After Mary and Joseph arrived at their destination after a long trek on foot and on donkey. . . After they finally found a place to sleep and to birth a baby. . .
After that, we have this part of the story. . .
Contemporary English Version
8 That night in the fields near Bethlehem some shepherds were guarding their sheep. 9 All at once an angel came down to them from the Lord, and the brightness of the Lord’s glory flashed around them. The shepherds were frightened. 10 But the angel said, “Don’t be afraid! I have good news for you, which will make everyone happy. 11 This very day in King David’s hometown a Savior was born for you. He is Christ the Lord. 12 You will know who he is, because you will find him dressed in baby clothes and lying on a bed of hay.”
13 Suddenly many other angels came down from heaven and joined in praising God. They said: 14 “Praise God in heaven!
Peace on earth to everyone
who pleases God.”
15 After the angels had left and gone back to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see what the Lord has told us about.” 16 They hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and they saw the baby lying on a bed of hay.
17 When the shepherds saw Jesus, they told his parents what the angel had said about him. 18 Everyone listened and was surprised. 19 But Mary kept thinking about all this and wondering what it meant.
20 As the shepherds returned to their sheep, they were praising God and saying wonderful things about him. Everything they had seen and heard was just as the angel had said.
Contemporary English Version (CEV)
Copyright © 1995 by American Bible Society
Let’s picture ourselves as a shepherd on that night so long ago. The sheep have been fed. They are content. The sky says, “Go to sleep, sheep. The stars will be watching you and beaming soft light on you as you sleep.” So the sheep are quiet and content. The shepherds are tired but they
are enjoying their campfire meal. I wonder what shepherds eat. Surely, they are 24/7 shepherds. No shift work for them. They may take turns being awake during the night as watchmen. I don’t think they get to go home for a bath or to eat or to look at their mail.
Shepherds and the description “lowly” go together. Little or no education. Not fancy dressers. Not thought to be personally clean. Even as a baby, Jesus is drawing lowly people to himself. The scripture does not say that Mary and Joseph rushed the shepherds out of the stable. Actually, the shepherds fit the scene. We picture them bringing a few sheep with them as they treked from a nearby hillside into the town of Bethlehem.
If we picture ourselves as one of the shepherds, can we feel ourselves becoming gradually drowsy while eating our mutton stew. Even sleepier as we sip our hot drink brewed over the fire. Our eyelids keep shutting. No newspapers. No cell phones. Just each other and the stars. The shepherds may know a lot about the stars since the formation and movement of the stars may be their only recreation and time-telling method..
Are we still drowsy? Our eyelids are taking their last glance at the heavens when all at once this angel pops out of the sky right in front of us. This is definitely not a normal shepherd go-to-sleep experience. No one is going to sleep after this. An angel! Our fear response jumps into gear! The angel is not silent. The angel comes rejoicing. There is all this flashing light called “glory.”
The neat thing is that the angel says this just-happened birth is for us, the shepherds. This baby lying in a manger is our Savior, Christ the Lord. Seems very strange. And this is an invitation to go pay respect to this baby lying on hay. When the angel finished the invitation to us, the angel seemed to be multiplied to become a large chorus. They say together, “Praise God in heaven! Peace on earth to everyone who pleases God.!” Uh-oh! That excludes a bunch of people. Maybe even us. But why would we receive this invitation if we do not please God?
We get the idea. This baby has come for us, strangely enough. The invitation repeats itself in our minds and ears. What a silly sight we must be with our mouths open in disbelief!
While we are still in shock, the angels disappear beyond the stars. “Well,” we say to one another. “What shall we do?” One young shepherd says, “I will go to Bethlehem. Is anyone going to join me? What about the sheep? Can we just leave them?” Another shepherd says, “Let’s take the worrisome ones with us – the little ones and the ornery ones.” So we take these few sheep with us after checking that the other sheep have settled themselves after all the commotion.
We reach the stable in Bethlehem rather quickly because we are excited. We are moving in a strange state. We don’t feel like our usual selves. Somehow we find the stable with the baby lying in the hay. God, of course, is always leading us. There is the baby! So precious. So perfect, especially with the gentle animals whose body warmth warms the small barn. We bow. We fall on our knees. What else can we do! We pay our respect by bowing. We look into the faces of Mary and Joseph. They look into our faces and then to the baby and back to us. God is with us! We tell Mary and Joseph about the angels and the angels’ words. Then we bow ourselves backwards from this warm, cozy, loving place, taking our awe-filled sheep with us.
We can see in Mary’s eyes that she is in deep thought about this wonderful happening on this wonderful night! What is God planning for this precious child whose father is God? Amen