Luke 2:9-10

And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.”

Leib heaves his body onto the grass, tired after the hike up this hillside, too tired to reach his hut just now. As he lies on the cool earth, he thinks to relax his sandaled feet, his calves, thighs, he shifts his back, asking tense muscles to flatten to the earth, to let him rest. He cracks his neck this way and that, and then settles his head onto his palms, opening his eyes to gaze at the stars.

Today was by far the worst he’s had in some time. The sheep wandered too far. His usual route to the graze-land marred with vines and thorns. His companions nowhere to be found when he called for them earlier that day.

Now they lingered nearby, watching their herds from the North and the West. Leib would rest now, and then wake to let his best friend, Avi, sleep. His brother-in-law, Eron would take the last shift before dawn.

He needs sleep, but scrubs at his face with a calloused hand. Tomorrow they’d need to find a new pasture. Leib stretches his arms to his sides and grasps the grass. Short. Thin. Unhealthy.

Where a wide stream usually runs nearby, he hears only a trickle—the liquid ravaged by a thirsty land.

He wears worry like a blanket as Avi nudges him with a toe when he’s at the edge of sleep.

“Leib!” Urgent. He rolls onto a knee and a toe in one movement, eyes searching for a threat in the darkness, but the hillside is not dark. Yet it is not yet dawn.

Avi stands, face upraised, and before him a winged man descends from the black sky.

His friend quakes next to him, and Leib’s own hands tremble at his sides, yet what could this mean?

“Don’t be afraid. Leib, Avi, Eron,” the figure, taller than Leib and Avi, looks past them. Neither turn but hear Eron approach and fall to his knees. They do the same.

“I have good news.” A broad, beautiful smile shines on them, and then gazes down the hillside at the sleeping city below.

“Tonight, in Bethlehem, a child was born. His name is Jesus, and He is the Savior of the world.”

Leib makes to stand, grips his staff, but his body doesn’t move. His words don’t come as the angel continues, “You will find Him swaddled in simple cloths. He’ll be lying in a manger.”

As quickly as the figure appeared in the dark sky and stood before the shepherds moments ago, that is how quickly the sky fills with them as the angel describes the Christ Child.

Row after row, behind the first, faces made of pure joy, robes made of light, and a song such that none had ever heard. A melody and a chant and a prayer.

“Glory to God in the Highest!” They ring.

“And on earth, peace, good will to all men!”