Friday, December 25, 2009


I doubt that shepherd boys in the ancient world were inclined to expect, in the middle of the lonely Galileean night, the glory of the Lord shining all around them, and the voice of an angel making highly improbable claims. That phrase, the glory of the Lord, it stands for what we cannot imagine, like the term googleplex, or before time began. But there it was, filling the near longest night of the year with an unimaginable light, for only a gaggle of tired shepherd boys to see. The boys are no doubt scared stiff. Then the glory of the Lord speaks! Something about a child. Something about a manger. Something about a child in a manger being the messiah of the Lord. So when it's all over and the night is again still and dark and the stars remote and the hillside quiet once more, the boys agree to go looking for this child, testing the possibly-fantasized angel's unlikely prediction.

So then, single file down the long winding goat path to the sleeping village under the stars, and then the going from stable to stable through the town--if their master had caught them at this midnight roaming there would have been hell to pay for sure--and at last they find what they hardly dared expect. A mother and father. A new born baby. Just as the voice from the brightness shining all around had said.

So this is what the hinge-point of history looks like. A handful of runaway shepherds, a homeless family sheltering in a stable, on the near-longest night of the year, in an out-of-the-way town, under the shadow of empire. And from this immensity and this mystery the shepherds, lost for words, must eventually walk away. What on earth have they seen? What have they heard? All they can really know is that from now on nothing else matters, but the dawn light winking over a secret horizon.

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