It was an exceptional night. Cruising the streets of Bethlehem, a group of men looked for a particular house. They were local shepherds who have just had an epiphany. Previously, angels had filled them in about the birth of the Messiah. He was born in the area; actually, within reaching distance, or so they heard. The angels sang beautifully and handed them specific directions to the location; and so they took off to pay the family a visit.
Bethlehem lay quiet and deserted after the rush and business of the prior day. It didn’t take too long until they noticed the brilliant star that seemed to be fixed on a location, a certain place that had a barn with a family inside…. and there was the baby! He was in a manger, soundly asleep, just as the angels had told them.
Mary and Joseph looked surprised as the shepherds entered the room. After introducing themselves, they started sharing the news they had previously received from the angels. Meanwhile, Mary hung on every word they were saying and treasured up these things in her heart; to her it must have felt like puzzle pieces were falling into place. Hearing the good news from other people made it all the more real.
Imagine this happening to you: an angel shows up with a message. This angel tells you that God wants you to be the parent of His Son – God’s Son – asking for your permission to adopt Jesus into your family. Can you picture the skepticism of your friends and neighbors? I am assuming that Mary and Joseph dealt with similar reactions among their peers, which is why it was so important for them to meet the shepherds.
The shepherds played no minor role in the chain of events when they shared their story with Mary and Joseph. A stranger’s tale adds a lot more to an existing story; we hear an added perspective, and so the story grows in validity and depth. Faith stories from other people are important because it strengthens our faith. Faith is not meant to be walked out alone. We need each other to be strong.
God continues to choose people for His purpose, and sometimes people have a hard time believing in God’s choices. However, if we think we need to be perfect to be chosen by God we are completely missing the point. It is God who makes things perfect. And He is the One who perfects us as we follow His call.
Isn’t it wonderful that God invites us to be part of His story? Potentially, He could have done every little thing on His own. God does not need to include us into His plans. I love that He does it anyway; and by using regular human beings for His divine purpose on a star-filled night, God has forever made us part of the miracle of Christmas.