“Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And behold,[b] an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. 10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”
13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:
14 “ Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”[c]
15 So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. 17 Now when they had seen Him, they made widely[d] known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. 18 And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. 19 But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them. (Lk. 2:8-20)
It was quiet on the plain that evening, the gentle breeze just beginning to cool the heat from the day. The fires were lit, the stations set and the dogs were out on the perimeter. The young ones had been gathered close, content to finally lay down from the day’s wanderings.
The men were lazily taking their meal, talking, and laughing among themselves. Then on the horizon it seemed that the sun had appeared- a great light was upon the plain and the men were dumbstruck. The sheep became suddenly restless, and yet they cowered as the dogs with the sudden brightness. Trying to shield themselves was impossible, instantly they tried to hide and clung to each other for safety. And then came the voice, followed by others.
Absolutely terrified came this voice from one who was barely discernable within the brilliance.
“ Do not be afraid” it said… but the words only made the men cry out in their fear.
“Do not be afraid, for I bring you good news, great joyous news.” A few of the shepherds actually lifted their heads and made out the form of what appeared to be certainly some angelic form. The light was still surrounding them, but now they could see this beautiful messenger. Although their hearts were still troubled, they listened to the being.
“Today, in Bethlehem, there has been a Savior born, for you, for all of you, he is Christ the Lord!” the being said. In fact it almost sounding as if it was a song. The shepherds just looked at each other mouthing the word “Savior?”. The being knew their questions and continued to speak.
“And this is how you will know, you will find a child, wrapped in its swaddling bands, in a manger.” And as the word went out, the shepherds were terrified to see a great and mighty host of angelic beings. The night, once pierced by day, now rang out in rapturous melody to almost make them swoon. Caught up were these mere mortals in a song that had been rehearsed from the dawn of creation and it seemed to last for hours on end.
“Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, good will to men!” Over and over like a wild and wonderful chant. And all they could do was huddle in abject submission. The cacophony of voices finally seemed to move away and then the light diminished, leaving the shepherds and their flocks as they had been found.
Looking up and at each other, they were speechless. Each one considering his own sanity, and what had really happened. But one by one, they found their voices and argued whether or not to go. But go where? A manger, a child, Bethlehem, that still left too much area to search. And it was decided that they would go in groups, each taking some of the flock, and if one had found the child to send a runner to find the others.
Off they went into the night to find the sign given to them. They would stop at every cave with a lite burning, surely there were others who had been told…
How would you have reacted to this terrifying encounter. Let’s give those shepherds a little credit for not deciding to just stay put out of their fear! And what was the response they got from strangers about their visitation? How many caves did they search before they found the one with a child just newly born, still wrapped in it’s swaddling.
Picture your local nativity scene- why is it almost every figure has their hand to their heart? (well except of course the wisemen)It’s a picture of someone catching their breath, that sudden intake of air. Well the entire universe had been holding it’s breath for several millennia. How could the shepherds naught but do likewise when they found the child just as the angel had told them?
Advent Lord is drawing to an end, this has been our time of preparation for Your coming. We may think we know what to expect, but we really don’t have a clue. We may think we have everything ready, and all things are in place, yet that isn’t quite right either. Unexpectedly You God became Incarnate, the ultimate deity wrapped in flesh and it staggers our senses. May we sit in Your presence this day, and may the wonder of this moment take our breath away. To the One who breathes into us the breath of life we pray Amen-