New Birth – A Shepherd’s Awakening

Has Jesus’ birth made a difference in your life?  It changed the lives of the shepherds forever.
‘The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.’  Luke 2:20

1024px-Starry_Night_at_La_Silla

Yes of course I remember that night – how could I ever forget!

I was only 8 or 9 at the time, it was my second winter in the fields with my cousin Amos and old Naggai from the next village.  It was one of those cold crisp clear nights when the sky is almost a deep blue rather than completely black, and the rocks and trees cast long shadows in the moonlight. The sheep were gathered together for warmth and there was a light mist rising from them as they huddled half a stone’s throw from the fire.

Amos and I were looking up at the stars, imagining soldiers in the sky and trying to remember the names Naggai gave the brighter groups, whilst cupping our hands over our mouths so our breath wouldn’t form clouds above us and block our view of the stars.  I had just blown out a long puff and was watching it swirl up into the darkness towards a cluster of flickering stars when I thought I imagined a figure floating down from above and suddenly the sky faded like it does when you throw a dry pine branch on the fire and it suddenly bursts into flame.  It grew brighter and brighter and the figure was standing there right in front of us.  If we hadn’t been too scared to move, Amos and I would have hidden for sure.

The angel, for that is what he must have been, opened out his hands in a gesture of peace and said ‘Do not be afraid, I bring you good news of great joy, for you and for everyone!’  He told us that if we went into the village we would find a baby wrapped in cloths, lying in a food trough and that this baby would be the Christ, the one everyone was waiting for.  He said we should go straight away and see him.  And then there was suddenly a whole group of them standing behind him, they were singing in the most beautiful voices, like a hundred larks all at once, singing praises to God.  They seemed excited and overjoyed, you know like when you have just found something special that you have lost and you just have to tell someone.

So of course we all ran straight to the village, we didn’t want to miss the baby, and like I said the Angels told us to go straight away and I don’t think any of us thought twice about disobeying them.  And just as we got into the village, in a stable, there was this little baby still bright pink with that newborn colour like he’d just been delivered.  He was wrapped up in tattered cloths and lying in a feed trough just as the angels told us he would be.  The mother was stroking his head, and the father was still ripping up strips of his shirt to keep the baby warm.

We could not believe our eyes, but as my eyes met the baby’s I was transfixed and without knowing quite how, I knelt down right in front of him and lifted my hands in prayer.  God himself had come to earth, he was there in front of me – tiny, vulnerable and with nothing, yet I knew it to be true.  It was just as the angels had said.

None of us slept that night.  For me, the night was like the day, everything seemed clearer, brighter, sharper.  I could see every rock, smell every bush, hear every creature.  I could feel my heart beating in my chest and every breath was like sucking in the fresh air you get on a spring morning up on the crags.  When I got back to the flocks, even the sheep looked different, I knew them each individually of course, but now even they looked more special somehow.  It was like I was truly alive for the first time.

The next day we ran through the village and told everyone the good news.  Some of them believed us, but most didn’t – they looked down on us as normal.  But that didn’t matter, we had seen Him, we had spoken with angels and we knew the truth.  I think I was born anew just like that little baby, it was the first real night of my life.

 

Picture
“Starry Night at La Silla”. ESO Picture of the Week. Retrieved 23 December 2014

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