We have been getting some Christmas cards at home. At least one has contained a photocopied letter recounting that family’s highlights of the past year. I have never had the forethought to compose, copy and distribute such a letter in time to include in our season’s greetings. So, instead, allow me to share another family’s holiday letter:
Dear friends and family, It has been an interesting year for the Davidson family. The children are all doing well, getting older and continuing in their studies and the older boys are now joining me in the fields. Rachel is quite active taking care of all our needs. My work is often monotonous – leading sheep, feeding sheep, caring and tending to their injuries and shearing. I did want to tell you about an unusual evening I experienced recently. It all started quite normally: The head rancher, Jesse, the men and I took the flock to a glassy spot just outside Bethlehem. As we settled in, we were suddenly blinded by a light, like it was the middle of the day, only brighter. Boy was I scared.
Then an even stranger thing occurred: a voice, strong but soothing, came out of the brightness. I’m pretty sure it was an angel, but I’ve never seen angels before or since, so I can only assume. The words from the glowing presence told us not to be afraid, but many of us were. Then the angel told us the most incredible news: The Messiah has been born. Jacob, one of the old ranch hands, had shared with us around countless fires during countless nights that the prophets of our forefathers had declared that the Promised One would be born in Bethlehem Ephrathah, the village at the foot of our hills. The angel also told us that we could find this Deliverer of Israel in a feeding trough that very night.
Suddenly, there was not just one angel – I am sure of that now – but more like a thousand. It was so bright that my eyes hurt, like looking at the sun. We all fell back and bowed our heads as we heard what sounded like singing:
“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” Luke 2:14 (NIV)
Believe me or not, just like that all the angels were gone and we sat stunned in complete darkness. One of the guys, I think it was Old Jake, said that we ought to go down to Bethlehem and see if it was all true. I can only imagine what a sight we must have been: all those people milling around because of the census and us, dirty and smelling like sheep, standing in the midst of the revelry searching for a new-born in a manger. Part of me thought we wouldn’t find this miraculous needle in a hay stack, but after about an hour Simeon whistled, like he did to warn us of foxes, and when we all got to the place Simeon stood we saw the heralded mom and dad, and the beautiful baby boy sleeping in the feeding hay.
After a little while, we left the couple and their bundle of joy and headed back to the fields. How could we keep what we saw to ourselves? It was impossible to contain this wonderful news to ourselves. We told everyone who would listen what we had experienced – the angel, the heavenly chorus, the manger, the baby, the peace on his mother’s face.
We spent the rest of the night glorifying God, praising Him for all that we had seen and heard. The king has been born. One day he will free us from the bondage we we are experiencing. I am just glad that I, a simple shepherd, had the privilege to see him. I look forward to the day he is crowned and enrobed in the palace. I know that better days are coming – the Christ will soon be lifted up!