Herb’s Blog, Herbdate 22967 – 1044
Here’s the haps:
How the innkeeper’s wife has gotten the place so immaculately clean escapes you, but it is astonishing. As you think on it, it is better than a room, being larger and not covered with wall-to-wall people. She has produced an odd-looking stool and is getting rid of all men-folk. You explain your fears about Mary’s pains, how she has never cried out like this before and you ask if she might not be in pain unto death. The woman’s laugh rings out boisterously. “It has been thus since Eve was deceived! You have nothing to fear that man since Adam has had to fear, now get out; there is work to be done! If you cannot stand the sounds of pain you’d best move on down the road, but don’t go too far.”
There is much bustling about between the kitchen and the stable, servants being sent on various errands, water being drawn; much activity for such a still night. You hang about outside, waiting, waiting and waiting still more, trying to hear and trying not to hear at the same time until at last, you hear a sound that breaks through the night.
The sound of hope! The sound of a new beginning! The sound of an infant crying for its very first time. A servant girl brings you in and you see that all of the bustle was about making a comfortable place for Mary to lie with the baby.
The baby. You are rushed back out again. There is much to be done yet. Later, after what feels like an eternity of time, you are called in and the midwife hands you a bundle. “There he is, sir, salted, bathed, and swaddled. Those are clean cloths he’s swaddled in, I made sure myself. I washed them this morning and they didn’t come from out here. I had them hid in the kitchen in case I needed them, you know, what with so many people and all.”
You barely hear her. You are overwhelmed. You are looking into the face of an infant and the Almighty at the same time. How can this be? You feel the unutterable power that you felt when the angel appeared to you and along with it, you feel an overwhelming peace. You feel so peaceful, looking at the child who is more beautiful than you ever thought an infant could be. Did he smile at you? Your tears fall onto the baby’s face and you see a little bed they have made for him out of a manger full of straw. A heavy cloth covers the straw and should make a nice little place to sleep as you lay him down.
As you lay him in the manger, the stable door bursts open, and a group of scruffy-looking characters, men and boys followed by the hotly protesting innkeeper, enter and immediately fall silently to their knees, on their faces in front of the manger and then begin worshipping loudly, jumping up and down wildly and praying and giving thanks with loud voices. Even the innkeeper stops in his tracks. Do they all feel the power and peace that you felt? By the smell of them you know they are shepherds. Honest and hardworking at a task that had never had much honor until King David. There was always something you liked about shepherds, something about the kind of person who became a shepherd that appealed to you. The baby rouses and Mary picks him up and quiets him.
You listen as the wide-eyed, nay, wild-eyed shepherds tell you a story of an angel speaking to them from the sky; their great, intense fear as the angel shone the glory of God on them; and then their peace and the awesome feeling of the power of God that they felt as the angel spoke to them and said, “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.” And you can understand their awe, having felt the same. Then they describe the sky opening up and the entire heavenly host singing at what seems by their description to be the exact moment you heard the baby cry for the first time.
“What was their song?” You know that even Isaiah never saw anything like that and you try to imagine a sky filled with angelic beings.
“They sang, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.’ And when they were done we ran as fast as possible to get here. We know where all the stables are in town, but this was the first one we tried.”
Mary gently speaks and says, “Would you like to hold him?” The midwife frowns but says nothing as the baby is passed among the shepherds by rough, dirty, hands that have worked hopelessly all their life, even the young boys. He is wept upon and kissed and cooed at many times by simple men who are thankful to God for such a miracle as they have seen and the salvation that is come. None of you understands fully what salvation means but are filled with unspeakable joy and peace at being in the presence of the Holy One of Israel.
You tremble with them as you tell your own story openly to these men, even though you would never tell one of the religious leaders about it. These men have come as close to seeing God as any mortal could and have felt His power. They understand and believe and go out into the streets shouting their good news and telling their story to everyone, sharing their great joy at having seen the Savior, born in the City of David. Noising it abroad to any that would hear. Some people mock. Some doubt. But some believe.