December 11th, 2019
8 In the same region, shepherds were staying out in the fields and keeping watch at night over their flock. 9 Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, "Don't be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: 11 Today a Savior, who is Messiah the Lord, was born for you in the city of David. 12 This will be the sign for you: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in cloth and lying in a feeding trough."
13 Suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying:
14 Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and peace on earth to people
15 When the angels had left them and returned to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go straight to Bethlehem and see what has happened, which the Lord has made known to us."
16 They hurried off and found both Mary and Joseph, and the baby who was lying in the feeding trough. 17 After seeing them, they reported the message they were told about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.... 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had seen and heard, just as they had been told.
Luke 2:8-18, 20
The fire had burned low, as four exhausted men huddled around the embers. The spring air was pleasant though damp. They sat in the night poised, listening for the distress sounds of ewes who might be delivering their lambs. They were in the midst of the lambing season, the only time during the year when shepherds were required to keep a watch all night in the fields.....
None of them noticed at first the light that had begun to glow behind them. It was, in fact, the smell of the angel that first caught their attention. There was a freshness about it, fresher even than the spring air that surrounded them, that awakened them with a jolt. Years later, any one of them would be vividly reminded of the angel whenever a cool spring breeze would blow across their faces. As they turned they saw the tall shining figure of a man, standing in the midst of the glow. But they knew this was no man....
The voice of the angel was kindness itself, and filled with joy. It spoke with a laugh. His first words were those so often heard from the lips of angels, "Do not be afraid." The shepherds thought they could hear the hint of a smile when he spoke.
Then the angel paused, as if waiting for the frightened men to glance up and look him in the face.
"I have good news for you - good news of great joy!"
In the midst of what seemed a dream to the shepherds, they heard the angel speak a word that shocked them to full awareness. "Christ," he said, "The one born tonight in your city is Christ the Lord."
At this they tore their eyes from the holy light that was the angel's face and looked into each others' faces. Each seemed bathed in a new light all its own. Wide-eyed they began muttering to themselves, "Christ, He has come! Messiah!"
As they looked back in askance, the angel seemed to understand that they wanted a sign, a way to find Him.
"He will be wrapped up in rags, asleep in a feeding trough," the angel said.
Puzzled, the shepherds had begun rising to their feet, moving toward the angel to ask more questions. All at once the sky exploded with light. It knocked them back on their faces. Squinting between their fingers they saw thousands of other angels, bathed in a blinding light. The sky was crackling and sizzling with the energy that surrounded them. Then a second explosion, this one of sound as the host erupted in praise:
"Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace
to men on whom His favor rests!"
Their eardrums all but burst at the sound of thousands upon thousands of voices. It seemed to the shepherds as if the host had been waiting too long to utter their praise, and now like a great dam bursting it came rushing out in one flood of sound, the simple men all but drowned by it, their eyes momentarily blinded, their ears deaf with ringing.
As they gathered their courage to take a second look the host was gone. Multi-colored spots danced before their faces. They sat blinking, sticking fingers in their ears, trying to wiggle the buzzing sound away....
They gathered up their cloaks from the moist earth and began sprinting towards the village....
The next few hours the shepherds spent wandering from house to house, and stable to stable, bewildered and asking irritated people if they had seen a baby wrapped in rags and lying in a trough. It's not hard to imagine the kind of responses they got in the middle of the night from tired townspeople who had been wakened from a warm bed with such an absurd question.
The faint light of dawn was just beginning to glow in the eastern sky....
They stood in the middle of a small square, tired and confused, about to follow their friends when they thought they heard the faintest sound of the crying of a newborn baby. It sounded to them almost like the bleating of a newborn lamb....
We thank you Lord for coming to
and for all of us. For the foolish and
the wise, the rich and the poor.
That you would send angels to
outcast shepherds to tell even them of
the good news. That you would
allow men who were disqualified in
their day as witnesses to nonetheless
witness your Coming. You are no
respecter of persons, yet you are the
great respecter of us all. Caring to
communicate to all, to reach out to
all, to die for all, even those who
would not return your love.
We praise you, O Lord, for
entrusting us with your good news!