Nathaniel gripped his staff, while his free hand steadied his heavy shoulder bags. His steep climb up the hillside ended at the edge of a field. When he approached the sheep camp, he was greeted by a familiar shout.
“Ho, Nathaniel, what good things do you tempt us with this evening?”
Nathaniel spied his uncle Eliezer who overlooked the tending of the flocks. He eased himself down to a sitting position beside the wizened shepherd. “Something special, Uncle,” he grinned. He lowered the food bags to his lap and opened them.
The other shepherds gathered around the young man who visited often and brought baked goods from Eliezer’s sister.
“What news from the city?” asked Daniel, always eager to hear anything from the streets of Jerusalem.
“Much stirring over the taxation edict,” answered Nathaniel. “The city bulges with travelers; the roads groan beneath them.” He leaned back and let the shepherds rummage for crumbs. His mother’s cakes never lasted long among these lowly men encamped around the hills of Bethlehem.
Eliezer pointed to the indigo canopy overhead, sprinkled with starshine, “There is a stirring in the heavens as well.”
“What do you see, Uncle?” Nathaniel tilted his head and scanned the clear night sky.
“The star of the Coming One has entered the sign of the Virgin.” Eliezer lifted his gnarled hand and pointed out the constellation, “For some time now, I have watched it approach the maiden without hesitation. Look, tonight she cradles him within her womb.”
A shepherd named Yaakov wiped the remnants of one of the honey cakes from his mouth and spoke in a soft voice that seemed uncommon for the burly man, *“My grandfather read in the holy prophets that a virgin would bring forth a son and call him Immanuel, and that he would come out of Bethlehem of Ephratah.”
Nathaniel sat upright and shook the empty bags. “I think your imaginations have played tricks on your minds,” he laughed, unconvinced. He stood to his feet and looked up. “It’s just a night sky...” but his laughter faded when the constellation suddenly blazed with a blinding light. He fell to the ground, along with the others, and hid his face.
A warm touch on Nathaniel’s shoulder made him open his eyes. He looked up at the angelic being before him and heard him speak with a voice, which sounded like the rumble of distant thunder. The trembling men were told not to be afraid, that the Savior, Christ the Lord, had been born that day in the City of David. Once again glorious light surrounded them as a host of angels joined the Messenger and gave praise to God in the highest.
When the sky grew dark and quiet, Eliezer grabbed Nathaniel’s arm and looked around at the other shepherds, “God has favored us with these tidings for a reason. Hurry, we must see this promise with our own eyes.”
Dark shadows scurried after the shepherds as they went in search of the manger, described to them by the angel of the Lord. They scanned the hillside when they approached the village of Bethlehem, and the old shepherd pointed to a cave with an unmistakable glow permeating the darkness. What they found inside the stable filled their hearts with wonder, as Eliezer explained to the surprised couple all that had happened in the field.
Like one walking in a dream, Nathaniel moved slowly toward the young mother. She lifted her swaddled baby from the manger and eyed the young man with gentle concern as he reached out a hesitant hand. Then, as if something spoke to her heart, she held up her son so that the back of the stranger’s fingers softly brushed against the babe’s face.
When his nephew fled the cave, Eliezer was right behind him. “Wait, Nathaniel. Where are you going? This was written in the stars and proclaimed by angels; the prophecies have been fulfilled. We have been chosen for this moment, entrusted with an eyewitness account of the birth of the Messiah.”
“I know...I’m going now to tell the good news of this night to all who will listen!” Nathaniel looked at his uncle and at the other shepherds who had followed, and he saw in their eyes the same burning desire. Truly, this would be remembered as the night filled with glad tidings.
“And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.” Luke 2:18
Based on Luke 2:8-22 KJV
*Isaiah 7:14 and Micah 5:2
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