The campfire was dying, so Caleb roused himself from his mat, pushed off the heavy cloaks that had covered him and stiffly stood to attend the fire. He scooped up a few logs and arranged them over the coals. The fire came to life, sending dancing shadows along the rock walls. Caleb stepped past the blaze and looked out the mouth of the cave. The stars were magnificent, and the sheep appeared to be sleeping peacefully in the pen a few yards away.
Joseph, laying on the ground next to Caleb’s mat pushed up on his elbow. “Thanks, Caleb, he said. “It is indeed a cold night and the fire’s warmth is welcome.” One of the little lambs in the cave began to bleat and Joseph got up to tend him. He picked him up and stroked his head. The shepherds kept some perfect lambs in the cave with them, wrapped in swaddling clothes, so they would not be bruised or scratched. They would eventually be sold to the temple for atonement sacrifices for sins. The bleating disturbed the other lambs and soon there was a cacophony of baas.
The ruckus roused the other shepherds. “What’s going on?” Matthew questioned as he sat up rubbing his eyes. Is there a predator out there? Caleb stepped further outside the cave looking carefully into the shadows. “I don’t see anything,” he told them. The sheep in the pen were agitated too, and the shepherds were concerned.
Suddenly a bright light filled the sky. All the shepherds jumped from their mats and congregated in the mouth of the cave. Some sunk to their knees, trembling, but Caleb stood resolute, though he noticed his heart was pounding and his hands were shaking. The sheep stopped their restlessness and stared transfixed at the light.
“Don’t be afraid.” A shining figure had appeared in the light and spoke gently to them. “I have come to give you good news of great joy that will be for all people. Unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you. You will find the baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. The significance of the swaddling clothes was not lost on the shepherds. They understood the meaning immediately. Here was the perfect lamb of God, come into the world as the prophets had predicted, to save people from their sins.
Suddenly the angel was accompanied by a whole heavenly host—thousands upon thousands of angelic beings filling the sky and singing in the most beautiful chorus that the shepherds had ever heard. Their silver tones became louder and louder, permeating the shepherds’ very souls. “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, goodwill to mankind.”
After a few moments the light dissipated and the heavenly beings disappeared. The shepherds stood still neither moving nor speaking. The powerful experience had completely captivated them. Matthew was the first to break the silence. “Let us go and see this thing that the angel told us about.” The others quickly agreed. Grabbing their cloaks, and with no thought of their shepherd duties, they hurried into town to find the manger. Here He was: The perfect lamb of God, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.
The incredible story of Christmas was yet to be told. Jesus was the lamb of God that would take away the sins of the world, but he would need to be sacrificed. Years later, God’s plan to save humankind was fulfilled. Jesus died.
“He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities. The punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray. We have turned everyone to his own way, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53: 5,6)
That didn’t end the story. He rose from the grave victorious, breaking forever the curse of sin and restoring our relationship to God. Once and for all, our sins were forgiven. That is the whole story of Christmas. God sent his son to be with us and to save us. Peter later wrote:
“You were redeemed from the empty way of life with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. (1 Peter 1:18-19)