Written by Danny Sartin
Paul Harvey captured our hearts with familiar stories we all knew. The obscure facts highlighted often caused us to pause and recognize that life is seldom coincidental. Consider this story that you know so well.
Jordan watched as his new assistant walked up the slope toward the flock of sheep. This crusty veteran shepherd had seen many come and go over the years. Benjamin, the younger shepherd was making his first visit to the only flock near the town. He had spent several years in the wilderness keeping flocks but had never seen the flock that produced the special sacrificial lambs for the Temple.
They greeted at the camp site and Jordan bid him welcome. Benjamin dropped his bedding in a nearby tent. Jordan asked if he would join him on the daily duties to tend the flock. He first took him to the tower that was the point of reference to watch and safeguard this special flock. Anyone walking between the towns would immediately recognize this tower of rocks and know its significance for the nation. It was the Tower of the flock.
Jordan took him to the stable where the birth of sacrificial lambs is carefully attended. He pointed out the strips of cloth prepared to wrap each lamb for the first few hours of its life to keep it warm. Benjamin noted that the area was clean and neatly groomed. A feeding trough was present along with hay to accommodate each new mother. The cave entrance was obscure to protect the new mother and baby from the elements and leopards which frequent the hills nearby.
Benjamin thought the preparation and precaution was more than impressive. He had never seen such attention to detail. But he remembered these are the lambs to be sacrificed in the Temple. Nothing but the best for our God he thought. Jordan pointed to the expectant mother nearby and called her by name, Rachel. She will come next said the shepherd in his raspy voice. We need to watch her!
They completed their rounds and settled in for a long night as the sky turned dark and began to sparkle with stars. Benjamin took note of the small town nearby as some lanterns were lit and the valley area below the flock became quiet in the dark. Their fire kept some light in the camp and warmth from the nip of cold in the air.
Benjamin walked to the edge of the hill and looked down on the herd as he had done for so many years in the wilderness. The inky black was dimly lit with the magnificent collection of stars that now shined brightly. He sighed as he felt the comfort of being in the fields and the excitement of watching this special herd. He leaned on his staff to gaze at this magnificent sight. What a beautiful moment he thought as he felt contentment in his heart.
Late in the evening a bright light lit up the area around where Benjamin stood. Angels appeared and he fell to his knees in great fear. He thought, I know what to do with a leopard or lion but what is this? This was an unknown terror that confused and paralyzed the young shepherd. Jordan came running thinking that some wild animal had attacked and pulled his rod from his coat. When he came close he also fell to his knees in view of the sight.
Then the angel spoke. The message was startling and exhilarating. The message that caught Benjamin’s ear was the last few words. This will be a sign to you, you will find a mother with a baby wrapped in cloth strips and laying in a feeding trough. It was an unusual sign that caused Benjamin to tilt his head. The angels disappeared and their eyes slowly adjusted to the inky darkness of the field.
Slowly Benjamin and Jordan stood up without a word being spoken. They looked at each other and said let us go and see! They broke out in a dead run looking for the site mentioned by the angel.
They ran near the cave prepared for the birth of the next lamb and noticed a dim light inside. They knew they had not left a lamp burning. They looked at each other and stepped inside to see a young mother, father and baby in the dim light. The baby had been wrapped with the carefully prepared strips of cloth and was lying in the feeding trough. It was an awesome moment when they saw the angelic face of the little baby, the tired expression of a relieved mother and the wide-eyed joy of a new father.
Filled with awe and excitement they bumped into each other as they ran from the stable to tell people in the nearby town of Bethlehem. Now you know the rest of the story.
I pray that this season your familiar snapshot of Christmas becomes fresh and new. The baby was born in the same stable where every sacrificial lamb for the nation of Israel was born. He was the Lamb of God. You see his birth was not a mistake because there was no room in the caravan lodge. It was the exact spot ceremoniously prepared for the birth of special animals considered deeply precious and of great value.
Have a blessed Christmas!
Danny and Cathy Sartin
Four decade veteran of youth ministry in churches, Youth For Christ and now is the Founder and Executive Director of Deeper Still Missions. Danny and his wife Cathy spend most of their time mentoring missionaries in Africa, Europe, Central America and North America. Future opportunities include South America and the Asia Pacific area.