"In the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, "Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger." Suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!" When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us." They went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. All who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told...[they] returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen..."
What would've it been like to be those shepherds? Imagine living in Old Testament Israel. Just another night keeping an eye on the village sheep. The usual companions, the same stars. Then a bright light pours from the sky...You hear unearthly voices, singing about 'peace on earth'? The Messiah??!! The promised one your grandparents and great-grandparents spoke of? Imagine the shock of hearing that HE had arrived!! You'd almost forgotten...after all, this Messiah had been "coming" for how long? Isaiah's long dead. Israel has been to Babylon and back...yet he is real...and he's in Bethlehem, of all places! Dazed by wonder you follow your friends to town. Their excited chatter is lost in your swirling emotions. All expectations are shattered by the angel's words. You never dreamed of the Messiah as a baby. You'd imagined a warrior, raising an army and wiping out the Romans. Or maybe a great king, becoming more powerful than Cesar. A hero! Calling down fire from heaven to free his people. But a baby? Wonder of wonders...
You could never imagine this helpless child 33 years later; beaten, torn, and bloodied...Dying on a cross for your sins. Becoming the final atonement foreshadowed by the old testament sacrificial rituals. Satisfying the Holy God's wrath against sin. Yet, offering the greatest proof of the same God's mercy and love--destroying forever the veil before the "Holy of Holies".
the start of the end, that was the beginning.