As a boy, I waited all year for Christmas. Besides the gifts, the greatest attraction for me came in the change of mood all around. Television shows, the decorations and Christmas lights, a sense of love, joy, peace, and hope in the air. Such a remarkable difference because of a baby born over two thousand years ago. Or is there more?
At Apostle John’s home, as he is now known
Mary sat bent over her loom, “Yes, John, what is it?”
“There’s a man here asking to see you.”
“To see me?” Mary threaded her shuttle into the cloth and stood. “I guess the weaving will still be here later.”
The man’s back was to her as she entered the room. An outdoorsman, based on his smell. His tunic and mantle suggested a shepherd. John touched the man’s shoulder, and he turned around. The stranger squinted and drew close to her, crouching and leaning to view her from different angles, it seemed. “Hmm. No. Uh-huh.”
Mary stood still but followed his every movement with her gaze.
Finally, he sighed and stood erect, looking down at her short stature. When Mary turned her eyes upward to meet his, he stepped back, nearly falling. “It is you.”
Mary reached out for John to take her hand. “I’m sorry. Have we met?”
“No. I mean yes, but not formal-like, but I’ll never forget the way you looked up at me as you did just now. I was a young boy then. My family are shepherds. I went with my father to see what angels had announced to us one night over thirty years ago. You were sitting beside a manger. When I stepped closer to see the baby, you—”
Mary gasped. “I remember that.” The memory of that night brought a rush of joy over her. “You were that boy?”
“Yes, and I’ve dreamt about that night off and on ever since.” The shepherd adjusted his mantle. “Why did the angels appear to us? What happened with the baby? I’ve heard rumors, but I want to know the truth… from you.”
Mary glanced at John, smiled, and let go of his hand. Turning to the shepherd, “Do you remember what the angels said to you that night?”
“First, there was one angel. He told us a savior was born in Bethlehem. We would know it was true because we would find the baby just like we saw you. As soon as he had spoken, the whole sky lit up with angels saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest,’ and they spoke of peace and goodwill coming to all men.”
Mary motioned for him to sit. She folded her hands together and sat opposite him. “And you want to know if and how that word was fulfilled.”
The man leaned forward. “Please.”
Mary was glad she had stored the memories of Jesus’ life in her heart. She told about the angel who had visited her before she married—the same one that convinced her soon-to-be husband to take her as his bride without fear, even when she was already expecting. The shepherds’ appearance that night stunned her and added to the wonder of what God was doing. “Even your being here listening to me tell these things brings me such joy. I often wondered what happened to all of you afterward.”
The shepherd wept at her account of the crucifixion and sat wide-eyed when she said Jesus rose from the dead.
Only the shepherd’s deep breaths and sighs, interrupted with staccato sobs, filled the silence after Mary finished telling the story.
The shepherd wiped his face and beard with his hands, then fixed his gaze on Mary. “I believe you. The gift announced to us long ago remained wrapped for us until Calvary. Now I receive His peace.”
As lovely and moving as the sentiment of Christmas is, the gift of that night remained wrapped so not even the angels could see what God was doing, not until it lay bare in an empty tomb. Days after the resurrection, the Holy Spirit—sent by the Father—sealed the gift in all who believe. The Apostle Paul said it well, referring to it as “Christ in us, the hope of glory.”
In a way, the gift remains wrapped for those who have never looked for the truth like the shepherd in the story. And, it’s ready to bless all who will believe.