December 21, 2020
When they had seen Him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this Child…Luke 2:17
One of the sweetest blessings God has given me in the last few years was when I had the opportunity to stand in the shepherd’s fields at eventide, watching the distant lights come on in the little town of Bethlehem. After singing some Christmas carols with friends who had gathered, I read the following excerpt from God’s Story.
This year, I want to share this with you…
After the last prophet had spoken, there was a great silence from Heaven. For over four hundred years. Each generation of believers hoped against hope the promise of a Messiah would be fulfilled in their time. Each woman who bore a son looked into the tiny infant face and wondered if he would be the One God would raise up to redeem the world to Himself. Under the tyranny of Roman occupation, with the sound of marching soldiers’ feet on the streets and the burden of Roman taxes to pay and the addition of Roman laws to keep and the sight of Roman cruelty to endure, the flame of hope in God’s promised Son flickered but did not go out.
The days and weeks and months and years passed with no word from God–until one night that had seemed to be no different from any other. The Roman governor had issued a decree for a new tax system that would require a more accurate census of the population. The decree ordered every Jew living in Israel to go back to the town or village of his origin in order to register. The entire population was in upheaval as people shifted from town to town in compliance with the Roman ordinance.
One such little town was teeming with an influx of those coming in to register for the census. It was crowded to overflowing with people short of necessary housing and also short of temper. Beyond the outskirts of the small village, in the rocky pastureland that surrounded it, on this particular night things seemed a little more serene. The black, velvety sky was clear and studded with sparkling stars that had looked down on Earth since the beginning of time. Shepherds appeared to be sitting idly by their flocks but in fact were keeping a sharp lookout for anything or anyone who might harm the sheep entrusted to their care. In the distance, the lights from the town could be seen and the noisy commotion could be heard as more people were coming into the town than the town could hold. On the clear night air, sound traveled easily, and somewhere from the direction of the village inn someone slammed a door.
And a baby cried.
Suddenly, the night seemed to split in two! Without warning, the shepherds were confronted by an angel, dressed in clothing like lightning, with wings that stretched from earth to heaven! The glory of God that permeated and pulsated around the angel enveloped the shepherds in white, golden light, and they were terrified! They heard a voice that rang with authoritative intensity yet thrilling clarity as the angel announced, Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.
The cowering shepherds’ petrified terror turned to astonished wonder as “suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”‘
As the angelic choir returned to its heavenly home, the night resumed its normal appearance. The star-studded velvety sky still stretched like a giant canopy over the sheep, which were huddled together sleeping quietly. The lights and sounds from the little town once again could be heard on the night air. But something was very different. An electrified excitement–the climax of generations of hope–permeated the stillness of the night. The shepherds took one look at each other and knew they could not remain where they were. They were compelled to investigate what the Lord had said to them through the angel’s message.
They must have run at breakneck speed across the field, stumbling over rocks and bushes in the darkness, reaching the outskirts of the little town, out of breath, with hearts pounding in excited rhythm. Did they fan out through the streets, shouting to each other, “You take that street; I’ll take this one! Check every stable! Check every manger! If you find one with a baby in it, give the signal, and the rest of us will come. Quickly!”? As they searched the village, how long did it take them to find the little stable behind the inn where there was indeed a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger, just as the angel had said? Did their sudden entrance startle the man standing guard over a young woman who had obviously just given birth? Before he could step forward to defend his charges, did the shepherds excitedly explain, “Sir, we don’t mean to intrude. But sir, you won’t believe what we just saw! We were just minding our business, keeping our flocks out in the pasture beyond the town, when an angel appeared to us and told us a baby had been born. Not just any baby, but the Baby, the Savior, the Promised Son of God – the angel said the babe was wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger in this town. And sir, we’ve been up and down this whole village, and your baby is the only baby we can find in a manger. Sir, we don’t want to bother you. We just want to see the baby. Could we please?”
The man must have motioned for the shepherds to come forward. The shepherds, in rough homespun clothes, smelling of sheep and campfire smoke, stepped up to the manger. They looked down at the tiny form lying on the hay. The Baby’s hair was still damp from birth; His dark little eyelashes curled against His chubby cheeks as He slept peacefully, His little rosebud mouth moving silently from time to time as though He had much to say, but not yet.
When did the shepherds realize they were gazing into the face of God?
The exclamation point to the very challenging year of 2020 is this Christmas! Like a grand crescendo, once again the angels message reverberates down through the millennia: Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord.
In these days of confusion and chaos, turmoil and trouble, fear and frustration, division and death, I pray God will fill your heart with joy and your life with praise for the Good News that a Savior has come. And He is coming again! Let’s spread the word…
 God’s Story, Anne Graham Lotz, p.269-271, Word Publishing,Nashville, TN 1999
 Luke 2:10-11