As you may know, the Christmas candy cane represents the staff of the shepherds who visited the baby Jesus when He was born. What has not yet been explained is the reason that some candy canes are broken. . .
There was once a shepherd named Eleazar. He was not very old, but he was on his way into manhood. One clear night Eleazar was watching over his little flock of sheep on the same small hill where several of his friends also watched their flocks. This evening was like any other; it was calm and quiet. The darkness was barely lit by the pale moon and the distant stars that sparkled in the sky.
While watching their flocks by night, the shepherds were startled when suddenly there was a glorious brightness that filled the sky. They shielded their eyes with their hands while they gazed about to see where the light was coming from.
The shepherds soon realized that the light was descending from heaven, and an angel was speaking to them. They were very afraid, but the angel told them not to fear. The messenger declared that a baby had been born in Bethlehem, and He would be the Savior of mankind. The angel also told them about the bright new star that appeared in the sky. Before they could fully comprehend what was happening, the angel was gone. Eleazar and his friends stood in stunned silence for a moment. They could hardly believe what had just happened. An angel had come to announce the marvelous gift the world had been given.
Eleazar gazed up and saw the new star which was so brilliant that it illuminated the dim sky unlike any other. All they had to do was follow that star to a stable to see the special baby in the manger. The shepherds went hastily to witness the event. Eleazar went too.
As the shepherds traveled to the stable, Eleazar lagged further behind them. Eleazar was a dreamer, and this night was no exception. As he slowly walked, he played with his sheep and imagined the scene that would lie before him in the stable that night. Eleazar would catch up to his friends later.
As Eleazar was deep in thought, he did not notice that Nuri, his youngest and tiniest lamb, had wandered a little way off from the rest of the flock. In the light of the new star, Eleazar caught a glimpse of a smoky-gray wolf in the distance racing toward his precious Nuri. The wolf was hungry, and Nuri was in danger.
Eleazar’s heart started to beat wildly. The shepherd dropped his staff to the ground and sped as quickly as he could to his little Nuri. As soon as he reached her, he bent down and scooped up the fluffy bundle in his arms just as the attacker raced past Eleazar and snapped its teeth angrily at the young man’s leg. The wolf circled around while Eleazar ran with Nuri clutched tightly in his arms. The shepherd rushed the lamb back to the flock to escape the threat.
The wolf was not about to accept his defeat. Any lamb would do now. As the wolf headed back toward the flock, the shepherd raced closer to his staff that he had abandoned earlier. Before he could reach it, the wolf ran near him, eyes focused on his next meal. The shepherd was barely close enough, but he reached out and swiftly kicked the wolf in one of its front legs. The hungry animal collapsed and scraped the side of its jaw hard on the rocky ground and yowled in pain. The wolf slowly regained its stance, shook its head, and headed again for the flock of sheep.
Eleazar rushed to grab his staff as a weapon against the menacing animal. His heart was pounding. He ran back to the wolf which was nearing his flock. Holding the rounded part of his staff, Eleazar swung it low and struck the wolf across its chest. He hit the beast so hard that he could hear his staff crack.
The wolf landed on the ground with a forceful thud and was hardly breathing. Eleazar did not look back but used this opportunity to get away. He scurried up a low, rocky hill to rejoin his sheep. In his haste, the shepherd’s foot slipped on a rock. He twisted his right ankle and fell onto his hands and knees. As he fell, his right leg was struck below his knee by a sharp rock which cut deep into his flesh. Cringing, Eleazar fell to his side and gripped his shin with both hands as he realized the pain. Warm crimson fluid flowed from his wound with every heartbeat.
Eleazar needed help, but his friends were too far ahead of him to realize what had happened. He gently wiped what red liquid he could from his leg with his course wool robe, but the blood still trickled out. Holding tightly onto his fragile staff for support, Eleazar gently lifted himself up and hobbled to his flock. Eleazar suddenly recalled why he was traveling. He resumed his journey and limped after the new star. He still needed to reach his destination—the baby born in the stable.
As the shepherd and his flock trudged slowly onward, Eleazar noticed the silhouettes of other shepherds close to a tiny village off in the distance. He decided to stray from the path that would lead him to the stable to seek help from them.
As he approached the strangers, Eleazar greeted them feebly. Seeing his injury, the shepherds helped Eleazar sit down on a sizeable rock, and one kind shepherd tended to his wounds.
While his bleeding leg was washed and bound and his ankle was being wrapped, Eleazar related the events of the angel’s visit. He explained to them that he was on his way to see the miraculous baby born in Bethlehem. To his surprise, they laughed at him. These other shepherds did not believe him because they had not seen the angel for themselves. The shepherds scorned him for such a frivolous journey. Eleazar showed them the new star in the heavens, but they still did not believe.
After resting briefly, Eleazar thanked the shepherds for the bandages and the bread and water they shared with him. But the bandages could not bind up the pain and humiliation he felt in his heart. As he limped into the night, he could hear the shepherds mocking him for his endeavor. Eleazar decided it did not matter. He would press on to his destination. Clutching his staff tightly, Eleazar got back on course and followed the star once again. It would take him much longer to reach the stable at his slow pace, but his little white friends urged him on. The young man worried that his fractured staff would not be sturdy enough to hold his weight, but he leaned on it for the rest of his journey to the stable.
As the darkness began to withdraw, Eleazar realized that it would soon be morning. His friends had surely reached the stable much earlier, but he had journeyed the entire night.
Weary and sore, Eleazar was grateful to finally see the light of the new star resting on the stable. When he finally took his last feeble step and reached the entrance of the stable, he heard a loud crack, and his staff broke completely. Thankfully, the shepherd no longer needed the staff for support. Now he could fall down and worship the Holy Child.
When you receive a broken candy cane, be grateful. Think of Eleazar’s staff, and remember that the broken candy cane is the most special one of all.
Eleazar is a Hebrew name meaning God has Helped
Nuri is a Hebrew name meaning My Fire