A young man sits round an open fire at night, warming his hands and dreaming of revolution. He needs to think to stay awake – his job means that he can’t afford to fall asleep. By the standards of the time he’s not particularly religious: can’t afford to be, his work consumes all hours, and he’s too much of a scruffbag to show his face on Saturday at the synagogue. His life is here, out in the open – just him, his friends and his animals.
But all the same, he dreams. The current lot that rule his small nation are much better than most of the previous ones, who were far more corrupt and far less competent. He’s heard tales of the terrors inflicted by tyrants of old. But even so, they’re not his people. And one day, his God, Yahweh – the one true God of the universe, the Lord of Lords and King of Kings – will ensure that they are free once more. He’s read the prophets, he’s heard the preachers. And still he dreams, of victory and freedom and prosperity. Of planting vines and sitting under them in summer.
His head starts to nod – he feels sleepy. He pinches himself: ‘Not tonight, old son, not tonight…’
And then – LIGHT! Glorious, brilliant light. His mates are terrified – he pretends not to be, but really he is just as scared too. What is this? An angel?? You’ve got to be kidding….
Did someone just say good news? The Messiah is coming? After all these centuries? Never mind 30 years of hurt – how about 500? Really? Coming – now?
Oh yes. And what’s more, you can see him. Just head into town – listen for the cries of a newborn bedded in with the animals. Just like you lot, really. Born to be a shepherd.
Imagine that. The divine shepherd visits us human shepherds, telling us to go and visit a newborn shepherd lying there with the animals. He really is one of us! Not just another posh tyrant: a normal lad, who lives like we do. Come on lads! Let’s go and take a butcher’s….
Good news: God comes as one of us. He meets those who are keeping watch, waiting for him. We don’t always dream the right things – or perhaps we do, but in the wrong way or for the wrong reasons. But God is gracious. He comes anyway.
Keep watch. Good news is coming.