Summary: Christmas Eve. The story of the shepherds is narrated in second person. The testimony of the apostles has come to us in scripture therefore we too, as did the shepherds, have seen the Christ, the babe in the manger.
May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of our hearts, be acceptable in Thy sight,
O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.
“Over to Bethlehem”
It’s Here. Christmas Eve. We have been preparing for Christmas throughout Advent. We have lit the advent wreath. Counted down the days on the calendar. And now it is Christmas Eve. It’s Here. But for a moment, let’s go there. Over there to Bethlehem.
Can you feel it, the cool wind blowing in the fields? The land is hilly, and there aren’t many trees to stop the wind, so it can even be chilly. So you wear a wool cloak over your robe, with a shawl pulled up over your head like a hood. Wool is the one thing you have plenty over. You are poor, but you are a shepherd. So you have wool in abundance.
You live out in the countryside. Sheep needs tending 24/7. They have to be guided by day, and guarded at night. It’s your turn to watch. The fire is burning nearby. This countryside is not far from Jerusalem. It is just past that little town of Bethlehem. That little town is not so sleepy right now. There are people here from everywhere. Roman is taking a census. And census means taxes to follow. Your glad you live out here with your sheep. In the peace and quiet.
The sky is inky black. Have you seen the night sky, far from the city. The stars dazzle even brighter against the bottomless darkness. What !! What is that? Like deer in the headlight you are blinded. The light is so bright it knocks you down. It seems to fill your body.
Fear Not. Yeah, right, you think. Fear Not. I bring you good news of great rejoicing. The voice pounds against your chest. What, or Who is this? For to you is born this day in the city of David, as Savior. The Messiah, the Lord. How do I know this is true? This will be sign for you. You will find the baby wrapped up in cloths, and laying in a manger.
The light becomes even brighter. It surrounds you on every side. Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth peace, goodwill to men.
Then. Nothing. It’s all over. You feel like you’re waking up, like you’ve been dreaming. But you been awake the whole it. You weren’t dreaming. It wasn’t a dream. It was real. You’ve seen an angel. From heaven. From the Lord. And not just one angel, a whole host of them, it filled the entire sky.
So you turn and see your fellow shepherds. They look dazed. They saw it, too. Let’s go over to Bethlehem, and see what the angel told us about. You grab your staff and start. Your feet keep moving faster and faster. You find that you are running to Bethlehem.
What will you do when you get there? It’s a small town, though. And as a shepherd you know where the stables are. There not too many to check. Nothing here. How about here? No, not this one. Was this true? And then. Then. You see them. A man and a young woman. In a stable. A there, is this tiny, new born baby. still red and wrinkly. “You will find a baby, lying in a manger.” It’s true. It’s true.
They welcome you in. As you look at that precious little one, more words echo in your head, “… a Savior, The Messiah, The Lord. … “ As you leave, you see some one in the street, you tell them about the light, and the angels, and the baby. They think you may be in your cup. But you don’t care. As you go, you tell another, and another. Some people just laugh. Others listen attentively. Like the mother did. What did the man call her? Mary. That’s right. Mary. She listened to everything you told. She didn’t seem so surprised. It looked like she believed.
You know that you believe. And you and all the shepherds praising and thanking God, all the way back to your field.
And so it may have been like that there. That first Christmas night. But you are here. You can still go over to Bethlehem. Like the shepherds, you and go and see. And what do you see?
Many people today think they see the Christmas stable. But when they look, they see only a father, a young mother, and a baby in a bed of hay. A beautiful scene. A scene of warmth and love. A scene of happiness in the midst of lowliness. But that is all. Although they go to Bethlehem, they don’t see what the shepherds saw. For the shepherds saw everything, “just as they had been told.” What did the angel tell them? Yes, about a baby in manger, but that was only a sign to them. What did the angel tell them? What was the good news for all people? “Unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Christ, the Lord!” The real news was that the Savior was here. The Promised One of God, who would deliver His people. The shepherds believed the Word of God spoken by the angel. And by His Word, in faith, they saw not merely a baby born in a barn. But a Savior. God Himself.