As Mary felt the infant at her breast fall asleep she carefully rolled Him over and wrapped Jesus in the simple cloth she had. Joseph unfolded the wool blanket into the feed trough so the baby would remain secure as He slept.
“Too bad we couldn’t bring the crib I made. I spent a lot of time on that thing.”
Mary looked into Joseph’s eyes as she handed Jesus to him. “It’s the best crib in the world. You know there was no way we could get that here in one piece. We would have needed a camel for that.”
Joseph laid Jesus in the manger and stepped back. “He looks so normal. Are you sure He’s the Messiah?”
Joseph snapped around to the front of the stable when he heard the scuffing of feet and heavy breathing. The smell of human sweat and sheep soon filled his nostrils.
One of the men tapped the other on the arm with the back of his hand, then he pointed at the baby. “There He is! Just like the angel said… lying in a manger, wrapped in cloth.”
“Angel…!?” Mary and Joseph replied in unison.
“Yeah, the sky was full of ’em! Lit up the night like it was mid-day.” The second shepherd looked at Joseph. “May we come in for a closer look?”
“Of course…” Joseph stepped back along side the manger.
The men stepped up to the manger quietly and stared. Mary wiped tears from her eyes. She gazed out at the eastern sky. The familiar bright star hung over the horizon.
Joseph broke the silence, “What, exactly, did the angel, or angels, say? By the way, my name is Joseph. This is my wife, Mary.”
Just then three other men appeared at the entrance. “Did you find Him?”
The first two men turned around. “SHHH…! He’s sleeping.” They motioned for their comrades to come in. The first shepherd looked at Joseph, “So, the child’s name is Joseph?”
Joseph shook his head. “No, His name is Jesus. That’s what the angel told me to call Him.”
“Joshua… so, it is true.” The second shepherd placed his hands on Joseph’s arms. “The angel started with ‘Don’t be afraid…'”
The youngest man spoke up. “He obviously didn’t know who he was talking to. Shepherds have to fight off lions and bears. Just like King David did.”
“What would you know of bravery?” One of the others slapped his friend on the shoulder. “You jump every time an olive hits the ground.”
The shepherds all laughed. Joseph put his finger in front of his mouth. “Shhh…”
Everybody looked at the infant as they stopped their chatter. Jesus put His thumb in His mouth and sucked, He never opened His eyes.
The storyteller glanced at Mary, then back at Joseph as he continued his report. “‘…behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, Who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in cloth, lying in a manger.’ That’s when the whole sky filled with angels!”
“Yeah, and Mr. I-ain’t-afraid-of-nothin’ tripped over his own ewe lamb, landed flat on his back.” Everybody chuckled.
The storyteller continued, “It looked like those angels had been waiting a long time for this moment. They were all dancing around praising God. They said, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.’ I thought everybody in town would wake up from the commotion, I looked around and noticed the sheep were all calm, some were still asleep. That’s when I knew this was just for us to hear. I looked back at a starry sky. As quickly as they came they left us.”
Joseph looked from the shepherds over to Mary, her eyes were half-shut. “She must be so exhausted. How can I get these guys to leave so she can get some sleep?” Just then a rooster crowed at the edge of town.
The youngest shepherd looked at his friends. “I don’t know about the rest of you guys, but I just got to go tell somebody about this. The town is waking up now, let’s go spread the news.”
“Yeah…!” they all left the stable.
Mary looked up at Joseph and smiled. “Do you still doubt Who that is in the manger?”
Joseph came over to her and tucked the blanket around her shoulders. He laid next to her. “I never doubted that part. It’s just that I never pictured the Messiah being so helpless. I always heard of Him being the conquering monarch, not a tiny baby, but I guess we all start out like that, there’s no other way.” Mary’s slow, rhythmic breathing told him she was already asleep.
Shepherds…? I mean, don’t You know who these guys were back then, God? They were the Rodney Dangerfield of their day. They didn’t get any respect. About the only class of people who were considered lower that shepherds were lepers. That’s because leprosy carried its own brand of ‘unclean’ness.
Even in the book of Genesis, chapter 46, when Joseph (No, I’m talking about Jacob’s son, now.) was settling his family in the land of Goshen he told them to tell Pharoah that they were shepherds. Why? According to verse 34 it’s because “every shepherd is an abomination to the Egyptians.” In this way God began to keep the Jewish race pure and separate. No Egyptian would dare give a daughter to a shepherd for marriage.
It’s so like God to give the first assignment of spreading the news of His Son’s birth to the outcasts of society. They stood to gain the most from this transaction. You see, the Messiah would make temple sacrifices obsolete. So more of their sheep could life full lives.
I guess God knows what He’s up to, after all.
I’ll see you later. Wade