“Move in; Let’s go, Let’s go” says my master as he guides me into my stall for the night. “Easy” I think. “These old hooves can’t move quite as fast as they used to.”
As I get settled in, I see the familiar feed appear in my manager, but it doesn’t look quite as full as normal. I suppose I’m just getting feed-greedy in my old age, or maybe I’m imagining it. In any event, I’m happy to see the old water bucket filled to the brim.
It’s a warm night here in Bethlehem, and I guess my appetite isn’t quite as large as I thought. Some hay is left in the manager – it will make a good midnight snack if needed. Now it’s definitely time for sleep. If only the donkey across the way wasn’t such a noisy sleeper!
“Well, I guess this will have to do,” I hear a man’s voice say. I’m half asleep, and I can’t help but wonder why someone is out here so late. I see the master coming behind the man, and they both turn to help a young woman off a small donkey.
” Great, another donkey is just what I don’t need” I think to myself.
Then I notice the young woman looks exhausted and heavy with child. I suppose I can put up with another donkey for her sake. I’ve witnessed plenty of animals give birth but never a person. Still, I guess that this woman, a girl really, looks like she’s ready to deliver at any moment.
I’m fully awake and alert now because the couple seems to be setting up camp right in front of me and my feed trough. This is definitely going to mess with my beauty sleep, but it’s also the most excitement in here since, well… since ever. And I’ve got a front and center view.
“Mary, how are you feeling,” the man asks. “Nervous,” whispers the young woman – who I now know is called Mary. “I think the baby’s coming tonight, Joseph” she says with wide eyes.
Before Joseph can reply, my master comes into view. He ushers his wife toward the couple. Carrying some soft blankets and various clean cloths, the older woman smiles kindly at Mary and offers her some cool water as she helps her get comfortable.
“So strange…” I think to myself. Why in the world isn’t the couple staying in the inn like normal?
A short distance away, weary shepherds were also getting settled in for the night. It had been a long day, and they were tired as they tended the campfire and had a late supper.
Suddenly, a light unlike any they had ever seen appeared bright and brilliant in the sky. Shock was too mild a term to describe what these shepherds felt. The looks on their faces spanned emotions from awe to terror as they saw an angel appear in the bright light. The message the angel brought was this,
“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
The angel gave praise to God with the words “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
Then the angels departed, and the shepherds knew they needed to get to Bethlehem, quick. If God saw fit to tell them about this miracle, they absolutely needed to see for themselves. One turned to another and said, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
Meanwhile, back at the stable…
“How peaceful and perfect,” I think, as I watch the young Mary swaddling her new baby in cloths provided earlier in the night. Joseph, who seems every bit the anxious father, takes the babe and nestles him in my feed manager so Mary can rest.
Who knew that my humble feed trough would ever be a baby cradle?
“There now little Jesus, sleep soundly,” whisper Joseph and Mary together. But sleep is not in the deal for the couple themselves, as a group of people are coming up to the stable. They look like shepherds, but I’m not sure why they’re visiting at this hour.
The shepherds stare in awe at the tiny babe in the manager and proclaim him a miracle. Mary and Joseph just smile knowingly as the shepherds relay that “an angel came to us and told us that Christ – the Messiah – had been born in Bethlehem.”
The shepherds glorified God, and gave thanks for the goodness they had seen.
As for me, a humble creature of God, I too was filled with joy to learn the Lord himself had sent this tiny baby, the Messiah, to earth. I knew I wasn’t worthy to be present at this miraculous birth, but that didn’t seem to matter to God. He chose this place anyway.
And on this special night, I know I’ve witnessed a miracle. “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
Merry Christmas to all. May God bless you and your loved ones richly, and may your hearts and lives be filled with the joy of Christmas. May you know that God sent Christ for YOU that night in Bethlehem, and may you accept the gift of salvation that is freely given.
Biblical text from Luke, Chapter 2, New International Version