It was homecoming day in Bethlehem. Soldiers, servants, tentmakers, rich merchants on camels, large families on foot, and crying babies on hips all arrived to crowded streets and overbooked hotels. Caesar Augustus had ordered a census and wanted everyone to be counted, so everyone squeezed into the city. Well, almost everyone. The shepherds were still out in the fields—but nobody noticed them. Poor, outcast, and overlooked by everybody, the shepherds figured they didn’t count anyway.
I wonder if you’ve ever felt that way.
David, the Goliath-killing king of Israel, had been born in Bethlehem, and since David was Joseph’s great-great-great- and even greater-grandfather, Joseph had to go back to Bethlehem to be counted too. And of course he brought along Mary, whose belly was big with a baby inside.
I wonder if Mary remembered God’s promise of a Bethlehem-born Savior.
Travel is slow when you’re about to have a baby and you’re riding on a donkey. When Mary and Joseph finally arrived in Bethlehem, the only room left was a stable for animals. While they were there, Mary had a baby, God’s son. Mary gently wrapped him in a blanket, and Joseph carefully tucked him into a manger.
I wonder if Joseph peeked outside the stable to see if anyone important was coming to see the Savior.
The shepherds watching their sheep that night in the fields outside Bethlehem didn’t know the Savior of the world had just been born. But God was about to change that. Like a new dad bursting with excitement, God was ready to announce to the world that Jesus had arrived—and the first people God wanted to tell were the shepherds.
The sky was dark except for a bright new star shining in the distance. The air was silent except for the snoring of sheep and a few off-duty shepherds. Then—whoosh!—an angel appeared and God’s glory blazed all around. The shepherds were terrified!
“Don’t be afraid!” the angel said, “I have GREAT NEWS for everyone everywhere! God’s Son—the Savior of the world—was just born! Go to Bethlehem and you’ll find him wrapped in a blanket and tucked into a manger!”
Like fireworks in July, a choir of angels—spinning and whirling, shining and twirling—burst into the sky singing, “Glory to God in the highest and peace to everyone on earth.”
The shepherds, with eyes and mouths wide open, stared up at the sky till the very last angel disappeared. They were amazed! God so loved the world that when he gave his one and only son he had shared the news with them a grungy gang of shepherds!
I wonder why God told the shepherds first.
The shepherds believed and they couldn’t wait to see the Son of God. They dropped everything and ran across the field, through the streets, past the people, and into the stable where they found God’s Son, wrapped up by Mary, tucked in by Joseph, and sleeping in a manger, just as the angels described and God had promised so long ago.
The Savior had arrived to welcome the world. It was homecoming day in Bethlehem.