Two thousand years ago, God sent his son to be born in a humble stable to common people with uncommon faith.
This didn’t happen in total obscurity. No, shepherds heard about the amazing event from an angelic choir. But how did Mary feel when a bunch of shepherds showed up for a visit?
That’s where we’ll pick up with the story this week. I hope you’ve been enjoying the excerpts from A Pondering Heart.
From Chapter Seven:
Shuffling outside the barn startled me awake. A strange white glow cast long shadows in front of the open doorway. I reached out, touching the edge of the manger beside my head.
Joseph stirred from his place on the opposite side of the manger. When he stood, the indistinct scuffles coalesced into the sound of approaching footsteps. A goat bleated from the other side of the doorway.
After helping me sit up, Joseph glanced toward the manger. Even in the gloom, I saw his features soften. He loved my son. My heart expanded in my chest. Jehovah had blessed me with an honorable man. I breathed a soft prayer as Joseph turned toward the doorway, exiting to see what the commotion was about.
“An angel.” A voice drifted in.
Joseph spoke too softly for me to make out his words. His deep voice tickled across my spine anyway. Who was he speaking with? It might be his uncle or cousins, but I doubted they would rouse themselves this early in the morning. Dawn was still several hours away, I guessed.
When he returned, Joseph knelt beside me. “There are shepherds here to see the baby.”
I gaped at him. What an unattractive response to the unexpected visitors!
“Can they come in?”
I nodded, resting my hand on the soft fuzz peeking out from the layers of swaddling clothes. Since these strips were used for wrapping newborn lambs, they were readily available in the stable. I would make some proper clothes for my son, but for now, the strips binding his arms tightly to his body comforted him.
Four men and one goat followed Joseph into the cramped barn. The cozy atmosphere became oppressive.
“In a manger, as we were told,” one of the shepherds said.
“Praise God,” said another.
In the dim light, I could tell they were shepherds by their distinctive headdresses and the odor of sheep clinging to them. I smiled as the goat pushed its way between two of the men and stuck its nose in the manger.
“Get out of that,” a younger voice said from the back.
The goat stopped, staring at me for a moment and then nuzzling the baby. His eyes snapped open. I prepared myself for his cries. None came.
Instead, he looked toward the group of men. Based on my time caring for my newborn siblings, I knew his sight was limited. Still, he seemed to stare at each one of them. A grizzled man in the front swiped at his cheeks.
“An angel startled us this evening.”
“This morning, really.”
“A couple hours ago. Told us the Christ had been born in Bethlehem.”
Rather than fumbling over each other, their sentences seemed to complete the one before it. Awe and excitement laced the words. Something extraordinary had happened to them this night. I wanted to hear all about it.
“Tell the whole story,” I said.
When I spoke, my son turned his head toward me.
“One angel lit up the sky,” the old shepherd said.
“Scared me into a statue,” another said.
“Told us not to fear. He had good tidings for all people.”
“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.” This from the youngest shepherd, still behind the others. Could he even see the child?
“Told us a sign.”
The old shepherd nodded. “Said we would find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”
I covered my gasp of shock with one hand. I don’t think any of them noticed, but I saw Joseph’s gaze sweep across me.
“Then, a whole crowd of angels filled the sky.”
“They chanted and praised God. Better than all the worship I’ve heard up in Jerusalem.”
“Glory to God in the highest.”
“Messiah is come,” the old shepherd said. This time I knew he wiped a tear from his face with the sleeve of his robe.
A strange aura of worship entered the room. In turn, each of the shepherds knelt before the manger. The babe turned his dark eyes toward the strangers, and I got the impression he saw each one.
The emotional elder shepherd knelt on the packed dirt floor after the others had finished. He reached out a spotted and wrinkled hand toward the baby’s forehead. Anxiety flickered across my stomach. No mother wanted a stranger touching her child.
The way the baby stared at the old man made my tension subside. Rather than crying in the face of strangers, he seemed calm and accepting. I reminded myself that he was no ordinary child. It wouldn’t be the last time I had to do that, either.
“The savior, Christ the Lord,” the old shepherd whispered.
His gnarled fingers grazed the babe’s hair before the meat of his hand rested on my son’s forehead, standard form for a blessing. “Praise the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob for fulfilling His promises. Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised.”
Tears streaked down the old man’s face. Yet, his eyes remained on the babe. He seemed unashamed of the emotions welling from deep within.
He turned his face toward me. “Bless you, mother of Messiah.”