Through His Eyes
Encountering Christmas in a new way this year
by Michael Steele, LC | Source:
Tonight, in far away places, important people are engaged in matters of consequence.
My life as a shepherd, in contrast, is not so epic. It is simple, earthy full of hard work and constant wandering. For the most part, I live with sheep. And yet, the mysteries of life and death, good and evil, safety and danger run their course with me just the same. My sheep are to me an extended family. I watch over them day and night and was watching over them when, just a few hours ago, the night sky was filled with a supernatural brilliance and the chords of a heavenly choir seemed to shake the very foundations of the earth.
A few hours have passed and I’ve made my way to this lonely hill on the outskirts of Bethlehem. The night air is cold and charged with expectation and energy. All is quiet save the occasional bleating of the sheep. Shivering, despite the heavy wool cloak, I turn toward the light streaming from the entrance of the cave.
What am I doing here anyway? With a glance over my shoulder at the star-lit valley gently sloping away behind me, I stoop a bit, leave the dark behind and enter the light and relative warmth of the shelter.
I look around. It is really like any other cave in the area. The smell of the fresh hay mixed with that of the animals in the stalls is familiar to me. The warm glow of lantern-light plays on the nooks and crannies, casting shadows into the darker parts of the cave.
The radiant face of a beautiful girl immediately captivates me. Her eyes are pure and brimming with joy and her smile is enough to take the edge off the night chill. Our eyes meet, but her gaze is too intense. My ears, then cheeks, and finally my whole face begin to burn behind my beard. I look down at my calloused hands. In her presence all my faults seem suddenly and awfully exposed. I’m just a shepherd. How crude and rough I am! I sometimes lose my temper, am hard-headed and hard in speech. When I lift my gaze, she gently smiles at me as if she understands and then shifts her attention back to the newborn in her arms.
I have seen the eyes of infants before – my own son has eyes that glisten. This child’s do the same, and when they lock onto mine, something deep in my soul, the residue of an ancient tragedy, heaves and then breaks. A sob rises and escapes from my chest, and then peace and joy invade me. Hot tears well up as I fall to my knees.
How many, since the beginning of the world, have lived and gasped out their dying breath in expectation of this moment, hoping to lay eyes on this child, and did not? They were kings and prophets, princes, rulers, the great people of the world. Why me?
“For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.“
“And the Word became Flesh and lived among us. And we saw His glory, the glory as of the only Son of the Father.”
- Quotes taken from Jn 1:14 and Is 9:6.
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