Once upon a time…
There were these shepherds watching over their sheep. Things were quiet; it was the middle of the night. And, as shepherds or anyone lucky enough to be out in the midst of a meadow will do, they were marveling at the stars. They looked amazing – too many to even begin counting, bright bits of fire flickering. Those stars looked so close you could reach up and grab one right out of the sky. That’s how things were 2,000 years ago, when there was little air pollution because there were so few people, no fossil fuels in use, and no electric lights in the area to diminish the brightness of the stars. There was one star that appeared much brighter than all the others. It was definitely a new star. The shepherds wondered at its sudden appearance this evening. What did it mean? Would it last or was it a ‘once in a lifetime’ thing?
As they gazed upward, intrigued, but not too concerned because they often observed all manner of new things in the sky at night. Most of them were unexplained and some were never seen again. Others that had been novel in the past were now expected and part of the sky’s features.
But this new phenomenon gave them something to talk about because tending sheep is kind of boring most of the time. Maybe there’d be an occasional wild animal trying to nab one of the straggling lambs for its dinner. Or maybe one of the lambs would wander off, those sneaky little fiends, and one of the shepherds would have to run to find it, if he could, and the others would watch over his flock for him as he scurried off. They were a neighborly group of associates. Some might call them friends. And, really, all they had was each other because most of their larger community would not mingle with shepherds. It was deemed an unfit profession for dignified people. Oh yes, someone had to watch over the sheep because they were needed for their wool to make clothing, the people ate them from time to time, and the unblemished young lambs were needed for sacrificing in the Temple.
Every Life Matters…
In that way we still have of looking down our noses at those who do the most humble of necessary jobs, the jobs that no one else would even think of doing because it’s dirty or mundane, doesn’t pay well and has no prestige about it, that was the kind of job the shepherd profession was back in the day. What they did mattered but people did not think that they mattered. A very sad situation.
These shepherds were about to be given a special role, though, in the history of the world. These nameless men of the fields soon saw another new element in the sky. It was a heavenly body alright, but it was an angel this time. Something they had definitely never seen before! And that angel told them the Best News Ever. A child had been born, a savior for the whole world. He was in a stable with his parents, all shivering in the bitterly cold night air. A tiny baby was wrapped up like any good mama would wrap her baby, but this baby was in a manger – a trough where barn animals eat their food, amidst the hay to keep warm. It being the middle of the night, the animals would not be eating so why not add a little extra hay for now, so the new mother could get some rest? They don’t call it “labor” for nothing, and with no one to help her but her husband, well, she could use a little shut eye. And dad had lots of cleaning up to do, after he cleaned up the baby. So why not place the little one lovingly and, oh so carefully, into the warm hay of the manger?
The shepherds were at first afraid of the angel. I mean, who wouldn’t be, right? I don’t know if you’ve ever seen an angel, but there are those who walk among us looking just like us. But that’s not how they actually look. Descriptions of them in historic documents describe some of them as having multiple wings and multiple faces! Yup! And there’s sometimes fire associated with them. It sounds rather terrifying to me. But perhaps this angel took on a human form, which can happen, so the shepherds wouldn’t be so scared they couldn’t listen to what it was saying. Because what the angel had to share was vitally important. This baby, this savior, was the Messiah Lord. Or Christ the Lord. Messiah and Christ, first word is Hebrew, the other Greek, mean Anointed One – God, the Creator of the Universe and Sustainer of all life – appointed this Christ/Messiah to bring peace to the world. That was the belief anyway. Still is. But the “Lord” part meant “THE Lord.” That’s another name for God.
The people of that time believed fervently and rightly in this God, Creator of all. But they had no inclination or prophecy to indicate the Messiah was God. Well, according to some, there actually are some prophecies about that. But that’s for another story. So, these lucky shepherds, after the angel and many others who joined in after the announcement, proclaimed, “Glory to God in the highest…” or words to that effect, went off to see this Child.
Sure enough, they found everything just as the angel had said because angelic messengers from Heaven will never lie. After that, the shepherds went around telling anyone who would listen about the strange and wonderful things that had happened that night. And, appropriately, I would say, they went back to their sheep praising and glorifying God! You could say they were changed men. And this was just the beginning of the many people who would be changed after meeting this Person named Jesus.
On a Mission from God
His life was rather ordinary for quite a while after the rather fantastical birth we just discussed. But one amazing day this Jesus began a mission. It was a mission from God. Ever seen the Blues Brothers movie? Those two were on a mission from God, but that was small potatoes compared to what Jesus Christ the Lord was embarking on.
See, Jesus was sent by God, the Father, to free the captives. That’s everybody pretty much. He came to free us from the bondage of sin. And to do that He had to suffer and die for us by taking all of our sins upon Himself. Remember those lambs that were sacrificed that I talked about earlier? They were sacrificed for the forgiveness of the people’s sins. But Jesus, well, He is The Lamb of God. Jesus (the name means God saves) Christ (Anointed One, remember?) the Lord (recall, that’s another name for God) was sent to save us all from ourselves. Sinners who were not in the hands of an angry God, but who were loved SO much, that God sent His only Son. And anyone who believes in Him will have eternal life. That’s forever. So, yes, you will die physically, but you will live forever with God and those angels you read about earlier.
There is lots more to the story, but I figured I’d start here since Christmas is only 10 days away as I write this. Christmas is a day we celebrate as the birthday of Jesus. And here begins an amazing story that has many twists and turns. Bad things happen, good things happen. Very good things, that on the face of them, seem bad. And then there are a LOT of people who are saved by our Hero, Jesus. There still are.
Read More About It
If you want to read more about it, I recommend starting with the Gospel of Luke in the New Testament of the Holy Bible. It’s a great read and available online. Here is one decent version to start with. And I’m here if you have any questions. I’ll share some more stories as the year goes on. In my religion, we’ve begun the new year already. So you’re really coming in at a good time, if you want to hear more of the story.
And, really, this isn’t even the beginning. When I mentioned prophecies above, just like in the Matrix movies, well, that’s a real thing. (That’s where the Matrix writers got the idea!) And they can be found in the Old Testament of the Bible. You’ll see them referenced in the footnotes of the version of Luke I gave above. And here’s a snippet of a Psalm (also found in the Old Testament) that I got my entry title from and it’s also the first line of the refrain in the song below that. Come and see!
“Come and see what the Lord has done,
the amazing things he has done on the earth…
God says, “Be still and know that I am God.
I will be praised in all the nations;
I will be praised throughout the earth.”