The Judean hills surrounding Bethlehem grew cold at night. The gentle breeze of the day turned into a bone-chilling breeze that penetrated the clothing of those night-watch shepherds guarding their sheep. And it was dark, darker than any dark we might imagine in our night sky today, with all the ambient light rising from our cities and towns. [The Bedouin of the Negev know the darkest nights.]
Imagine those shepherds being startled by a blindingly bright being in their midst, first proclaiming, “Do not be afraid!” The shepherds’ extreme fear only mildly tempered by “For behold I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people!” (Breathe! Breathe!) “For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
Now try to imagine this event happening in this early 21st century. In developed nations the shepherds would first “dial” #911; first their blood alcohol levels would be tested; then they would be sent to counseling for delusional behavior. They most assuredly lose their jobs; unless, of course, they lived within the great expanse of the Arab world. For God, and Christ, is appearing to groups and individuals there, in these days, on a regular basis. There can be but one explanation.
What if…, what if, that sole the angel were joined by a flock of angels, equally blindingly bright and magnificent, suspended in the cold night air, singing.
In any era, even with special FX, this would be astonishing! Most likely you would be somewhat motivated to check out the angels’ admonition and head to Bethlehem. “And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling rags, lying in a manger.”
This Christmas season, with all the last minute preparations and shopping to be finished, take a moment to be captivated by a simple, newborn baby, surrounded by horses, cattle, chickens, and whatnot, with sheep-smelling shepherds, all crowded into a small stable. For it is there you will find the Lord God of the Universe, lying on hay, in the comfort of a wooden feeding trough.
May you know the Peace of Christ and the Glory of His incarnation throughout this Christmas Season. And you don’t even have to go to Bethlehem to find Him.