It began like any other night - but quickly turned into a night like no other.
My name is David, and I come from a long line of shepherds. My father was a shepherd and his father was a shepherd. And his father before him was a shepherd. Being a shepherd in my family goes all the way back in history to the great King David, who I am named after, and who traded shepherding sheep to sheepherding God’s people: Israel.
I guess you can say that sheep are in my blood. I know all there is to know about sheep.
What they should and should not eat –
How they need to drink from still waters, not moving waters.
How sheep behave - like where one goes the others have a tendency to follow – so you have to work hard to keep them on the narrow path.
I know what sheep are afraid of – and not surprisingly, it’s a lot of the same things that I’m afraid of. But most of all I know how sheep need to be protected at night.
So this one night began as a night like any other for me and the other shepherds I was working with. We were getting ready to settle in for the night - so all of us were calling our sheep by name and herding them to safety in the small protected places we found –
places where we would eventually lay down and act as gates to keep them from straying.
Since we were always worried bigger animals might come along and hurt the sheep, we sat on a hill visiting and watching our sheep together before we, ourselves, went to sleep.
Suddenly, there was a bright light. Now this wasn’t just any bright light. It was so bright that we had to close our eyes for a minute because the light hurt our eyes. . . The light came from something that flashed across the night sky.
When we opened our eyes to see what was going on, a beautiful angel was hovering in the air just above us. It had its arms stretched open as if in invitation.
We all looked at each other in disbelief – and all realized we were not dreaming – as we were all seeing the same thing – this angel was real – and so fear set into our hearts as we wondered why such a lofty being was appearing to us poor shepherds. . .
I think we all just wanted to turn tail and run – but our legs and feet would not move – that’s how stunned we all were.
If the appearance of an angel is not enough to shake you up – then just wait until one starts to speak loudly and clearly to you:
“Do not be afraid,” this one said to us. “For I come to bring you the greatest news you could ever imagine –
something you and your ancestors have waited to happen for generations – going all the way back to your ancestor – King David.”
Oh – oh. This one certainly had my number!
“You shepherds are the first to hear these glad tidings. Today, just over the hill in the city of David called Bethlehem –a baby has been born – who is the long awaited Messiah – the one who will save the world. He is the newborn King of Israel.
And you will find this new king laying in a feed trough in a stable – behind a busy inn:
GO FIND HIM!”
Suddenly, just as quickly as this angel appeared – it was gone! But in its place was a whole bunch of angels all singing together:
Glory to God in the highest.
And peace to God’s people on earth.
Upon seeing what we saw and hearing what we heard: how could we not be overjoyed and excited – even if we were still a bit afraid.
Why were we the first to hear this good news? What we were supposed to do about all of this?
Probably best if we first followed the advice of the angel: Go find him!
And so we went as fast as we could – and we found that busy inn. And behind it we found the stable. And in that stable – the feeding trough. And in that feeding trough – there he was: a baby – the new King of Israel!
We all fell to our knees – not out of fear – but out of reverence. And we were filled with joy – because we were the first to know this baby was the one – the one foretold by the prophet Isaiah. The one who is to be called:
Wonderful. Counselor. A mighty King. The everlasting Father. The Prince of Peace.
We only gazed upon this miracle for a few moments – realizing the family needed some privacy and that the baby’s mother needed some rest.
But since we had gone and found this new king – we wanted others to do the same. So as we left, we began shouting with joy in the streets – and telling everyone what we had heard, and seen, and experienced.
God in the heavens had reached down to earth – sending angels to us tending our sheep on a silent hill.
Later, to those scanning the night sky – God will send a star to guide visitors from the east bearing gifts for this child.
So my friends – on this most holy night (day), consider what sign God is sending you – to go and find Jesus.
What is God calling you to do in response to the good news you see, and hear, and experience?
How is God inviting you to reject godless ways and worldly desires so you can be eager to do what is good?
What darkness do you need to leave behind in order to walk into the bright and amazing light of Jesus Christ?
And who is God calling you to BE for having heard, and seen, and experienced Christ’s coming into the world anew on this sacred day?
You have already heard it once – but this is the invitation God extends to you this night (day):
O come all ye faithful. Joyful and triumphant.
O come ye, or come ye to Bethlehem.
Come and behold him – born the king of angels.
O come let us adore him. O come let us adore him. O come let us adore him – Christ the Lord!
Moments in time...