By Gloria Wessner
What was this, this bright, dazzling, shining light all around them? Joel clung to the little orphan lamb he was clutching, and hid his face in its soft wool. He dared to take a peek and couldn’t believe what he thought he was seeing. He saw a form of a being or person surrounded in brilliant, white light. The shepherds and Joel were terrified. Then a voice spoke from the being which was an angel, “Don’t be afraid!” he 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! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”
Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast crowd of other angels—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”
The angels and the brilliance began to fade as they returned to heaven; and the shepherds and Joel blinked and looked around at each other in disbelief. Quietly they took in all they had experienced – it was a holy moment.
Then Joel and the shepherds all talked excitedly at the same time. One of them was finally heard above the rest, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about!”
“Yes, let’s go!” they all agreed.
Joel scooped up the orphan lamb and rushed after the others. They quickly made their way down the hills toward the sleepy village.
“The baby is supposed to be lying in a manger, that would mean he’d be in someone’s stable,” one of the shepherds spoke up.
“Who would have their baby in a stable?” questioned another.
“With so many coming to Bethlehem for the census, maybe there was no room for them at the inn!” ventured another.
Suddenly Joel blurted out, “Simon the innkeeper has a stable, that’s whose sheep I always look after. Maybe he had no room in his inn, but let them stay in his stable!”
The others thought for a moment and then realized this might be the best place to try to find the baby.
“Lead the way, Joel!” they cried. “We’ve got to see this for ourselves!”
Joel quickly moved the orphan lamb up to his shoulders and led the way towards Simon’s stable with the shepherds falling in behind him. The clear, crisp air was alive with stars as they hurried towards the cave that housed the stable. When it came into view, Joel realized that something must have happened because light from torches streamed out from the entrance onto the ground outside.
When the Joel and the shepherds got to the opening of the stable, they peered inside without going in to see if they could see anything. What they saw was an amazing scene. Joel instantly recognized the young couple that he had seen earlier that day on the road with the donkey. The young man, whose name was Joseph, was bending over his very tired wife and trying to make her as comfortable as possible as he tucked a thin blanket in and around her. The young woman, Mary, who had just given birth, was resting on her side propped up on her elbow so she could have a closer look inside the manger; a feeding trough which was normally used to hold hay for the sheep and other animals that stayed in the stable.
The donkey that carried Mary was there, along with a cow that looked over its surroundings with gentle big brown eyes that said it wasn’t used to such activity in its quiet stable. The most amazing part of this scene was inside the manger itself. There, just like the angels said, was a baby, wrapped snugly in strips of cloth. Joseph had lined the manger with the most finely textured hay and straw he could find to make the little bed as soft as possible.
The shepherds were amazed at the scene in front of them. They realized they were seeing an amazing miracle, told to them by angels sent from God Himself. They knew of the ancient prophet Isaiah foretelling that God’s Son, the Messiah, would someday come to rule the world with peace, fairness and justice. Never in their wildest dreams would they have thought that this was the way, a King from Heaven, would be born to such humble beginnings!
Very quietly the shepherds made their way into the stable, falling on their knees near the manger. Joel did the same, gently lifting the orphan lamb down to the floor. The baby’s eyes were open, softly looking around him.
One of the shepherds quietly asked, “What is the baby’s name?”
Joseph tenderly looked down into the manger. “Jesus,” he answered, “An angel appeared to me in a dream and told me to call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
The shepherds stayed kneeling in the straw, worshipping silently and thinking about this very extraordinary event and all that was happening this night. Joel gazed at the little newborn baby, and realized he was part of a very special occasion. He looked all around, drinking in the scene around him.
He caught a movement out of the corner of his eye. The little orphan lamb stumbled his way through the straw to the side of the manger. He looked at Jesus and bleated gently. The baby’s fist caught the lamb’s wool and pulled. The lamb didn’t move but stood there patiently. Little did everyone in that stable realize that when this baby grew up to be a man, he would be called the ‘Lamb of God,’ die an undeserved death, and rise again from the dead for them and everyone else in the world.
The shepherds silently got up from their knees and started to move towards the entrance of the stable. It was hard to leave the peacefulness of the little place. Joel went beside the manger and gently uncurled the baby’s fingers from the little lamb’s wool. He lifted him up, put him back on his shoulders, and took one more look into the manger at the baby. Joel would never forget this very special baby or his parents. He whispered good-bye to the little family and followed the other shepherds out of the stable.
It was almost dawn, and many people were up and about going about their chores for the morning. As the shepherds passed through Bethlehem on their way back to the fields, they told everyone they saw what had happened and what the angels had said. Those that heard them were astonished. They continued on their way, talking among themselves and praising God for all that they had heard and seen.
Joel just couldn’t wait to get home. Leaving his sheep in the care of the other shepherds, Joel ran home through the town’s streets, eager to tell his mom and Hannah all about his eventful night. He burst through the door.
“Mom, Hannah, you won’t BELIEVE what I saw and heard tonight!”