5: Shepherds and Angels
In the darkness of the open fields near Bethlehem, shepherds kept watch over their flock that night. They had driven their sheep into an enclosure. They sat quietly near the sheep, grouped around a fire. They were silent - lost in their thoughts. Only the sigh of the night wind in the grass could be heard.
Whenever they heard the distant cry of some beast of prey, they raised their heads and listened carefully. If they heard nothing more, they let their heads sink again and drifted off in their thoughts.
Suddenly they jumped up with a cry. Standing in front of them was a shining heavenly figure - an angel of the Lord. With the angel standing before them, the glory of the Lord was all around them.
The shepherds threw up their hands to cover their faces. They sank to their knees, quaking with fear.
The angel addressed them in joyful tones, "Do not be afraid, for I bring you good news of great joy - good news for all the people. Today, in the city of David, a Savior is born to you, namely, Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you; you will find the baby wrapped in some cloths and lying in a manger."
When the angel had said this, the heavens became even brighter. Thousands of shining angels descended to the earth.
The sky was filled with angels. A great heavenly army hovered above the fields. In the stillness of the night the shepherds heard a beautiful song, more beautiful than was ever before heard on earth: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests."
The shepherds understood those words. They listened in speechless awe..
The rejoicing choir of angels gradually disappeared into heaven. The sky grew dark again, and the heavenly music disappeared.
The heavens had closed above the shepherds. It was darker than before. The wind rustled through the grass. The angels with their heavenly message seemed to have been only a dream.
The shepherds stood looking at each other in amazement, not sure if they were in heaven or still on earth. "The Saviorl" they whispered. "The Messiah has come!"
Finally one of them dared to speak aloud again. "Let's go straight to Bethlehem," he said excitedly, "to see what has happened there. Let's look into this news the Lord has told us."
Hastily they filed through the dark fields. They left their sheep in God's care. Soon they were in Bethlehem, and they found the barn. Hesitantly they went inside.
There they met Mary and Joseph, who were poor people just as they were. They saw the baby wrapped in cloths, lying in the manger. It was an ordinary baby, just like any other-small and helpless.
Yet the shepherds believed what the angel had told them. They believed that the helpless child in the manger was the Savior-Christ the Lord. The manger was His cradle, and the barn was His home.
The shepherds kneeled before the child, the one who had come to be their Shepherd. They bowed low, and pressed their brown faces to the floor.
"The holy baby Jesusl" they whispered reverently. "The Savior who will bring peace to earth l"
Tears of joy rushed to their eyes. They were the first to see the Savior of the world.
They were deeply moved as they told Mary and Joseph what the angel had said and what the heavenly host had sung. When they returned to their sheep, a new day was dawning. With husky voices they sang the song of the angels: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests." Wherever they went, they told people about the special baby born in Bethlehem, for they were full of joy.
Mary let the baby drink for the first time as she lay on a bed of straw in the empty barn. She was almost bursting with joy. "My child!" she said in delight. "The Redeemer! " she whispered reverently.
Yes, the baby was her child and her Redeemer. And she was allowed to care for Him and feed Him at her breast.
She was also permitted to kneel before Him and worship Him. The miracle became ever more great and glorious.
She stored in her heart all the words that the shepherds had spoken to her and pondered them often.