Outside Circle by Jan Swan Wood: On a windy ridge in Judea | TSLN.com

Outside Circle by Jan Swan Wood: On a windy ridge in Judea

A keen wind blew from the higher ridges, bringing the cold air with it. The stars seemed to sparkle brighter because of the frost in the air and not a cloud was in sight. Sheltered below the lip of the ridge, the shepherds huddled near a fire, extending their cold hands toward the flames. The group took turns staying with the flock of sheep and goats that were bedded just down the ridge where the brush provided some break from the wind. It was a raw night, but even so, the wolves might very well come to prey on the flock, so the shepherds were diligent and kept their ears tuned to the night sounds.

The brittle brush at their backs rattled it's branches with each gust of the wind, and aside from the murmur of the shepherds soft conversation and the occasional talk between a ewe and her lamb, that was the only sound to be heard in the darkness on a ridge somewhere in Judea.

Suddenly, there was a great light in the night sky and an angel appeared, and the glory of the Lord shone around the shepherds, who were terrified by the sight. They trembled and held their hands to shield their eyes from the light and the angel said to them "Do not be afraid! I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people!"

"Today, in the city of David, a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord," said the angel. "This will be a sign to you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

As the awestruck shepherds cowered on the hillside, a large company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests!"

As quickly as the angel and the heavenly host had appeared, they were gone, leaving the shepherds speechless. They silently looked at one another, wondering about what they had seen and been told and nearly afraid to ask if the others had seen and heard it too. Gathering their wits about them, the shepherds finally found their voices and one said "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has told us about." Their excitement was beyond measure as they spoke.

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They quickly assured themselves that the flock would be fine until their return and set out quickly toward the town whose lights shown softly in the distance. They hurried, excited about the news that had been shared with them, humble herders of sheep and goats.

When they arrived in Bethlehem, they found the Christ child, as promised, lying in a manger in a dark stable that was carved out of sandstone. With the newborn baby were his mother Mary and her husband Joseph, tired from their journey to Bethlehem to register for the census and the birth of the baby.

The shepherds knelt in the bedding of the stable, amidst the animals that shared the space, and gazed with wonder at the child. After seeing the baby, they spread the news to all they could, telling them what they had been told about the child and His birth. Those listeners were in turn awed by the good news and told others. The Messiah had arrived!

When the shepherds returned to their flock on the ridge, they thought about the events of the night and all that they had been told and seen. They wondered, as did many others then and since, why God sent word to them, mere shepherds, first of all. Prophecy had foretold Jesus Christ's arrival on earth, but no one had imagined it would be announced first to the shepherds on the hills. Nor had anyone imagined that the Messiah's first appearance would be in a dirty stable in Bethlehem.

The joy and excitement the shepherds felt and their haste to go and meet the Messiah should be the same joy that we feel as we approach our Lord and Savior every day. He came for all of us, and our joy and excitement should be ever present and shared with those around us. The angel brought good news of great joy for all of the people!

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