“I remember sitting on Grandfather’s lap and hearing him tell that story. The star and the angels ... there were so many angels.” Matthew rubbed his hands to warm them and his breath produced puffs of frost as he spoke.
“The sky was filled with them, singing and praising God. He said it was terrifying and thrilling all at once,” Ruth smiled remembering, “He was still trembling when he stepped into the stable that night. Not from fear any longer, but from excitement.” Ruth felt the chill air in her nose and ears and fingertips. She pulled Jacob’s old cloak more tightly about her frail shoulders.
“Tell me again what the angels said to Grandfather and the other shepherds.” Matthew settled on the bench next to Ruth and gathered her wrinkled hands in his own, pulling them under the folds of his own cloak to warm them.
“Ahhh ... the angel chorus. Jacob told me that he and the shepherds had been sitting, huddled together for warmth, puzzling over a star that had appeared that night, when suddenly an angel appeared in the sky. Of course, they were frightened, but the angel spoke words of comfort to them. ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people!’ As you can imagine, they were still terrified, but as the angel continued, Jacob’s heart burned in him. The angel said, ‘Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’ With those words, Jacob had gazed out over Bethlehem and it suddenly dawned to him that the star shone down on our stable. It was then that he understood the angels pronouncement, but before he could stand, the sky was filled with angels, all celebrating the birth of the Messiah. Do you remember how Grandfather would sing those words? When he worked with the sheep, I would catch him singing them again and again ...”
“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
“That’s right, a chorus of praise. And chorus of hope ... that we would experience God’s peace here in our troubled world.” Ruth sighed, her shoulders curved wearily. She closed her eyes for a moment and sighed again before renewing her story. “Just as suddenly as the angels had appeared, they were gone. Jacob and the shepherds sat stunned in the frozen blackness for a few moments, recovering their wits.” Ruth smiled again, “Then the shepherds all began talking at once and I remember Jacob said that he had to shout to be heard over them. The only time in his entire life, I believe, that he ever raised his voice.” Ruth chuckled and Matthew smiled, rubbing warmth into his grandmother’s hands. “As he told them about the young couple in our stable, they agreed to go and see for themselves. Even then, I’m not certain that Jacob believed what he had seen and heard, but as he stepped out of the icy darkness and into the warm glow of the stable, all doubt faded away. Everything was just as the angel had said.”
“Even the babe in the manger.”