hello.”
“After all, it’d be rude not to.”
“And it’d be warmer than here.”
“And,” said the First Shepherd, “there might be a bit of a session. After all, most new parents just put an ad in the Bethlehem Times, thanking the staff of the Maternity Hospital blah-blah-blah. People who can afford to hire an actual Angel to announce the birth can’t be short of a few bob.”
” You’re right,” said the second Shepherd. “There’s bound to be a few drinks. There might even be cigars.”
“Ok, let’s go,” said the First Shepherd.
“Wait,” said the Third Shepherd, “we’ll have to bring presents.”
“Why?” asked the Second Shepherd.
“Because it’s Christmas.”
“Because it’s what?” said the the other two in peace and harmony.
The Third Shepherd buried his head in his hands. “Look, I don’t know where all this stuff is coming from. I just keeping getting images in my head of a big green tree with little bits of fire on the branches, and a happy fat man with a white beard, and a huge bird that looks like a feather duster that gets cooked and has leavened bread shoved up its bum, and something called the Greatescape that just happens over and over again, and a flying chariot driven by big animals that look like cows, only they have trees stuck to their heads, and a white round man with a carrot where his nose should be, and everyone wearing a crown, only the crowns are made out of a sort of light papyrus, and all the inns being closed for one whole day, and all the time in the background there’s a grumpy man made all of something silver going ‘ho, ho, fucking ho.'”
“Well, there’s only one thing I can say after that,” said the First Shepherd, “Jaysus”.