“Ruth?” Jacob whispered, “Is that you?”
Gathering her cloak around her, Ruth rose to her feet and tiptoed to where Jacob and the young men stood. The stable door closed with a thud, pulled shut by a gust of arctic air, causing all of them to jump. The donkey in a nearby stall brayed, startled by the noises and the visitors. Joseph stood and comforted the skittish creature, murmuring quiet reassurances in the beast’s long ear, while from her place beside the manger, Mary smiled, a puzzled expression on her face.
“Yes, Jacob, it’s me. What are you doing here?” Ruth inquired in a hushed tone.
Jacob looked to dirt floor and rocked from side to side, suddenly self-conscious of the shepherds’ intrusion in the quiet stable. Looking at the young couple, he saw their inquisitive eyes and felt his fellow shepherds falling back against the door, unsure of themselves. His heart sunk as he realized how foolish it might sound, this mysterious visit by a host of angels. But there in the feeding trough a baby slept, just as the angels had proclaimed. He looked up into Ruth’s smiling face, however, and was encouraged. “We just came from the fields. The night was filled with angels and they were all singing about ... him.” He pointed to the manger, waiting for them to laugh perhaps or to send them away. Instead, Ruth clapped her hands joyfully and beamed.
“All of heaven is celebrating, Jacob! Come quickly, come and see the baby Messiah. He is the promised Redeemer,” and clutching Jacob’s cloak, she tugged him toward the circle of light where Mary and Joseph now sat, tears in their eyes, smiling. “His name is Jesus.”
The band of shepherds made their way slowly to the makeshift cradle, curious and yet shy. Ruth pulled Jacob onto his knees beside her as she knelt in the scratchy hay and the other shepherds followed, bowing low and peering at the baby. Mary carefully drew back the blankets to reveal the infant, sleeping peacefully. Joseph turned to the shepherds and spoke softly, inquiring about the angel chorus. In a hushed tone, Jacob recounted their story, finishing with the angel chorus, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” The words hung frozen in the night air, echoing in the hearts of those present. Joseph shook his head in amazement and Mary treasured the promises in her heart, marveling and yet unable to comprehend their significance.
Several minutes passed in silence. Each lost in their own thoughts. Suddenly, Jacob stirred and turning his dark eyes on Ruth, he said, “We must not keep this news to ourselves. All of Bethlehem must know about this.” Directing his words to his fellow shepherds, he spoke. “Let us go and tell everyone about this miraculous event.” Bowing low to the family, the young men rose to their feet and made their way to the stable door. Jacob held back, lingering near Ruth. “Do you intend to stay?”
Ruth nodded, “Yes, I must be home at first light, but Mother gave me permission to stay here.”
“I will fetch you at dawn, to escort you home. If you would like.” Jacob blushed and looked down at his feet. He looked toward the door where his friends shuffled their feet, waiting for him.
“Thank you.” She smiled and hurried back toward the manger, coloring rising in her own cheeks. Settling into the hay, she felt a gust of cold air and then heard the door close tightly behind her. Kneeling close to the baby, she murmured, “Even the angels can’t contain their excitement. Imagine ... the sky filled with angels and cherubim and seraphim, all singing about you, Jesus.”