“That first Christmas night, shepherds saw a wondrous light.
An angel then appeared, telling them to have no fear —
For unto you this day, in a manger on the hay,
Is born the King of Kings, peace on earth He brings….”
It was a warm night that night, in the land of Bethlehem, in Judea. The men sat around, under the night sky, basking in the soft glow of the moon. Perhaps they looked at the stars, remembering the promise given to their father, Abraham, so many years ago — the promise that his descendants, themselves, would be as numerous as those stars. Those beautiful stars, shining forth so brightly in the dark sky. Remembering the faith of their father, praising Elohim for His creation.
Perhaps they talked to each other. Or maybe they just sat silently, rejoicing in the darkness of the night time to hide themselves from the world. Mulling over in their minds the importance of the task assigned to them by Elohim — ever vigilant, keeping an eye out for predators, they sat there, with all their senses alert, ready for whatever the night was hiding from their vision.
Suddenly, a light shone forth, disturbing the darkness of the night, disrupting the inky blackness. Perhaps they all looked around, to see how the others would react — each inwardly quaking with fear that went unacknowledged….until they saw the same stamp of terror written on each face represented, reflected in everyone’s eyes they looked into. As they looked around and saw that fear on every brow, they began to shake in fright, wondering what this mystical light represented, what it was. They had never seen anything like it before; never experienced such a feeling before as they felt as that light engulfed them in itself — that unnatural, unearthly light.
Suddenly that light began to talk to them — “Fear not.” The shepherds looked up at this injuncture, realizing for the first time in all their terror that this light had a form, a shape. It was, indeed, an angel. An angel with such a countenance that it could only come from Elohim. But no one had heard anything from the Great God in such a long time! There were rumors, about a supernatural conception of a child, an angel’s visit — but that was just a rumor. A story. A tale that a poor, sinful girl had concocted in her imagination trying to make others accept the sin she had wrought in Israel. Why the elders had not put the girl to death, they didn’t know.
They realized the heavenly being that reflected so much of the glory of Heaven was still speaking. Still speaking to them — lowly shepherds though they were. Perhaps they stood there in disbelief, that an angel of the very God would condescend to speak to them. To them! “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.”
The Lord — the promised Christ-child that had been longed for, anxiously awaited….laying in a manger? A feeding trough? A hard, stony old feeding trough, that animals had stuck their dirty noses in, vying over food? Surely not! Not this special child that they had heard of….but then, they knew very little of teaching of their father, Moses, the great revered leader of the nation of Israel. Being shepherds — though an honourable and useful occupation — kept them perpetually unclean in the sight of the Pharisees. They didn’t have time to observe all the laws of cleanliness and purity. Being in the field kept them dirty. In protecting the sheep, they were constantly exposed to death — decaying carcasses, blood, animal dung. And yet they were being told — commanded — to go to the City of David. Bethlehem. Go into the city, among people, unclean though they were. Maybe the wondered if any one else knew of the birth of this long awaited Child, little knowing that the mighty God had chosen the “foolish things of this world to confound the wise.”
Suddenly the whole night sky lit up even more, if that was possible. The heavens glowed with angels, so resplendent with the wonder of Elohim’s majesty that the light of His glory was illuminating in the air around them. They were surrounded by Light — that glorious Light. Angel’s. Angel’s everywhere, too many to number, all around, each one clothed in the garments of Elohim’s righteousness that fairly shone with an ethereal glow. Looking up in wonder, the shepherds were amazed. Awestruck that the Mighty Creator would choose — of His own free will — to come to them, to tell them of the birth of His Son. How else would they have heard, if they were not allowed to enter into the temple? They looked around at each other, wonder slowly taking the place of fear in their faces.
As all the angels gathered around, they opened their mouths in a beautiful chorus — an Heavenly chorus — singing a song full of adoration to the great King. A song that must have originated in the throne room of Heaven, for nowhere on this sinful earth could such a song have been composed. They sang out loud and clear, with a beautiful tune….their hearts were so full of praises to the God they served, and that had to come out in some form or another, to be shared with others. “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” So full of love and respect for the Ruler of the universe, so full of love and pity for those on earth, those notes resounded over the flat, empty plain where the shepherds were staying.
The angels vanished, as suddenly as they appeared, and the shepherds left their sheep — actually left them there — and went to find the Child. The Child they had been directed to, the Child the whole world had longed for, waited for, prayed for. They traversed the same path they had taken many times, as they headed to the temple, bringing sheep they had cared for to be slaughtered — sacrificed for the people’s sins. How many sheep they had raised for others, to pardon them before a righteously angry God, yet how little the people respected them! I wonder if they thought of the irony of this as they hurried on their way to meet the sweet little One sleeping innocently in a feeding trough.
They appeared at the doorway to the stable, an hollowed out crevice in the rock. It was damp there. Chilly. Maybe Joseph himself urged them in, gave them a welcome. Perhaps Mary proudly showed them her Baby, her eyes glowing with the wonder and joy of motherhood while a tired smile tugged at her lips, exhausted from the many weeks of travel, the hours of long, body racking labour she had to go through to birth this Child into the world. And they saw the Child, laying as the Heavenly messenger had promised — in a feeding trough that had been lined with hay in an attempt to soften the crude, roughly hewn manger.
“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.”
Merry Christmas to each and everyone of you! I pray that this season of reflection on our Saviour’s birth will draw you closer to Him, however you choose to celebrate. That you will take the time to search out the Spiritual things this year, that you will realize what Christ went through — the depths He had to humble Himself to — when He came to earth that wondrous night so very long ago.
Other characterizations of Biblical figures: