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A Christmas Story Part 2

Shepherds see a strange sight and meet Jesus. Meanwhile on the outskirts, in Bethlehem's fields, some shepherds were tending their sheep in those hills. It was night, it was dark, the sheep were now still; the shepherds sat by the fire to ward off the night chill. When suddenly, there was light in the sky:a light so bright, a light like the sun, and an angel appeared, the shepherds wanted to run, if they had had phones they'd have dialed 9-1-1.This strange sight had them shaking and scared half to death: one had chest pains, one had goosebumps, one had shortness of breath. "Fear not!" said the angel, now sensing their dread, "I've got good news to tell you—good news," the angel said. "Good news of great joy for all people on earth! Good news, and it comes in the form of a birth. For born unto you in David's town, Bethlehem, is the Savior, Christ the Lord, yes, the great I AM. It's a day of good news, not a time for the blues, not a time to be scared; it's a time to be shared. So you go and greet him; this is good news for all people, but don't look for him there under a spire or some steeple. Don't look at a hospital or some five-star hotel; don't look in a mansion or the cell of a jail." Look for the inn, and out back there's a stable; it's crude and it's humble, and there's no changing table. So go now: Get moving; you are in no danger. You'll find the baby swaddled in clothes and lying in a manger. And quick as a wink, hosts of angels appeared,and they sang praise to God; they praised and they cheered. " Glory to God in the highest!" they shouted and the shepherds believed; not a single one doubted. "Peace on earth," sang the angels, "to those with whom God is pleased." And by now the shepherds were down on their knees. The whole thing was sudden and shocking and scary, but they had to move quickly, this was no  time to tarry. The angels left them right there in the night, they ascended to heaven in glorious flight. "Did you see what I saw?" one shepherd said to another. "I sure did," said the other to his good shepherd brother. "We'd best get going. We better not wait. The sheep will be fine; we'll trust God with their fate." So they hurried and scurried; it was almost a sprint. They ran past some homes, and they raced past some tents. They made it to Bethlehem's gate pretty fast. They made it at last.They soon saw the inn, so they looked for the stable."I see it," said one, "It's right there; there's the stable." So they huddled together and quietly crept, and they stepped and they crept to where the baby was kept. "Shhhh," said the leader, "don't be so loud." Even though we're a crowd, we can't be too loud. The baby is there, and he may be sleeping, so don't be so loud even though your heart's leaping." They arrived at the entrance; they peeked inside. It was just a small stable, not too long, not too wide. And Mary and Joseph were there side by side. The angel had told them the baby they'd find, so they looked and yes, there it was; there's the manger. They craned their necks to see over the edge; they teetered and tottered as if on a ledge, afraid to get close, afraid they might wake him, afraid that the sound of their voices would shake him. Then, Joseph said, "Come," and they inched a bit closer. "Come closer," said Joseph, and they tip-toed right over. Jesus awoke in the shuffling around; he cried a little and made some more sounds. Joseph gave him to Mary, and she held him near. Her smile at the shepherds comforted all of their fear. She was glad they had come. So the shepherds told them their story of angels and their message and all of that glory.  A tear rolled down Mary's cheek, and a lump in her throat made it quite hard to speak; so they all sat in silence for a moment or three. That silence was Holy and blessed you see.Then Mary did something that caught them off-guard; it stunned them at first, they were certainly jarred. "Want to hold him?" she asked. The lead shepherd straight out said, "Me? In my arms? Hold that little sprout?" "It's all right," said Mary, "you'll do no harm." "But I'm rough and I'm dirty and I smell like a barn." "Don't we all," said Mary. "Just look where we are." "Okay," said the shepherd, "I'll give it a try. I'll try to be gentle. I hope he won't cry." Mary laid Jesus in that shepherd's arms; he held the Christ-Child. He was moved; he was charmed. The rest of the shepherds wanted in on this act. They did quite well as a matter of fact. It should be no surprise they did well to a man, for shepherds, you see, know how to handle a lamb. Jesus got restless and a little bit fussy; it was time for his feeding and his diaper was messy. So the shepherds reverently said their goodbyes, and went back to the field under starry night skies. On the way to the fields, they told others, a few, and all of them wondered at this strange sounding news. And on the way to their camp, they praised God out loud, gave him glory and worship; were they ever wowed that God would invite humble shepherds to visit the Christ-Child just born, well, they just didn't get it. Shouldn't kings get that honor, rich folks, VIPs? No, Christ came for us all, yes for all, the peasant, the poor whom their nickels must squeeze, the lonely, the hungry with no bread and cheese. Africans, Arabs, Russians, Chinese. Americans, Hispanics, and for you and for me, don't you see? Meanwhile back at the stable, things quieted down, a few others looked in, a few from the town. By now it was late, and you'd think they'd be tired. They were tired all right, but Mary was wired. Rest didn't come easy, so much on her mind: this night, the journey, the angel back at the start. Yes, she treasured these things, pondered them in her heart.So this is the story, a story so true,of God's love for people like me and like you.It's the story of how Jesus' work got its start; it's a story that shows us the depth of God's heart. Of course, Jesus would grow and mature, becoming a man. He would teach, heal, and even raise a man from the dead. And finally when the time was just exactly right, Jesus died on the cross without even a fight. He died for our sins, to give us forgiveness; to cancel the curse; yes, that was his business. But he wasn't dead long, for on the third day, even death couldn't hold him; there was no more to pay. He rose from the dead; what a glorious day! Yes, he is the way to eternal life. But remember it got started with a man and his wife, who followed God's will; that was their way of life. It began in David's town when they laid the Christ-Child in a manger of straw, and that's the good news, the good news for us all. God is with us, you see, and he always will be. So when you're consumed with packages, boxes, and bows, with trees and cards and whether it snows, even when Jack Frost is nipping at your nose. When you forget Jesus while tending to holiday business, remember this story: How the Lord sent Christmas. Luke 2: 1-20

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