By Kathleen Heppell,
While we prepare for sleep and night watch of our sheep, the fire warms us. Sky cloudless, black, yet bright with stars… We whisper… how such beauty takes our breath away.
A blinding light. Bright as day. Stunned. Paralyzed. Will we die? “Fear not.” we hear, shaking as we fall on our faces, our arms covering our heads. These words… we try to make sense of what we hear and have seen.
Lifting our heads, we see an angel announcing Rejoice! Rejoice! The Messiah is born this night in Bethlehem as scripture foretold. Wrapped snugly in cloths, lying in a manger.
Our Savior lying in a manger?
The sky becomes brighter as the heavenly host sings, filling us with joy as we have never known. We hear Glory to God in the highest heaven and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.
And then they are gone, leaving us with baaing sheep, our fire, and one another.
We must see our Savior. No one wants to be left behind, yet our sheep must be protected. We don’t argue in our usual ways; a hush among us, we decide who will go into Bethlehem. The fastest run toward the sleeping town to the stable at the inn guided with a knowing in our hearts.
We stop in front of the opening. Panting, we gather ourselves. How to enter this place with the promised Savior within? This smelly stable is Holy. Our overflowing joy gives unfamiliar confidence. We enter in silence. Oldest to youngest, our torches held high.
There he is; a baby lying in a manger, wrapped in snug cloths. Nearby his parents sit up, rubbing their eyes, questions on their faces. “The angel of the Lord told us our Savior, the Messiah, was born this night. We have come to worship.”
They nod in understanding, curiosity and awe in their faces. We fall on our knees. Foreheads to the ground, we praise the Lord of Lords and King of Kings, Adonai, and in our midst, Immanuel. Just as was promised.
Strange… the smells of animals would be incense to our God. Somehow we know our presence, the offering of our hearts and voices, is pleasing to the Lord Most High.
We excitedly share more of our story with Mary and Joseph. Tired as they are, they too praise our God who keeps His promises. We leave as dawn begins to kiss the earth. Travelers and shopkeepers on the road look at us as worse than the dirt they walk on. They hear us praising God to the highest heaven; we don’t care who we awaken.
Shrinking back from the stench of our clothes, when they look at our faces they cannot miss the glory shining, like Moses, upon our countenance. “Our Savior is born this day in the stable just down the road. The angel of the Lord told us; the heavenly host sang praises. It was darkest night and yet shone brighter than the noon day sun!”
Trying to take in what we are saying, they can see our joy. Some shake their heads, “Shepherds! The heavenly host coming to them? The Savior of the world born in a stable? How can that be?”
We tell them, see for yourselves, providing directions… While some seem curious, most keep shaking their heads. They don’t seem to want to see for themselves.
Yet nothing dampens our overflowing joy. Returning to our flocks, we tell everyone.
As we watch over our sheep, we ponder within ourselves and to one another how is it that He chose us, lowly shepherds, to hear and see this good news? How did He choose this young couple, peasants, to be His parents? How is it that the Messiah was born in a stable? And we ask, when will He deliver His people?
We know within our depths… at the right time… this baby will grow up to lead us, and redeem us.
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