It was just a Night…

Imagine with me what it was like for the simple shepherds on that holiest of nights, so many years ago.

The quiet hillside breathing silently under a clear, star filled sky; the sound of their flocks settling in, like they always did, with murmurs, rustlings and scrabblings; the occasional noisy bleat of lambs, fussing for a warm spot next to the fluffy ewes.

Shepherds, ever watchful and alert, yet calm and ready for a typical, peaceful night; perhaps they, too, scoot in close to the warm and fuzzy sheep, as the night air cools and chills.

Quiet conversations around a small fire and a simple meal, perhaps? Jokes and a recounting of the day wan and fade, as night falls deeper still.

It was just a night, until it wasn’t.

Imagine their quiet night, suddenly interrupted by the sky exploding in radiant, holy light and sound, like nothing ever seen before; certainly nothing ever seen by a group of tired shepherds, outside a sleepy village on a typical night. The terror and fear must have been palpable, washing over them like a terrible nightmare, until they heard the angel voice, saying, “Don’t be afraid! I bring you good news of great joy for everyone! The Savior – yes, the Messiah, the Lord – has been born tonight in Bethlehem, the City of David! And this is how you will recognize Him: You will find a baby lying in a manger, wrapped snugly in strips of cloth!” (Luke 2: 10-12)

Add to this amazing announcement, this supernatural display, the addition of a vast host of the armies of heaven, praising God and rejoicing at this beautiful, holy, saving gift, just given to all people, for all time. A gift that will never be fully understood; mocked and ridiculed and murdered, yet the only gift that will love, redeem and save your life and mine.

Imagine that first feeling of terror, turning to incredible joy, an unspeakable love and a supernatural peace, that in all its Divine power was quite possibly unbearable; wild and fierce.  I can feel in my bones the uncontrollable need to fall to my knees in reverence, awe, fear and worship before such an announcement! A Savior, the Messiah, the Holy One come to save; a divine encounter with the King of Kings and the heavenly host. The atmosphere must have been sizzling with a supernatural, divine portent.

When the angels departed, did the shepherds stand around arguing about what they had just experienced? Did they try to explain away this divine encounter with the supernatural as indigestion? An atmospheric distortion, strange cloud formations, tainted wine? Did they try to explain away the best gift ever given to mankind; a gift of love so deep that human minds cannot fathom it? No, they didn’t. They believed. They wanted to seek out the Savior, to see him, to worship him, to accept the love gift freely given to them. They accepted the joy, excitement and love and shared it with others.

I don’t imagine they slept much that night. Returning to their now still and silent hillside, I wonder if they spoke. Did they attempt to recount to each other the events they just witnessed? I wonder if they fully understood the impact of what they beheld in that lowly stable. How can they explain the Divine? I wonder what changes took place silently in their hearts? What did they ponder? Mary quietly treasured up all she witnessed and went through that night in her heart and pondered it often. Did the shepherds do the same?

It was just a night on the hillside with their sheep, until it wasn’t.

“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”


Mary, Did You Know? Pondering Treasures

Mary, the mother of Jesus, is one of my favorite people in the Bible. I aspire to have her spirit and her faith.  The way that she watches, listens and fully takes in the miracles she witnesses; the miraculous that becomes her life; the miraculous that collides with her humble and ordinary humanity and literally alters history and brings saving hope to mankind. As I imagine her feelings and thoughts; her wonder, fear and acceptance when the angel Gabriel appears to her and says, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you!” it captivates my soul and draws me deeper into her life, making me wonder what it must have been like to be her.

Did she wonder what Gabriel meant when he said she was highly favored? Did it terrify Mary that God looked upon her and trusted her, a virgin from a tiny town, to birth the Savior of the world? “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High, who will be given the throne of his father David, who will reign over the house of Jacob forever,” (1) the One who’s kingdom will never end? How can this be? I’m sure this thought crossed her mind…yet, she believed that “…nothing is impossible with God.” (2) She received this honor from the Most High God and said “I am the Lord’s servant, may it be to me as you have said.” (3) I may not be asked to birth the Savior, but I am asked to seek Him, love Him with all my heart, soul, mind and spirit. I may not be visited by an angel of the Most High God and given a commission that will alter the history of mankind, but I am asked to boldly and without fear tell my story of how He became my Savior, how heavens plans for me collided with my humanity and altered my history and forever changed me.  I want it to be said of me, as Elizabeth said of Mary, “Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!” (4)

I wonder what Mary’s thoughts were as she and Joseph set out on the long and wearying journey to Bethlehem. Did she worry about how they would actually get there with her being for far with child? Did Mary imagine and fret over the difficulty of it all and the enormity of what was set before her? Was she cold? Would they make it? Could they do this? Did Mary ever wish God had chosen someone else? Yet, they were obedient. They trusted God.  I’m sure the sound of Gabriel’s voice, his greeting and encouragement to her and the awe of the blessing bestowed upon her played over and over in her mind, as the God of all creation comforted her and reminded her that nothing is impossible.

As she wrapped her newborn son in cloths and gently placed Him in the manger, amidst the sounds of the animals settling in for the night, I imagine her listening to the rejoicing of heaven as the heavenly hosts praised God and sang of His glory and of the coming Peace and Hope of mankind. What was it like knowing that this was happening because of the birth of her first born son, the Son of the Most High? The very words of Gabriel coming to pass; prophecy fulfilled in her hearing; watching and listening as angels sang and rejoiced. This would be something to ponder in her deepest soul. Here would be what Mary treasured and stored up in her heart. I can see her smile and reflect on all that had been spoken to her and prophesied over her and her baby boy.

Did Mary feel wonder and awe? Was she afraid? Did her heart fill full of hope, joy, love and anticipation? I wonder if Mary sat that night and reflected in the quiet. Was she dreaming of the future? As she looked at Him, new, small and fragile, did her heart fill to the brim with love and expectation? Could she comprehend that this precious baby boy would be her deliverer? That her first born son would die for her sins? Could she understand that this baby boy was the hope of mankind? I wonder if her spirit discerned that this baby would cause her such joy and such deep sorrow.

Mary could not have foreseen all that her son, the Son of the Most High, would come to mean to me; an ordinary, imperfect, fairly normal and fanciful woman, 2000 years in the future. She couldn’t know all that I sit and ponder and store up in my heart about Him – what He has done, will do and is doing for me. How I know that He dances, rejoices and sings over me; how prophesy flows forth from His mouth as He calls me Daughter and speaks to all that is not, as though it was and it becomes what He pleases. All the small, little moments and miracles known only to my soul and my heart that I store up as my treasure; all the revelation, healing and protection He has showered on me – things that even my very soul and spirit cannot comprehend. It is all undeserved, but given with such a wildly, fiercely generous love. Mary, did you know?

“But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” (5)


(1) Luke 1: 32-33 (2) Luke 1:37 (3) Luke 1:38 (4) Luke 1:45 (5) Luke 2:19 (NIV)