Camping out in the desert under the Middle Eastern skies were local shepherds. Day in and day out they would work and sleep outdoors. It was their job to lead the flocks to good grazing locations. At night they had to stay vigilant and watch out for predators. Desert nights can be quite cold. The shepherds on guard duty were seated around a fire when on the spur of a moment night turned into day.
Out of the blue angels appeared. They came with exciting news: “The Messiah is born!” – Startled, the shepherds just stood and stared trying to decide whether or not this was a dream. One of the shepherds had the presence of mind to ask: “The Messiah is born? Here, in this neighborhood? Where would we find Him?” The angels replied: “You will find the baby sleeping in a feeding trough.” And as sudden as the angels appeared they vanished into the night leaving the stunned shepherds with an open invitation to go see the Messiah. Immediately the shepherds left the campsite to look for the mysterious baby. The heavenly messengers had given them one specific clue – an infant sleeping in a manger is unusual to say the least.
Meanwhile, Mary, Joseph and the newborn rested in their quarters. Their long and arduous journey had been topped off by Mary’s going into labor. The couple was exhausted, but they were probably too excited to sleep. Gazing at their baby in wonder, many questions must have raced through their minds. Then, there was a knock on the barn door. The door quickly opened and closed, and stepping inside came a group of complete strangers. They identified themselves as local shepherds. Apparently, they had listened to angel reports – how else would they have known about a baby sleeping in the manger? Nobody could have guessed that. And how come they knew that Mary’s baby is the Messiah? God had to have revealed it to them.
God still speaks to us through signs and wonders. At times God can be very obvious (it’s hard to overlook a host of angels), but mostly He is very subtle – probably not to overwhelm us. Whenever we take notice of Him, we have a story to share. And I believe one of the best tales from God’s point of view is sharing how we met Him.