By Frank Ball
When I left Germany to live with an American family for a year, I thought I would learn about the American culture. I looked for places where friends hang out to talk and have a good time, but there were no discos or beer gardens like we had back home. The churches were different too. Instead of marble floors, statues, and paintings of Jesus and the disciples covering the walls and ceiling, I walked into a place that looked like a well-kept home, with plain walls, carpeted floor, and padded benches.
Instead of a dozen singers who sang a hymn before the priest gave his boring homily, the loft filled with people singing praises to God. As they raised their hands and clapped and sang, they sounded like angels who knew the One they were singing about. I thought this must be something like what the shepherds heard while tending their flocks near Bethlehem, when the angel announced the birth of the Savior.
When I heard they needed a shepherd for their Christmas play, of course I volunteered. As I put on my costume, my friend pointed at me and laughed. “Now,” he said, “you’re a German Shepherd.” I didn’t laugh, because I was thinking about what it would have been like to find the baby lying in a manger, just as the angel had said. I anticipated a feeling much like what I had experienced as an altar boy, walking down the aisle, but that isn’t what happened.
The Holy Mother had the baby Jesus cradled in her arms. I walked toward the baby, dropped to one knee, and bowed in worship, just as I had been told to do. They didn’t tell me I was supposed to cry. As I wiped the tears from my eyes, God’s presence flooded my soul and made me feel clean inside.
Every Christmas now, when I talk about the birth of Jesus, I tell them that his lying in a manger was only the beginning. What really matters is having him born within our hearts.
Shepherds watching their flocks were terrified when an angel of God appeared in brilliant light. “Do not be afraid,” the angel said. “My good news will bring great joy to everyone. Today in the city of David, a savior has been born, the anointed Messiah. You will know who he is when you see a baby wrapped in cloth and lying in a manger.”
Suddenly, a host of angels appeared, praising God and singing, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” — Luke 2:8–14 from Eyewitness: The Life of Christ Told in One Story