As you all enjoy this season of celebrating the birth of Christ, I pray that the blessings you and your family have received this year will be passed on to others in the form of love and giving kindness. As for my family, we will be traveling over Christmas and New Years visiting grandchildren and friends and praising God for our health and freedom of worship.
By Karen Treharne
Joshua finished "rodding" the flock with his crook, his soothing voice talking to each one by name as he counted and ushered them into their nightly sheepfold. The desert sky was as clear as the peaceful streams were that they had encountered earlier today, and the stars blinked brightly like sparks of hot firelight in their firmament. He never ceased to wonder in awe at their salient beauty. Every night was magically the same.
The day had been long and hot as usual, but walking through the pastures and green meadows was refreshing and, today, there hadn’t been a sign of a jackal, wolf or lion anywhere.
After the morning grazing and watering, the sheep had settled down for several hours at midday, leaving Josh to eat his noonday meal and play his shepherd’s flute. Music to him was particularly comforting now, since his parents had given him the flute made from mulberry wood for his birthday. As the flock relaxed, Josh himself had rested until the evening march begun.
All and all, a peaceful day’s work…except maybe for that one encounter at the well. It just happened that his friend Matthew arrived at the watering spot with his sheep at almost the same time as Josh, and both flocks had merged into one large herd. It had taken a good part of the early afternoon to reform their separate groups. Those dumb sheep. They couldn’t find their way to the sheep pen at night without help, but at least they recognized their shepherd’s voice.
Wrapping his tunic around his shoulders and using his over-robe as a cushion, Josh leaned against the fence post enjoying the peaceful quiet of the night. His thoughts drifting to the mundane activities of the day.
He felt the nudge at about the same time as he heard the whine, and turning found he was face-to-face with Sarah’s youngest lamb, the little black one.
"What’s wrong baby girl? Did you lose your mom?" He picked her up gently and carried her into the fold placing her next to Sarah. "Now stay put, pretty nomad."
Suddenly, a blinding light shone all around. Josh stopped dead in his tracks and looked upward. The radiance was so bright that it took him a couple of moments of blinking his eyes open and shut, before he saw the angel. He stood trembling as the angel spoke, "Don’t be afraid … I bring you good news of great joy for everyone! The Savior – yes, the Messiah, the Lord – has been born tonight in Bethlehem, the city of David. And this is how you will recognize him: You will find a baby lying in a manger, wrapped snugly in strips of cloth." (Luke 2:10-12 NLT)
Josh didn’t know what to make of it. He’d heard about the promised Messiah, of course, but this…this…angel said he’s been born – tonight! Before he had time to contemplate it further, the heavens were filled with a host of angels, praising God:
"Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to all whom God favors." (Luke 2:14 NLT)
When the angels departed, Josh saw the single most brilliant star he’d ever seen, pointing … yes it seemed to be hanging in the sky … pointing. It was over the town of Bethlehem, exactly where the angel said the baby Lord had been born.
He looked around then and saw other shepherds gathering together, pointing up at the star. He could hear their excited voices speaking almost in unison, "Come on, let’s go to Bethlehem. Let’s see this wonderful thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."
Josh stood there in wonder as he watched his friends and neighbors running toward the village.
He didn’t understand it all, but he knew that something extraordinary had occurred, and he fell on his knees praying to God Almighty in thanks for allowing him to be a part of this amazing experience. This "ordinary" day would be one he would never forget.
And when the others returned from the manger, they went back to their fields and flocks, glorifying and praising God for what the angels had told them, and because they had seen the child just as the angel had said.
The greatest event in history had just happened. The Messiah had been born. For ages the Jews had waited for this, and when it finally occurred, the announcement came to humble shepherds. But these lowly herders had done exactly what God had intended for them to do. Their fear had turned to joy as the angels announced the Lord’s birth, and first they had run to see the child; then they spread the word.
The Good News about Jesus is that he comes to all, including the plain and ordinary. He comes to anyone with a heart modest enough to accept him. Whoever you are, whatever you do, you can have Jesus in your life. And don’t think He will come to you on any special occasion or think that you need exceptional qualifications either – because He accepts you as you are and where your are, whenever you turn to Him in faith.
Thank You, Lord, for this season of celebrating Your birth. May we always remember the purpose of this special occasion. May we worship You and the Father and the Holy Spirit, and thank You for providing us with so much, for loving us without reason and forgiving us our sins. May we return that love by being examples of You. Please care for those less fortunate and draw them near to Your gate. Thank You for the family that is close to us and for those dear ones who are not near. Keep us all in Your loving care. We pray these things in the name of the Christ Child, our Lord Jesus, amen.
Karen Treharne is the author of "Women Wearing the Baggy Pants", a newspaper article about clowns, and a soon-to-be published story, "Prom Night", in one of the FaithWriters’ quarterly books. She is also the Editor of The Joy of Family. Karen and her husband have two sons, one daughter, and three granddaughters. They live in "God's Country", the Pacific Northwest, in Tacoma, Washington.
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