face so he could see this strange being. As their eyes became accustomed to the brightness, the shape of a man’s body became clear and they realized they were in the presence of some kind of heavenly being. Some of the shepherds began to shake in fear, while others cried out in terror, calling upon the name of the Lord.
The being drew closer. The brightness seemed so strong that some of those on the hillside shaded their eyes.
“Do not be afraid, faithful shepherds.”
The angel’s voice itself brought a calming presence to all who were standing there. His tone was clear and strong and sounded like the rushing of a great waterfall. Joshua moved out from behind his father’s robe and walked to the front of the group of shepherds. As he moved forward, the angel descended almost to the ground, hovering just above it and moved closer. The heavenly being then reached out his hand and touched Joshua’s forehead. Joshua fell back, not from terror but awe. It was as if he had been touched by all the power of the universe.
Benjamin looked at his son and gasped. It was as if Joshua had spent a long time in the blazing summer sun. It was not a burn; that would not describe it. It was more like a golden glow; the color of the sun as it inches above the horizon at dawn.
“Men of Bethlehem, faithful shepherds of the temple sheep, I greet you! Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. "
Joshua turned quickly toward his father, who was still standing toward the center of the group, his eyes widened in wonder. Benjamin had been a reader in the synagogue on the last Sabbath, Joshua remembered, and had read a passage from Isaiah. QUOTE… After services, he quizzed his father about the Messiah that was to come.
“Father, could the Messiah come in my lifetime?” Joshua remembered asking. The answer had echoed strongly in his heart that day and again now.
“My son, he could come before the next Sabbath. One never knows the plans of God. Whether he comes or not, bar Benjamin, we will remain faithful to our covenant.”
Benjamin slowly moved through the shepherds until he stood next to his son. He bowed solemnly before their visitor. The angel responded in like manner and then smiled at the man. Joshua gasped. That smile, it was just like his father’s but brighter. It was a smile that seemed to come right from heaven itself.
Joshua looked at his father who opened his mouth as if to ask a question. At this, the angel held for his hand, halting Benjamin’s voice. The angel looked at him, smiled again and then looked around at all the shepherds, who had now gathered in much closer.
“And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”
Having said this, the angel began to rise higher in the night sky. As he did, the shepherds watched in amazement as more lights streaked across the sky in all directions. Suddenly the lights gathered together high overhead and the shepherds could see hundreds, perhaps thousands of faces amidst the burning glow. They were all singing and praising God together. Joshua could make out the words of their hymn of joy. “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”
Benjamin turned toward the other shepherds. He had his arm over his son’s shoulder, holding him close. "Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us." As he listened to the shepherds making plans to go into the town, he suddenly remembered the sheep. With all of this excitement, light, and sound, they had probably all run away. Looking beyond the edge of the crowd of shepherds he was relieved to see the sheep. They were gathered close together, motionless as if in a trance. Now, slowly they were beginning to move away from each other and return to their grazing.
It was now thirty years later. Joshua was again on the hillside on a clear starry night, watching over his sheep. His sons, Simon and Jeremiah were standing with him.
“Father, tell us again about that special night on this hillside.”
Joshua again recounted the story. He told of whirling lights, angel choirs, and his special touch of blessing. A small brown mark, in the shape of a cross, had remained on his forehead since that day. He also told of their journey to Bethlehem, seeing the child, and drinking in the holy event that took place in a manger. “I will never forget the baby,” he said with a sense of awe in his voice, “nor his parents. The child’s mother held him most lovingly in her arms and sang softly to him in loving words that only a mother and child would know.”
“And what of this man, Father? Was he the Messiah that was prophesied to come?” Jeremiah looked eagerly at his father for the answer as did his brother.
“Your grandfather believed so, my son, as did I. We do not know what happened to Him after that night. Later Herod called to the slaughter of innocent children, trying to kill him. We are convinced that he was not harmed and that he will appear publicly in God’s time. Who knows, my sons, it could happen even before the next Sabbath. Now, get yourself home. You have a long journey tomorrow. Your cousin is getting married in Cana in Galilee and you had promised her that you would be present.”
Simon and Jeremiah departed from their father and headed down the hillside. “Do you think we could ever have an experience like our father did, Jeremiah?”
“If the Lord wills, Simon, we might. Right now we must rest for our journey; it’s a long way to Cana. Many of the groom’s friends and family will be there. I’m eager to to get to know them as I’ve never met anyone before from Nazareth.”
Randy Sly is a communications expert living in Potomac Falls, Va. He is a convert to the Catholic Church having formerly served as an Archbishop of the ICCEC. He serves as the Associate Editor of Catholic Online.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
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