The night was dark and cool. A group of shepherds was gathered in the fields just outside of town, huddled around small fires, surrounded by drowsy flocks. It had been a long day. Thoughts wandered home—how wonderful it would be to lie down in a bed, eat a hot dinner. But home would have to wait…
“Joseph?” He looked at her through the dim shadows and found his own exhaustion reflected in her tired eyes. He took her sweaty hand in his. “I’m here.” He felt her body tense as the contractions started again. Her grip tightened. How much longer? he wondered to himself. He brushed the hair from her face and found a rag to wipe her forehead. Amazed by her beautiful strength and swelling with admiration, he took both of her hands in his. It must be soon.
The hum of soft snoring drifted across the fields. A few of the shepherds slept while the others watched the flocks. The night grew colder. One of the older men seated by the fire pulled his wool blanket closer around his shoulders. Never mind, he thought, I’ll be warmer if I move around. Shifting his weight away from the fire, he stood to leave. Suddenly the air grew thick and warm. It seemed as if everything was fire.
Soft gasping filled the air followed by an infant cry. Mary’s body relaxed with relief. Joseph watched as she took the child in her limp arms—her eyes were swollen but serene. He touched the child’s head, struggling to hold back hot tears. She kissed the baby’s nose and fingered his little hand. Mary and Joseph, momentarily wearied but forever changed, exchanged quiet smiles. Their eyes met—we have just witnessed a miracle. This is the child for the world. It was not long before Mary and the child lay sleeping. Joseph went outside to sit under the stars. He remained there, captivated by their brilliance.
The sky was awash with vibrant color. What is this bright light? Several of the men were shouting but nothing could be understood. The light dimmed enough to reveal a figure in the sky. The being had an incredible presence that they all felt—even the ground began to grow warm. “Do not be afraid of me,” it said, its words filling the air with light, “I have come to tell you something wonderful, something that will bring joy to you and to all people. Today in the city of David a child has been born for you. He is your Savior, Christ the Lord. This is how you will know that it is he: go to Bethlehem and look for a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” The brilliance intensified and the whole sky filled with angels. Some were singing and some shouting, all praising God saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth to those with whom he is pleased!” As quickly as they had appeared, they were gone. The night was dark again. The cool chill of the evening sent shivers around the group. For an instant they just stood in stunned amazement. Then, as if awakening from a stupor, the fields came alive as they rushed to gather their belongings.
The site of shadowy figures hurrying towards him interrupted Joseph’s thoughts. He tried to make out who they were. They soon stood before him, breathless, faces full of questions. He offered a confused and tired smile. Taking initiative, one of the old shepherds stepped forward and stammered, "We have heard the news. We've come to see the child, the hope of the world—the Savior." Before motioning them in to see the baby, Joseph closed his eyes, momentarily overwhelmed with wonder as a fresh realization of who this child was washed over him...The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel—which means, "God with us."