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Tuesday, 15 December 2020 07:00

Reflecting with the Shepherds

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Before that night I had a few stories to tell about my life as a shepherd: wolves, cliffs, ewes lambing, these were the stories we swapped among ourselves around the fires, in our families. But since that night, there is only one story that I tell.

The work of a shepherd is sometimes hard and often dull. Except for that night. We had come together, about ten of us, to pen the sheep for the night and we had them fenced. We were getting ready to sleep, were organising who would watch during the night, when we were suddenly surrounded by light, swirling beautiful light like we could never have imagined. I remember I had been feeling tired that night and annoyed about some small thing, but that light made all of us huddle together, staring all around us.

There was an angel. I saw a giant of a man, a man of light, awesome and so huge. All the light was coming from him. We were terrified, no one spoke sense, some were groaning, we were clutching each other, a young boy sobbed in fear. Then the angel told us “Do not be afraid,” and the fear, well, it went. The others said the same thing happened to them. I still remember every word that angel said, although it was not like a voice like you and I have, it was a beautiful, majestic, musically-thundering sound that seemed to fill the whole sky, saying, “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.”

Then after that, when we were already feeling completely overwhelmed and full to the brim, it became so much more… light… and power… and so, so beautiful. It was like there were thousand upon thousands more angels all around us. It was not frightening, it was just so magnificent and beautiful, they were all saying such incredible, wonderful things about God, like they were trying to sing a picture of God that we could almost see. It put a longing in my heart for God that has never left me. Then it was over, and we stood there for a long time, not moving, not speaking.

Then we all looked at each other and laughed and cried, and I just said “Can you believe that” over and over. Then someone said, “Let’s go then, now.” and we all knew where. We just left the sheep and took off to Bethlehem. We practically ran there, talking about the angels all the way.

The stable was so different from the angels. Everything was so ordinary and quiet and well normal. It isn’t normal for all us shepherds to go visiting mothers and babies, but what I mean is, there were no special lights there. It was ordinary and smelt of animals and the way they were dressed, well, they were poor like us really. They welcomed us like special visitors, like their own relatives or close friends, and showed us this baby the angels had told us about, and he was lying in a manger, like a little hay bed.

They wanted to know all about the angels. They asked questions and laughed and cried with us about it all. Mary said, “Can you tell me again what they said.”  She asked this three times I reckon, and after each telling we’d end up just staring at the child and each other. They looked nearly as awestruck as all of us.

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We all bowed before that baby before we left.  “Jesus” his name would be, Joseph told us. Some of us touched his crib, some wept, some said thank you to them. When it was my turn, I stayed back a bit thinking I probably smelt like a sheep and in my old clothes, I felt a bit shy and all. But Mary beckoned me close and said, “Will you hold him for me for a bit?” and before I knew it, she put him right in my arms. I gasped, but she said, “He’s here for you too.” I held him in my arms, I don’t know for how long, but I’ve never been the same.

I still find it so hard to understand why God chose us to be the ones to see all this. I can’t believe it was me, seeing those angels and, …even holding him. I know one thing. God came so close to me that night, and in that little stable it was warm, and like family. So much love, so much love in that little place, like there was enough love for the whole world in there. I keep thinking of her words, “He’s here for you too,” and I want to tell everyone, “You don’t have to be afraid; he is here for you too.”

Judy Bowe