My Dear Shepherds,
As arduous as their journey had been, and despite the odious duty of traveling all that way to pay more taxes to Rome, Mary and Joseph must have been nearly beside themselves with anticipation. Most parents are, but these parents were unlike any others before or since.
One thing they didn’t have to do was choose a name. That had been decided for them. Yeshua. The LORD saves. “He will be called the Son of the Most High.” Yet such incredible news was wrapped in silence and secrecy. They must have wondered what would happen next after Jesus was born. Was there someone they should tell? How would anyone else find out?
Jesus was born in the intense, private moment a birth always is. Afterwards, Mary and Joseph must have been sleeping because their newborn, cocooned in cloths, was in the makeshift crib. Then, deep into the night, a clutch of shepherds peeked in the stable door and saw the sign.
Perhaps one of the shepherds cleared his throat, or maybe they started crowding in, as quietly as they could, their feet shuffling in the straw. And sure enough, there was the wee little boy, lying in a manger, just as they’d been told. I imagine Mary and Joseph rubbing sleep from their eyes, trying to sit up, and Joseph asking, “How did you know about us? Yeshua is only a few hours old. How did you hear?”
The shepherds told Joseph and Mary their incredible story. I imagine them talking over one another, trying to explain the mind-boggling sight and sounds of the angels. They repeated what the angel had told them—that this Child was God’s Savior, the Messiah, the Lord. Mary and Joseph nodded and told their own angel stories.
Surely the shepherds asked if they could hold the baby. Dan Darling writes, “The Lamb of God would first be held and handled by those who knew how to appreciate and care for a lamb.” They must’ve lingered as long as they could—looking, marveling, and worshiping. But dawn started poking through the cracks in the stable door and the shepherds knew it was time to go.
As they left the stable, Bethlehem was waking. The rude cacophony of roosters crowing for attention. The aroma of bread baking. People attending to animals. David’s descendants from other towns drifting into the streets to catch up with their kinsmen over breakfast. Romans and their tax collectors setting up their tables.
People must have been puzzled at the sight of shepherds at that hour. They were supposed to be out in the fields keeping watch over their flocks. But for once those shepherds weren’t thinking about their sheep. They had news that they couldn’t keep to themselves any more than you can hide a smile when your heart is bursting with joy.
One of the most outspoken among the shepherds told what had happened. “The Messiah was born here! Last night! Angels—angels!—announced him to us and we found him!!” “In a stable,” interrupted another. “In a manger! The Messiah lying in a manger!”
Other people came running up, craning to hear. The shepherds repeated their story again and again, and it was passed from one person to the next, from street to street.
When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. (Luke 2:17)
So, dear shepherds, let us do again what we have done so many times before—spread the word about this Child.
Be ye glad!