Silent night. The evening was dark, with the exception of the twinkling starlight and the milky moonbeams. A group of Jewish shepherds rested among the hills just outside of Bethlehem, keeping a vigil over their sheep. Can you hear them? They hum traditional folk songs and talk amongst each other as they prepare to rest and change watch. Besides the occasional bleat of a lamb and the low modulation of their own voices, the night is silent. Lonely. As they spread their mantels on the ground, perhaps they thought of their families; maybe they wistfully wondered what it would be like if they were wealthy, if society deemed them sanitary enough to spare a second glance.
Holy night. Suddenly, with a flash of light, an angel appears before them! A messenger of death? they wonder as they jolt into alertness. A curse is upon us! they surmise as the creature of heaven opens his mouth to speak. “Fear not,” says the angel, hands extended to them like an olive branch of peace. “Fear not. Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people! For unto you, on this very night, a Savior, Christ the Lord is born! Go to the city of David. You will find the Child wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”
The shepherds barely have time to process the birth announcement before a multitude of the heavenly host bursts out of the nothingness, blending their voices– perhaps speaking, perhaps singing– in timbres beyond the imagination of man. “Glory to God in the Highest! And on earth, peace and goodwill toward men!” The shepherds take a step of faith and hasten to the city as the angelic host vanishes as suddenly as they appeared.
All is calm. After what seems like hours of searching, they finally find Him. The Savior! There He is, lying in that stone manger, feebly sheltered from the chill of the night by swaddling clothes. Just as the angel had said. It is calm and quiet as they enter the stable. The child’s mother rests on a makeshift bed of hay, seemingly peaceful despite the less-than-satisfactory conditions. She smiles, quietly giving her assent for the shepherd-men to approach the Baby. They kneel before His sleeping form and worship Him, praising God in their hearts. We are unworthy, murmurs one. My King deserves better, whispers another. Glory to God in the Highest, quotes yet another.
All is bright. Perhaps, as these humble shepherds worshipped at the foot of the manger, baby Jesus stretched his tiny fists and opened His eyes to see the men that prayed to Him. As His bright, beautiful eyes touched each man’s face, they must’ve felt their hearts leap within them. We have looked into the very eyes of GOD!
“Good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.” That is what the angel proclaimed. The shepherds that had wished only a few hours ago to be wealthy, to be accepted, suddenly realize they are, here and now. God accepted them; The Lord of heaven and earth sent the announcement of His only begotten Son’s birth to them.
God is no “respecter of persons.” He “giveth to all men liberally.” He loves the entire world, and shuns nobody. The Creator of the universe calls each and every man, woman, and child to Himself. It’s a Gift that doesn’t expire, and we who have accepted His Gift so often fail to be thankful, fail to worship. But why? What excuse do we have when the Lord offers us an equal call, and equal opportunity to come to the manger to pray? This Christmas, take a cue from a group of poor, humble, outcast shepherds, and worship our Emmanuel in the wonder of His birth, in the beauty of His holiness. Christ the Savior is born.
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of The Lord came upon them, and the glory of The Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.