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"As the angel choir withdrew into heaven, the sheepherders talked it over.’Let's go over to Bethlehem as fast as we can and see for ourselves what God has revealed to us.' They left, running, and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. Seeing was believing. They told everyone they met what the angel had said about this child. All who heard the sheepherders were impressed.
"Mary kept all these things to herself, holding them dear, deep within herself. The sheepherders returned and let loose, glorifying and praising God for everything they had heard and seen. It turned out exactly the way they'd been told." Luke 2:15-20 (The Message).
Good for you, guys!
These men weren't satisfied to take the angel's word for it. This was a one-in-a-million event, after all, and they were not about to miss out on the opportunity to lay eyes on their very-long-awaited Messiah. Although they were the lowest of the low in society, they knew all about the hope of a deliverer that was promised in their Scriptures. They wanted to be the first to see the child and to keep that memory alive in their minds for years to come.
It was in the dead of night when they dashed off to the sleeping town. How were they to find the child and His parents in a town splitting at the seams with visitors from all over the country? Luke doesn't tell us how they found the child. He tells us that they found Him; no doubt because they at least knew that the baby was sleeping in a feed trough.
How long did they tarry, gazing in awe at this brand new baby in whose future life lay all sorts of possibilities? Perhaps dawn was breaking and the people of Bethlehem beginning to stir when the shepherds reluctantly left the little family and made their way back to their sheep. They greeted every person they met with the story of the angelic visit and the exciting news that they had just come from the hostel where they had found that everything the angel had told them was true.
They must have been bone-weary when they got back to their sheep. Thankfully, the flock was still intact despite being left unattended. Perhaps they agreed to take turns in minding the sheep so that the rest of them could get some shut-eye. But how could they sleep when those magical scenes kept flashing through their minds? Perhaps they sat around the fire reminiscing about what they had just witnessed.
Back at the hostel, Mary couldn't sleep either. She said very little to Joseph. She was too overawed by these events. Perhaps by this time they had a steady stream of visitors -- people who heard the shepherds' story and wanted to verify it. They had a busy day ahead. Now there were three of them to be counted. All the time, Mary was storing this all up inside, mulling over it and wondering what it all meant. Some day she would understand.
After all these exciting events, people soon forgot. They settled back into the routine of their daily lives; perhaps vague memories returned when the Roman soldiers, always around to keep order, sometimes to harass them, irritated them to the point of murderous hate. Then they longed for the Messiah who would deal with them and restore David's kingdom, so they thought.
But locked up inside this tiny child lay a destiny far greater than an earthly kingdom and a royal palace. In that moment when He made His appearance, heaven and earth came together as a promise that, in this child lay the answer to earth's most terrible plight -- hell had invaded earth and ruined its perfection. He had come to deal with that and to set earth's course back to God's original plan, a place for mankind where God and man can dwell together in perfect harmony in a huge family that mirrors their Father, recreated in the image of His Son.
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