From Fireside to Garage
Baby boy born in sojourn. Not in a home, not in a hospital. But in a stable for the animals of travellers, the garage of a hotel. Born as the son of nobodies who couldn’t even find a proper guest room for themselves. Hard to believe that this helpless baby was the King of heaven and earth, Creator of the universe! Hard to believe that he was here to save the world! And whoever would care to celebrate a birth like this? It didn’t seem worth a celebration!
But this was a marvellous occasion for the heavenly beings who live and serve in the presence of God. Those bright beings dwelling in the supernatural realms couldn’t keep quiet at this most wonderful event of God becoming a human. And they chose to share this news with some poor folks in the fringes of society, people ignored by the elite and the powerful.
A group of shepherds were camping out in the countryside along with their flock of sheep. The night was on the cold side. Some were sitting wrapped in their cloaks that served as blankets when they lay down to sleep. Some sat by the fire they had lit, exchanging tales. One, who was on watch duty, walked around with mind on alert mode. Towards the north a way off, on a higher level than their campground, he could see the lights of Bethlehem town. Every now and then he stopped to gaze longingly at the town. His wife and two year old daughter stayed there, eagerly waiting for his all too rare visit. ‘Baby Tamar must be sleeping by now,’ he thought. He pictured his wife Rachel rocking the child to sleep.
All of a sudden, the night became lighted like noonday in sunshine. They all stopped whatever they were doing and looked around. The sleeping sheep woke up too. Some maa-ed loudly. A white figure, resembling a man, stood in their midst. The shepherds quaked in fear. The angel said—for it was an angel, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy for all. Listen! A Saviour is born for you in the city of David. He is the Messiah, the Lord Christ.”
He paused for a short time, as if to let the news sink in, then continued “Take this for a sign: you will see a baby bundled up in clothes, lying in a manger.”
And then, as suddenly as the angel had appeared, a huge crowd of heavenly choir joined him. They sang a beautiful chorus
“Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace
Blessings to all men”
in blended harmony of thousands of voices.
The shepherds stayed silent and still for a long time after the heavenly choir left. They were dazed and too stunned to speak. They looked at one another with wonder-struck and joyful faces. That was an experience to last a lifetime! Such beautiful choir had never been heard on this earth before! Finally, someone spoke. “Well, what great news! Shouldn’t we go to see this new born Saviour?”
“Yes, let’s go at once” someone responded.
“Yeah, yeah,” several voices chorused.
They all put on their cloaks and left. No one even thought of staying back to mind the sheep.
The sign given to them was clear and specific enough. A new born human lying in an animal food bowl wasn’t a common sight. But it was no easy task to find that particular trough. Many households in Bethlehem kept livestock in sheds close to their homes. Which of those many sheds contained that special manger with a baby in it? It took a lot of thinking and effort. It would seem that God does not make things all sweet and easy, though he guides and directs.
Finally, they came to Shimon’s inn. It was crowded and bustling. Shimon was sitting at his usual place at the counter. Two shepherds went in to talk with him while the rest stood outside. As soon as he saw them, the inn keeper said, “Sorry friends, no room at the inn. Even the stable is occupied.”
“Stable!” the shepherds exclaimed together, quite startling the inn keeper.
“We want to look in the stable. We are searching for a baby in a manger,” one of them explained.
It was the inn keeper’s turn to be startled.
Watching the excited conversation, the other shepherds rushed in. Several of the guests had gathered round also, drawn by the commotion. At last, the shepherds managed to explain what they had come for, and their encounter with the angel and heaven’s choir. Some were amazed. Others disbelieved. Someone said, “That’s the best fib I’ve heard in a good while.” Another laughed and commented, “Shepherds’ tales! They’re even better than fishermen’s!” But some believed their words, including the inn keeper and his wife. He escorted the shepherds to the stable.
It was more or less quiet there, except for some animal sounds. A lamp was burning in one corner. Shimon went in first to warn Yosef and Mariam that several men had come to see the baby. They were surprised but happy to receive the visitors. The rough looking men walked in silently, with reverent postures. They approached the manger where the baby was sleeping. He looked like any other baby, there was nothing remarkable about his appearance. But the shepherds looked at him in awe. And then they all knelt down before the baby, bending their heads till their foreheads touched the ground. Some had tears in their eyes.
[From a forthcoming book ‘The Messiah’]