Camping out in the desert under the Middle Eastern skies were local shepherds. For days on end, they would work and sleep outdoors, allowing the flock to graze on the steep slopes at daytime and guarding their open sheepfolds from predators at night. Desert nights could be quite cold. They most likely had a fire burning while taking turns in their night watch when, all of a sudden, night turned into day.
In a flash of light, angels from heaven showed up. They came with exciting news: “The Messiah is born!” – Startled, some shepherds fell to the ground, while others 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.” Then, as sudden as they had appeared, the angels vanished leaving the stunned shepherds with the invitation to go and see the Messiah. Armed with a very good clue – baby sleeping in farm equipment is a good one – the shepherds went to meet Jesus.
Meanwhile, Mary, Joseph and their newborn rested in their quarters. Their long and treacherous journey had been topped off by Mary’s going into labor. The couple must have been exhausted, but were probably too excited to go to sleep right away. Gazing at their baby in wonder, many questions must have gone through their minds.
Out of the blue, 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 would they know that Mary had just given birth to an extraordinary baby, unless God had chosen to reveal it to them?
I believe God still speaks to us through signs and clues. We all can have our divine moments. However, we need to pay attention. God may have been speaking to us all along, but we were too busy to notice. Although at times God can be very obvious (it’s hard to overlook a host of angels), I believe most of the time He is more subtle. And if we pick up on God’s language, we will have a story to share – one of the best stories from God’s point of view is the story how we met Him. As we continue to pick up on God’s way of communicating we will find that our story has just begun.