Read His Words Before Ours!
The room was dim as the sun began setting, and the smell of smoke lingered in the air from the simple meal. Anna began preparing the children for bed and their giggles filled the home. Joshua listened carefully to each squeal, able to pair the sound with the mouth it came from. His eyes were weakened from years of working in the glaring sun, but his ears were sharp. Listening to his grandchildren giggle filled his heart to overflowing.
“Lydia, come along,” Anna spoke gently to her littlest, but Lydia’s chubby feet toddled towards Joshua instead. He heard her voice, “Up!”, and knew tiny arms reached towards him. He wrapped his hands around her squishy little belly, hoisting her onto his knee. “Story!”, Lydia pipped into his ear as she snuggled into his chest, feeling his beard on her head.
Joshua chuckled and pulled her close, “You and your stories, Lydie. Just one before bed.”
The words were invitation to the other four children, as they flew to the floor around Grandfather. Each pair of eyes transfixed on his, ready to watch the story dance in his eyes as it filled their ears.
Well, children, you all know I was a shepherd for decades, just as my father and his father was. You know, King David was a shepherd, and before him, Father Abraham. Shepherding is an honor, but many forget that noble men once began as poor shepherds like me.
Then one night, everything changed.
The day was warmer than usual, and our stench revealed the work we’d done in the heat of the day. There were three other shepherds, Jacob – your great uncle, and Levi and Micah, our cousins. We ate and laughed our way through our late supper, and settled in for the night by the fire. The cool evening descended quickly, and soon an endless array of shining stars filled the dark sky as far as we could see.
Just as our eyes grew heavy, a brilliant light flooded the sky. Micah and Jacob shouted with fear. Levi and I shielded our eyes in stunned, blinding silence as we fell to the ground. What was happening!? My heart raced as I saw the form of a man take shape in the midst of dazzling white. Mighty wings unfurled on either side of him. The light effervesced around him, filling the space between us making our firelight appear as dim shadows compared to the light swirling around us. It was as if the light itself was alive.
Children, there is nothing as terrifying as seeing something huge and magnificent while being entirely unsure of it. My mind raced, “Am I dying? Is this Heaven? Is it an enemy’s attack? Is it Abraham’s ghost? Do we run? Do we shout? Defend ourselves?”
Suddenly, like the blast of a trumpet mingled with gentle swirls of frolicking kindness, the powerful being spoke, “Don’t be afraid! I am heralding good news to you!”
Stunned, the words flew around us like a rushing wind while our hearts were tenderly warmed and flooded with excitement.
“Today, in the city of David, a Savior was born for you, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be the sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped tightly in cloth and lying in a manger.”
In the space of a blink, the single angelic herald was joined by hundreds, no, thousands! The entirety of the sky’s expanse was filled with brilliant light. They were as far as we could see, yet near enough we felt the wind from beating wings.
And Oh! The music!
Joshua paused for a moment, closing his eyes while the children sat enraptured with anticipation. “Go! Go! Singing!” shouted Lydia, bouncing on his lap and clapping her dimpled hands together. Joshua shook his head to clear the enchantment that had taken over his mind. He smiled and looked upward, as if still seeing angels, but proceeded with deep emotion…
The music was magnificent.
I’ve never heard music like that before or since, but I’ll never forget their words,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven! And peace on earth to people He favors!”
My goose pimples had goose pimples and the tears streamed down my face, but I felt nothing but awesome glory. We were captivated in worship.
As quickly as they appeared, they left, and darkness dropped heavily on our eyes as we could only hear our own quickened breathing in the astounding quiet.
Only a moment passed before we realized with astonishment that we were still alone. No one from Bethlehem had run down to listen and watch… it was just us.
That entire proclamation was just for us.
Us. Small, poor, and humble shepherds.
God had sent those angels to proclaim the birth of the Messiah to us.
“Let’s go!” whispered Micah, but I was already moving to chase Levi as the sheep followed. Before we knew it, we were running as fast as we possibly could. As quickly as we moved, the questions pecked inside, “A Savior born for us? The Messiah? Was this the promised rescuer of Israel? But a Savior lying in a manger? What Lord was this humble?!”
We entered Bethlehem, and kept running, the cobblestone roads cold under our bare, weathered feet, but we didn’t stop. It didn’t seem to matter that none of us knew exactly where to go, but our feet flew nonetheless in a single direction as if intentionally led.
A small light cast a warm glow off of hollowed-out walls of a cave, tucked into the side of a hill. Here. Messiah was here.
We called out before entering, and as we did, that same all-consuming feeling we experienced as the angels sang, powerfully surrounded us again. Our breath caught with awe as we slowly stumbled further into the stable, smelling the hay warmed by animals.
Time itself seemed to stand still as our eyes paused on an image I’ll never forget.
There He was, the tiny babe, just as the angel said, wrapped tightly in strips of rags and lying in a manger.
We all quickly fell to our knees, the tears falling afresh.
The Savior. Our Savior.
Here. With Us.
Children, that was nearly fifty years ago. That baby grew into a powerful man. He performed many miracles and taught His followers what it actually means to love your neighbor. Thirty- three years after that spectacular night, came another night.
The darkest night.
The Messiah hung lifeless on a cross innocently murdered.
I wept when I heard the news… that precious baby we had worshiped… dead.
But, my children, you know that’s not the end of the story!!
The children shouted, “No!” all at once, the excitement and glee filling their faces and bodies as victory screamed within them.
No! Because three days later, our Messiah rose from the dead! He didn’t stay dead, He conquered Death for us!
My little ones, I have lived every day of my life telling of that wondrous first night, my job may have been humble shepherd, but my real job was proclaiming the Messiah’s arrival, our deliverance from sin, and our call to worship Him. I’m sharing my story with you, because one day, I won’t be alive to share it anymore. And oh! What a day that will be! On that day, I will fall on my knees and worship our Messiah again, this time forever!
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