The Shepherd Boy Hans

The Shepherd Boy Hans

On the last day of the year a young shepherd boy named Hans was grazing a flock of sheep on the south side of a mountain where there was still some grass to be found. He had led his sheep a longer ' distance from home than usual. Winter had come, the air was cold and the sheep followed the shepherd at a quick pace. This was to be the last day the sheep were to be taken out for grazing. Tomorrow was New Year's Day. In Hans' home on that day there was to be a family reunion; it would be a day of greetings, cheers and good things to eat. That was all the more reason, Hans thought, why the sheep on this last day of grazing should have a long day in the open fields before the snow fell.

But suddenly without warning the sky was overcast. Hans having lived in the open most of his life could read the sky like a book. He knew that in that mountainous country a blinding snow storm could be upon him and his flock with a sudden fury. Instantly he called his dog to collect the sheep. The sky grew darker and the wind began to blow. A driving snow beat into Hans' face.

There are tricks to every trade and Hans' ability as a good shepherd was to meet the test. He knew that he must keep his sheep moving into the wind, not with the wind. The easiest thing in a storm is to turn your face away from the driving snow. That is exactly what the sheep wanted to do. But if the sheep should face away from the storm, the wind would blow under their long fur and would drive the snow next to their skin. So they would soon become caked with ice and freeze.

Fortunately the way home was into the wind. Hans called his sheep and the bewildered animals answered with weak bleats as the snow peppered their eyes. Hans always led his sheep, never drove them. But this day they refused to follow him into the storm. He called to them in vain. Then the faithful dog circled behind the sheep, nipped their heels and with great difficulty turned them into the wind and toward home.

With their heads down and eyes almost closed the sheep stumbled along crowded against one another. At times Hans thought that he had lost his way. But he knew that if he kept his face directly into the wind he would eventually get home. He pulled his head down into the collar of his coat, and at each step leaned forward into the wind. His dog with lightning speed nipped the heels of any sheep that wanted to turn away from the wind. "I must keep my face into the wind," said Hans to himself over and over again. The snow was getting deeper and the sheep harder and harder to handle. Hans ached with cold and tiredness but he kept his face into the wind. He did not know how far he had come and how far he still had to go. Sometimes he was filled with fears but he was bigger than his fears.

You can imagine his joy when in that blinding storm he almost stumbled into his father and two brothers who had gone out in search of Hans and the sheep. Now, the rest of the way would be easy.

Hans' mother had hot food waiting for him. "Well, son," said the father, "we were all very frightened."

"I did what you taught me," replied Hans, "to keep the sheep moving into the wind in a snow storm. The old year ends with a storm alright."

"Yes, indeed," added the mother, "there have always been storms and there always will be. The new year's beginning tomorrow will have storms."

That night Hans needed no rocking to put him to sleep. In a dream he was facing the storms of the new year. A great fear filled him. It was a storm of the new year. "I must be brave in this new year; I must keep facing the danger, and moving into the wind," said Hans to himself in the dream. The wind beat into his face. Then there came another storm of the new year. Hans was tempted to steal fruit from a neighbor's yard. This storm almost blew him off his feet; he almost yielded to temptation. "I must be honest in the new year," moaned Hans in his dream, "I must keep my face into the wind and against this storm." The wind beat into his face with new fury. A sudden anger surged up within him; cruel and unkind words were on the tip of his tongue. This storm howled with great force, and Hans almost allowed himself to drift with the wind. But he checked himself in time. "I must control my temper in the new year," he reasoned with himself, "I must move against this storm."

Then in his dream he saw Jesus, the Good Shepherd leading a flock against the storm. And following Him was a great multitude of people truly Christian. All of them were leaning forward, bracing themselves against the storm. Jesus was leading them to a high hill where stood a cross. And beside the cross there was an angry crowd, shouting, "Crucify Him." But Jesus pressed on into the face of this storm, his step firm, his face in the right direction. There in his dream Hans saw them crucify Jesus because he would not swerve from the right.

Then Hans awoke. It was morning, a new year had come. "In this new year," reflected Hans, "I will keep moving against the storms, just as Jesus did."

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