Imagine that you are from this tiny town of Bethlehem, that you are camped out on this hill overlooking that town, a hill that is a mix of stone and grass. Your nationality and your identity is Jewish, you bear with pride the title, “Chosen People of God”, and your hope is firmly set on a Messiah who is to come. You’ve grown up with one main prophecy for this Messiah, found half-way through Micah’s book,
__Siege is laid against us;You have wondered if this ruler could be you, and all of your friends have wondered likewise about themselves, because of course you are from Bethlehem in Ephrathah, and not only so, but you are a shepherd and equipped to watch a flock. After all, wasn’t David a shepherd just like you, called to lead the nation of Israel as her second and greatest king? But generations have come and gone wondering this exact thing, 700 years have passed watching for a ruler from Bethlehem but seeing none. On this night your thoughts wander to the beginning of that prophecy, reflecting that siege is laid against Israel, that violence is done against her people, and you see this prophecy fulfilled in the Roman invasion.
with a rod they strike the judge of Israel
__on the cheek.
But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
__who are too little to be among the clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
__one who is to be ruler in Israel,
whose coming forth is from of old,
__from ancient days.
Therefore he shall give them up until the time
__when she who is in labor has given birth;
then the rest of his brothers shall return
__to the people of Israel.
And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength
____of the LORD,
__in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God.
And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great
__to the ends of the earth.
And he shall be their peace.
Your thoughts fly to your hatred of these oppressors. You pray David’s prayer from the 139th Psalm,
Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God!As you conclude the prayer the sky explodes in light, like the sun has risen in a moment, only it is far brighter, seven times brighter would be your guess. Standing immediately before you and your fellow shepherds is one like an angel, clothed in a magnificent white robe, radiating light in every direction. Though none utters a word, you instinctively know who this is, it is the Angel of the Lord, God on earth; he dwells in unapproachable light and he is a consuming fire. In his endless burnings none can dwell!
__O men of blood, depart from me!
They speak against you with malicious intent;
__your enemies take your name in vain!
Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD?
__And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?
I hate them with complete hatred;
__I count them my enemies.
Search me, O God, and know my heart!
__Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
__and lead me in the way everlasting!
Your first inclination is fear, terror that your sins have come up before him and your judgment is immanent. You think back through the day, the week, the month, your conscience accuses you at every remembrance; you’ve lied this week, you spoke an uncharitable word to a Roman soldier, you coveted the possessions of the pilgrims in Bethlehem, you caught a glimpse of one of the girls and didn’t instantly take that thought captive; a thousand other sins convince you that your judgment has come, you are sure this Angel is come to end your life and cast you into the pit of endless torment. Your mouth is stopped in terror.
But he speaks with the voice of God, “Fear not.” You look up from the ground, wondering what is not to fear, and he continues his proclamation, “Behold, I bring you good news of great joy that shall be for all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Messiah the Lord.”
Your mind is darting from thought to thought, but in a clarity you’ve never known, it’s like God himself is enlightening your mind to understand these words. The Messiah is born this day in Bethlehem! This day! A Saviour! Yes, that is what you need, someone to deliver you from your unclean lips and from this people of unclean lips, you need a kinsman redeemer to pay your debt, a shepherd to seek and save you in your wanderings, a reconciler to heal the separation which sin has caused between you and God, and an intercessor to bring peace between your God and you. He is born this day! Another prophecy flares to the forefront of your mind, from the prophet Isaiah,
For to us a child is born,Your heart races, your soul rejoices, your King has come, your Redeemer lives, your Saviour is wearing human flesh! You must see him! The Angel continues, “And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” You rise in haste to go see this sign, your fellow shepherds are quick to do likewise; you wonder silently why a King should have such humble beginnings as to be laid in a feeding trough. But your thoughts are interrupted as you see the sky, not full of stars any longer, but full of angels, innumerable angels, more than you could count even if you did not have a miracle to rush to, and with perfect unity and unity in harmony, they sing in a heavenly Hebrew, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
__to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
__and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
__Father of Eternity, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
__there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
__to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
__from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.
And as quickly as this herald began, it is over; and you are alone in the star soaked darkness of the night, looking intently at the lights of Bethlehem as you bound and leap your way to see this Christ child, this Messiah, who has come to save his people from their sins.