Oh, what a night it must have been that first Christmas, the wonder and the awe that must have filled the air. I can only imagine the hush of the wind and the stillness of the night. I imagine for the shepherds the night began as any other night. I can see the shepherds as they walked the hillsides, watching their sheep and witnessing the blackness of night as it filled the sky. I can see the stars race across the sky with the star in the East shining in the forefront. The heavens were all aglow and the stage was set. God was sending the greatest gift of all to each of us in the gift of His son, Jesus.
It never ceases to amaze me how the greatest night of all was ushered in during a time when most people were miserable and frustrated. The greatest gift came demanding nothing and offering everything. This gift was given in the midst of Caesar Augustus, giving nothing and demanding much. Jesus came to give while all the world was to be taxed. The journey was long and no doubt difficult for a woman nearly ready to give birth to a baby boy. But, there was little one could do, as “we must give unto Caesar that which is due him.” So, Joseph packed up his house and placed Mary on a donkey and traveled to Bethlehem because he was a descendant of David.
I don’t know whether Mary had any idea that this night was going to be the night that would change the world. I don’t know whether Mary knew it was God’s divine plan that this night would usher in the Saviour of the world or whether she thought it was the rough ride to Bethlehem that caused her son to be delivered. But, I do know that when they arrived in Bethlehem the arrival of the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords was at hand. I can only imagine how very worried and frantic Joseph must have been. Here was his beloved wife whom he adored great with child, and he couldn’t find a place for them to rest and for her to deliver their baby boy. And oh, the frustration that must have filled his being as he knew that the boy that Mary was carrying was not his own but was the very son of God. He knew his espoused wife had never known a man, and he must have remembered what the angel said when he was raised from his sleep all that many nights ago. The angel’s words must have echoed in his heart and played continually in his mind. I am sure he just kept repeating the directions divinely sent to him. “Take Mary to be thy wife. Call the name of the son she shall bear, Jesus. The baby boy she is carrying is conceived by the Holy Ghost. They will call Him Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.” Oh, how it must have weighed heavy on his mind when it sunk in that the baby Mary was carrying was the Son of God. Can you imagine how he must of felt when the innkeeper told him there was no room for them in the inn? I imagine his heart sank and he must have felt helpless. But, don’t lose sight of the fact this baby boy was the son of God and He had prepared the way not only for His son but for us as well through His son. Just as the heavens had prepared for this blessed event, all of nature was ready as well. The King of Kings and Lord of Lords had come wrapped in swaddling clothes and was laid in a manger. There was no smell of baby lotion, sterile cleansers and you can be sure no one was covered in protective clothing guarding against germs. No, the baby Jesus came into this world in a smelly, dirty manger meant for the animals. It was his creation of nature that ushered in the Son of God and bowed to Him that first Holy night. Instead of pomp and circumstance worthy of a King, the Son of God was heralded by angels and visited by shepherds.
The blackness of night made a beautiful backdrop for the star shining in the East. Though it appeared to be a normal night, something was very different to the shepherds as they gazed into the night sky. There was something about that star, the star of Bethlehem. It beckoned them and they followed. The light led them to the Saviour just as His light leads us today. I can’t help but imagine what the shepherds were talking about as they journeyed following the star. I think some of them joked about leaving their work for an adventure, but some must have said, ‘Haven’t you heard? The baby Jesus has arrived!’ The boys must have sung and whistled on their way, wondering what the baby would be like. They knew He was the King of the Jews and they were prepared to worship Him. Since they were prepared to worship no doubt they must have reflected upon their lives and peered deep within their souls. They had made a connection with the light that had led them and they were prepared to adore the King of the Jews. No matter how much they had thought or how vivid their imaginations, they could not have imagined the glory they were about to witness. The angels sang. The heavenly hosts commenced praising God and the proclamation was made, “Peace on earth, good will toward men.” The Saviour of the world had arrived. The Son of God was here! Hope had risen and life had come. When the shepherds saw the light they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. What a celebration on that first Holy night. The shepherds rejoiced. The angels sang. Mary pondered and the Saviour of the World made His entrance. The shepherds could not contain themselves. The news they held within their hearts was just too great. They couldn’t keep what they had seen and heard to themselves. So, after the angels departed, the dust settled around the manger and all of creation stood in adoration, the shepherds “returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen.” Oh, what a wonderful night, that first Holy night!