The fields outside Bethlehem became the impromptu arena for the heavenly announcement of a rescue plan that would impact all humanity. Such momentous news found its first audience not among the powerful and privileged of the world, but rather with "certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay ... keeping their sheep." Reflect again on the story.
Read Luke 2:1-20
Excerpt from "The Christmas Chronicles" - the Shepherd's story.
A Bethlehem shepherd - steeped in the potent awareness that his home town was "David's town," and the surrounding fields "David's fields" - is stopped short in wonder at the angel's announcement of a Saviour being born. Listen ...
As dusk came to the fields last evening, I called my sheep and led them into the single-walled enclosure I’d constructed from tangled bushes, providing some degree of containment and protection from the night and from predators. As they entered, I counted, ever mindful of their safety, serving as protector, like David. “One, two, three, four,” I counted, “fifty-five, fifty-six, fifty-seven … ninety-eight, ninety-nine, one hundred.” All securely enclosed. All safe. All sound.
Then I gathered close by with my friends, fellow shepherds, warming ourselves at the fire, alert and at the ready for the sheep, singing songs of David up into the night.
Right here, at this spot. Right here, under the peaceful darkness of the sky.
And then the sky blazed! At this very spot! It blistered outward and upwards, hemming us in, bowling us over, startling the wits out of us, even more than David’s fierce surprise when startled by the lion. For there, looming over us, was a figure standing tall and broad like a warrior of light, threatening our lives more than any wild beast ever could.
His voice boomed, “Do not be afraid.” As if mere words could dull the blazing power of his presence. But his next words riveted my racing mind.
“I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.”
For me in that moment, it was as if all time stood still. The words rang out—Saviour, Messiah, Lord—capturing images from these very fields, threading them through this announcement of birth, drawing them together into a long-promised future.
Saviour. That title stirred images of David’s stone crashing into the Philistine giant, dropping him to the ground, saving God’s people from danger and oppression. The Saviour to overwhelm all enemies, now born in David’s town?
Messiah. Anointed One. That name conjured images of oil oozing through David’s hair, flowing down brow and neck, dripping on clothing, marking him chosen. The Anointed One now born in David’s town?
Lord? Could it be? Lord? The name above all names? The name reserved for God himself? Surely this angel realized whom he was naming! The One to whom David sang! Was God himself now come as Saviour and Messiah, born in David’s town?
The angel’s words echoed over me: “Good news of great joy … in the town of David, a Saviour … Messiah, the Lord.” He continued: “This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
No sooner had he finished than the glare of the sky was peopled with rank upon rank of shouting, dancing angels, joining their voices together in simple song greater than even David had ever composed:
“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.”
The singing went on and on and on—filling up the night while our hearts echoed back the melody—then slowly dimming as light and presence faded from view.
And here, we were left alone. Here in David’s fields.
“Let’s go!” I said, breaking our stupor. “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about!”
I knew exactly where to go. And so we went. And there we found the man, still weary, and the woman, now beaming, and a baby boy, wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in a manger, just as the angel had said.
In David’s town. A baby. Lying in a manger. Saviour and Messiah and Lord.
And as we returned to these fields last night, we could not help but sing our own songs of praise and glory and joy to the Lord who had shown us this most amazing of all sights.
These fields will ever remind me of David—the shepherd tending sheep, the anointed king, the victorious saviour, the Lord’s praise-singer. But the landscape and the sheep and the memories are forever transformed by the gleam of angel light, and past glories have been overwhelmed by future promises, wrapped up in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.
I am now leaning, expectantly, into that future.
Photo by Jaka Škrlep on Unsplash