Advent No. 4

And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. 

Luke 2:20 

The sky is clear and cold, the chilly air biting our noses as we sit here in our furs. The sheep are unusually quiet, stilled from their bleating and munching. “What do you think about this census?” asks Tiras. Nebo shrugs, taking another bite of bread, “My amah is sharing our roof with my uncle, his wife and his five children. They are young and loud and they eat everything!” I chuckle at this. Nebo is the youngest shepherd of our group, still waiting for his beard to grow in. Tiras however, doesn’t find the humor. “I think it’s just another ploy for Caesar to tax us more,” he says low, his eyes studying the flames. If he had his choice, he would be off somewhere with some rebels. But his ailing mother keeps him at home. He looks at me. “What do you think Seth?” With nothing to really add, I lift my eyes to the sky. “I think… I’ve never seen that star before,” I say, pulling my arm out of my furs to point, as if the big bright star needs pointing out. The three of us wonder at it for a moment before settling down.

I can barely keep my eyes open when the whole field is suddenly illuminated with blinding light. There, right above us, a being clothed in white floats in the sky. Heedless of our furs, all three of us fall on our faces. And I hear it say “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” I dare to lift my head and I see a face more beautiful than any face I’ve ever seen before. Somehow I know it’s an angel. I sit up and tap Nebo’s shoulder. Nothing like this will ever happen again in his young life. He looks at me and sits up himself, his mouth wide open in wonderment.

If one angel wasn’t enough, the sky is suddenly full of them. In front of us, you can’t see the stars for this heavenly choir. For they are singing, all together, their faces shining with this good news. And as suddenly as they came, they’re gone. The field is quiet. The stars are twinkling. They didn’t even disturb the sheep. “What was that?” Tiras asks, staring at the sky. “That was…. Those were…” Nebo starts, hardly able to get a word out. My eyes still see spots of white light. “… angels.” I finish for him. “And we better go into town.” Nebo nods but as we stand he looks behind him, “What about the sheep?” I put an arm around his bony shoulders and nudge him forward. “They’ll be fine. In the meantime, we have someone to visit.”

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