Long ago, in a foreign land...
But wait, let me bring this story closer, much closer to home.
Not long ago, the landscape was not what it is today. Instead of the thriving businesses and little peopled homes, there were barren fields with a few scrawny sheep and goats scattered across the hills. People in general were poor, but none so poor as the ones tending those herds.
It wasn't an easy job, but it was rewarding to have sheep and goats follow you, look up to you.
Maybe that's why the work drew people who had no one else looking up to them. That and the strange hours. It was hard to have a family and be a shepherd.
The evening shepherds were particularly hardened. Not only could they not see the sheep and goats well, but they couldn't see predators. Only the most hardy and determined men could handle the herd in the wilderness at night.
And as these few toughened men sat one evening around still-glowing coals talking about the times they saw ferocious beasts among their flocks, they were startled. Not by a beast.
By an angel.
Something tells me that you're sighing. "Right," you say, "we know this story. We've heard it a thousand times."
Maybe you have. But let's pretend for a moment that you haven't. Let's recapture the wonder we had as children. Let's imagine that we're seeing this angel for the very first time.
And what an angel! His face was shining with a radiance that could only be described as heavenly. As he speaks, it seems like he is not using words at all-but that the joy in his heart is simply falling from his lips.
"Unto you is born today in Bethlehem a Savior," he says.
If seeing one angel isn't enough, the shepherds suddenly see hosts of them, glorifying God.
And almost as suddenly as they appear, they are gone, leaving the night as silent and starry as they found it.
The shepherds, wide-eyed and quiet, leave their flocks and travel to the nearby town of Bethlehem. None of them speak. Their thoughts are all turned inward, as though they sense the magnitude of the moment.
It is with this wonder-this silence that they bow before the King, the baby, the Savior, the gift.
It is with that same wonder that we should come and bow before him.