For two days I bounced on the back of a donkey searching the Judean hill country for a specific shepherd named Samuel. I encountered several flocks along the way. All of them knew Judah’s flock and Samuel, but none knew their location. I must have recrossed my path five or six times chasing down their suggestions. Near sunset I crested a small hill. The lowering sun painted the clouds orange and purple in celebration of the waning day. In the darkening valley I spotted another flock. With faltering hope of finding Samuel, I rode down to the nearest shepherd.
“Is this Judah’s flock,” I yelled when I got into range. The shepherd turned looking annoyed, but waved me to come nearer.
“Don’t yell like that,” he hissed when I was close enough to hear, “we are getting the sheep settled for the night.”
“Sorry is this Judah’s flock or do you know where they may be?” I hissed back.
“This is Judah’s flock. Is something wrong?” A worried look creasing the shepherd’s eyes.
“No, nothing’s wrong I’m looking for Samuel.”
“Do you see the man standing on the rock? That’s Samuel.” the shepherd said pointing across the valley.
I could just make him out. “Thanks,” I said starting towards Samuel.
“Hey,” the shepherd hissed again, “Don’t go through the flock, go around.” Changing direction I again thanked the shepherd and rode on.
Darkness was complete long before I arrived at the rock. However, the shepherds had built a small cooking fire which helped to guide me in. Looking up, I marveled at the night sky. The brilliant stars reminded me of the magi, and I wondered what they saw that led them to Jesus. As I approached the fire the one I took to be Samuel greeted me. “Good evening traveler, will you sup with us?” he asked, pointing at a spit of meat above the fire.
“Perhaps, I’m looking for Samuel.”
“I am Samuel, do I know you?” the shepherd quizzed.
“Lets just say that we have a mutual friend. Do you remember the trader you ran into a week or so ago by a tent outside of Bethlehem?”
The old shepherd thought for a moment, “you mean the night the child was born, the night the angels sang.”
Bingo I thought to myself, “yes, I’d like the hear your story, maybe do an article about it for the Jerusalem Journal.”
“Sit traveler, I will never tire of telling about that night.” Samuel looked at the other shepherds sitting around the fire. “We were all there, we all saw it.” Samuel studied the stars for a moment. “It was just about this time. We had camped near Bethlehem to replenish our supplies.” Samuel again stared into the night sky. “The stars were brilliant, just like tonight. Whenever they light the sky like this I am reminded of God’s promise to Abraham; that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars. I was pondering that promise when I saw one star seem to come closer and closer, growing in the night sky. Before I knew it, an angel was standing right in front of us. I fell to my knees, we all did.”
“What did the angel look like?” I asked.
“He was taller than most men, bright, almost like looking into the sun. But it wasn’t what I saw that frightened me, but what I felt. It was like being warmed by the sun but knowing that your heart was exposed before him. The angel must have sensed our fear because the first thing he said was, ‘Do not be afraid!’ That voice, deep and powerful, for a moment I feared that it would cause the sheep to run but they seemed unconcerned and calm. Then the angel said, ‘I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!’ The Savior? The Messiah? In Bethlehem? What wonder is this I thought. ‘How shall we find the child?’ I stammered. The angel explained, ‘you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.’ All of a sudden the sky was filled with angels as if all the stars of heaven had come down to where we were at. With one voice they sang, ‘Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased!’ They retreated back into the sky as their last note faded. We were all speechless. Finally Joseph here exclaimed, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem!’ I agreed, ‘let’s see this thing that has happened which the Lord has told us about.’ Without further discussion we all ran to Bethlehem to search for the child.
At that moment, the fire crackled throwing sparks into the air. I watched the sparks rise to join the stars and wondered what my reaction would have been. How marvelous and frightening to encounter those beings we call angels.
(Scripture quotation taken from Luke 2 New Living Translation)