The shepherds and sheep were out in the pasture on that balmy summer night when they were jolted awake by a terrifying and overwhelming brightness. The glory of the LORD had shown up unexpectedly, shining brightly all around them. And while fear was quickly taking over, the angel of the LORD spoke.
“Don’t be afraid,” he told them, the same way he did to Zacharias. And to Mary. And to Joseph. Because when faith suddenly becomes sight, it can be a little jarring. “I have some really incredible news for you. News that will turn the greatly-afraid feeling that currently has your stomach in your throat into great joy. Abundant joy. And overflowing gladness. A kind of joy that isn’t only for you – you just have the holy privilege of being the first to hear about it. This overwhelming and abundant and overflowing joy will be for all people.”
The angel was about to deliver the most joyful news ever announced. News that was intended for every single person. All over the world. Not just the Roman world that was currently in the middle of a census. But every single name that was being hand-written and hand-counted. As well as every other name of every other person whose days were hand-written and hand-counted by the LORD in His heavenly book.
“There is born to you this day in the city of David
a Savior, who is Christ the LORD
Finally, it had happened. The words of Isaiah were finally fulfilled. Words spoken 500 years earlier. “Unto us a Child is born,” he said. “Unto us a Son is given. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peach, highest-top-of-the-tree-Immanuel, Christ the LORD.”
Unto us a Son is given. And the sign of the gift – the thing by which this truth the angel was speaking would be verified and confirmed? That wrapped-up Babe. It seems the very best gifts are always wrapped up tight.
“You will search for a little while. And after you do – once you’re done seeking and inquiring and investigating and thinking on and scrutinizing every single detail of the words I am telling you – you will find Him.
because the ones that search with their whole heart always find Him
“This Messiah, he continued. “This highest-top-of-the-tree-Immanuel. This gift of a Son who is wrapped up tight. This Christ-the-LORD who I am describing while surrounded in this illuminating and brilliantly blinding glory? You’ll find Him in a feed trough.”
God indeed dwelling with men on the earth. Laying in a crib for fodder. The King of kings and LORD of lords whom the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain will be found wrapped up tight in strips of cloth. (The shepherds couldn’t possibly know that death would also have no power to hold Him. And the only thing that would be left in His tomb a few decades later – after His death and resurrection – would be a few strips of cloth.)
Heaven and the heaven of heavens could contain Him. And death would not be able to hold Him. But for now, on that silent and holy night, He was wrapped up tight. Choosing to come to earth. As God-with-us-Immanuel. A newly delivered Babe, sleeping in a manger.
No sooner had the angel said it than heaven burst open. Suddenly and unexpectedly. From out of nowhere, the host of the heavens that cannot contain Him could no longer contain themselves. And that single angel that appeared to those shepherds was no longer alone. The quiet pasture was filled with another kind of flock – a congregation of the entire multitude of heaven. As many in number as the stars of the night sky that had just been illuminated. And together, they praised Him. Extolling Him. Lifting Him up high with each word that escaped from their heavenly lips. Speaking in unison in the thunderous song that we say anew together today:
glory to God in the highest
The glory that shone around them? It all belonged to Him – the Most High God. And on earth? Peace. The same peace that Zacharias had prophesied about. That calm and tranquil state that is welcome after a long and anxious night. With a soul that is assured of its salvation through Christ. And a spirit that fears nothing. And is content with its earthly lot, whatever it may be. The angels spoke of that kind of peace toward all of the people that the heavenly news was for. People doing well. Acting rightly. And seeking Him out with their whole hearts.
Glory to God in the highest. Thank You, LORD for sending us the gift of Your Son. Wrapped up tight. And lying in a manger.