“After seeing them, they reported the message they were told about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.”
Luke 2:17-18 HCSB
Jesse, the Chief Shepherd, led the way through the cobbled streets. Even though it was the darkest part of the night, this sleeping village was still crowded. Caesar’s census had caused many pilgrims to come to this small city. Jesse, being the head shepherd, took the lead as he was accustomed. He had carried many a lamb and also a ewe on his shoulders. They were broad shoulders so he pushed his way through. He was determined to find this Child they had been told about. He led his band of brothers through these darkened paths. They would search every stable. They would not stop until they see for themselves all that had been revealed to them by the Angels. Their Liberator had come. The Word had been made flesh, and they were the first to hear of Him. They were given a sign. They were to look in a feed trough for a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes, so they bypassed every inn in the city. They weren’t looking for the comfortable places; they were looking for the absurd: a Baby in a manger. “What an unusual place for the Anointed One to be found,” each shepherd thought to himself. The sight they had just witnessed convinced them of the truth they would find at the end of this quest. It is not every night a host of Heavenly Beings lit up your night sky. They had dropped everything they were attending to after “The Announcement” they had received. They didn’t bother cleaning up, after all people were accustomed to their odor. Their profession held them aloof from polite and religious society. This manifestation that was told to them was to important for them not to make haste. They were on a mission and Jesse led the way. They rushed down the hill into the streets of Bethlehem to find Him. The Angels had told them peace would come to all who bring pleasure to God. Their path was laid out for them. They didn’t hesitate. They knew what they must do; they must go find Him who the Angels sang of.
Jesse saw the stable first. Even before they entered, he knew there was something different about this barn. He looked at his band of misfits. Each had a sense of awe in their countenance. Their was expectation and anticipation, as a stallion being held back by reigns. Jesse looked back at the stable. The hair on the back of his neck stood up. His heartbeat was quickening. There was an aura of peace surrounding this shed. He knew with his next step he took he would enter the stable and he would be brought face to face with a King. Each shepherd entered reverently. And just as the Angels had said, they saw a New Born Baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a feed trough. With this sight before them, they were reminded of the lambs they brought into the world that were to be used as temple sacrifices. Jesse fell first before this innocent baby, the others followed suit. Jesse looked to The Child’s mother. No words were spoken for none were needed. Mary nodded slightly and the chief shepherd reached out and held the tiny hand. His grimy sweaty hand that had just recently stroked the wool of a ewe held onto Royalty. In that touch, peace did immediately flood into his heart. All things he had worried about before bedding down in the field to keep watch over a bunch of stubborn sheep were forgotten because he was holding onto the hand of the Prince of Peace. Jesse leaned over the trough and looked into This Newborns eyes and what he saw took his breath away. This innocent baby had the wisdom of One Who Is Ageless. A depth of boundless and endless love could already be felt in the look this tiny Child gave Jesse. He felt it to the depths of his being. Jesse felt a love that was other worldly in this frozen moment of time. A slight cough behind him intruded and unfroze this moment. Jesse stood to allow others a chance to meet and feel this Prince of Peace. He looked at The Child’s parents. They weren’t at all concerned that this dirty dozen, this group of outcasts, had showed up so soon after delivering God. Jesse studied them for a moment. They were as awestruck as he was. This was a night to remember. They were the first to witness Heaven coming to earth, besides this new mom and dad of course. One by one each shepherd took their turn to gaze upon The Christ Child. Jesse spoke for the group, “We came in search of something spectacular. We couldn’t even guess what we would find at the end of this quest, but it was exceedingly, abundantly more than we could ever think or imagine.” He told the new parents about the glorious angel announcing This Baby’s birth. He then told them about how a heavenly choir came and filled up every inch of the sky singing praises to God for sending The King to the earth. Mary listened intently to every word the chief shepherd spoke to her. She knew first hand what it was like to come face to face with a mighty messenger Angel sent from God. She had no doubt this sleeping baby was the Son of the Most High. She looked at Joseph, such a calm and peace had settled over him also. She knew the shepherd’s confirmation settled his spirit. An Angel had come to him also in a dream, but it was such a comfort to have other witnesses who could testify about who This Child really is. This would fulfill levitical law of having two or more witnesses to confirm a story.
The shepherd’s said their good-byes. They had left their sheep and now they must get back to work, but they had been changed for the better because they had witnessed This Child. They had been changed for the better because they had reached out and touched this Prince of Peace. They had first-hand knowledge and now they were busting at the seams to spread this word to every one they met. They came upon Pando, the innkeeper, first. He had come out of his comfortable bed to see what the commotion in his stable was all about. He held his lantern up high; he started to turn away and pretend he didn’t see this group of ragtag shepherds approaching. “What were they doing in town?” Pando thought to himself. “They didn’t even bother to clean up before entering our quiet community,” he snubbed. But before he could avert his eyes and pretend he didn’t see them, Jesse ran to him with such enthusiasm he nearly knocked Pando over. “Excuse me,” Pando started to scold and before he could get another word out, Jesse began an excited and animated accounting of all that had happened in to this ragtag band on this dark night. As he talked the more animated and louder he became. Then each of the other shepherds started filling in the gaps just in case Jesse didn’t quite capture the complete wonder of this night. The more each spoke more and more people came out of their comfortable resting places to see and hear what all this notorious group could possibly be going on about. The shepherd’s excitement was contagious. They told their tale at each city block. The whole of Bethlehem soon learned how a young pregnant peasant girl whom they chose to ignore yesterday had just given birth to their Deliverer. Pando walked off with a stabbing knife pain in his heart. The pain was called regret. “How could he not have done more for this young woman and her husband. They obviously needed to be shown more compassion. He should have offered them his bed and his room.” Zoar had traveled with this young couple in the caravan. He chose to ignore the obvious discomfort of the young pregnant peasant woman. He had rushed ahead of them upon entering Bethlehem hoping he and his family could get a room in this inn. His head hung in shame as he listened to the accounting of the shepherd’s. Because of his selfishness he had missed being apart of the Messiah’s story. One by one each visitor and traveler and citizen remembered seeing this young couple travel through the village in search of a place to stay. One by one each person was filled with regret because they didn’t offer compassion to a couple in need.
The bible doesn’t tell us whether any of the villagers came to see that which the shepherds had told them about. All we do know is a group of misfits left all to see everything the angels had proclaimed to them. I gotta believe some of the village people went to worship The Christ Child. The excitement of the shepherd’s story had to spur them on to go and bend the knee. If they did, what they found lying in the manger was Grace and Mercy and every regret would have been wrapped up and covered by His love.
Hundreds of years before the birth of our Savior another couple entered Bethlehem. It was a mother and her daughter-in-law. Naomi was the mother and Ruth, a Moabites, was her daughter-in-law. Naomi had left Bethlehem years earlier with her husband and two sons. They had left in search of greater fortune and profit. Naomi returned to Bethlehem broke, a widow, and had lost both sons. She entered telling family and friends from now on call her Mara which means bitter. She was bitter toward all. She was bitter toward God. She was bitter because she had lost her family, with the exception of her daughter-in-law who once pledged her loyalty to her mother-in-law saying, “Where you go I will go. Where you lay I will lay. Your people will be my people and your God will be my God.” In the end, in this same town of Bethlehem, Naomi discovered a kinsmen redeemer and her daughter-in-law became an ancestor of Jesus our Messiah. In Bethlehem Naomi found Grace and Mercy. Grace and Mercy took away regret and bitterness.
I have entered the village called Regret a time or two in my life. Grace and Mercy met me as my heart was stabbed with the pain of regret. I walked away from that village calling it Bethlehem or in Hebrew, House of Bread, because the Bread of Life came and filled me up replacing all my regret and bitterness.