"There were sheepherders camping in the neighborhood. They had set night watches over their sheep. Suddenly, God’s angel stood among them and God’s glory blazed around them. They were terrified."
I read that familiar passage from Luke last night, after I collapsed into bed, a weary but happy heap of holiday hope.
For the first time ever, the words "God's angel stood among them" jumped out to me. I was startled awake.
In the pictures we see in our Bibles and in famous artwork, the angels hover over the hillside, with the shepherds and the oddly non-terrified sheep below. It's intense, for sure; I'm not sure how I would react if a blazing being suddenly appeared in the sky above me, like a comet plunging to earth.
But I know for sure how I would react if that same blazing being suddenly appeared right next to me, feet on the same soil, elbows close enough to touch.
I would be beyond terrified. I would gasp and jump back and probably tremble with the adrenaline surge of my life.
With me? Right here? In my space? It's too much. It's too real. I can't comprehend it.
But that's what the Bible says happened. The angel appeared among the shepherds, and eventually, an entire regiment of angels joined him. God's glory lit up every blade of grass, every stubble on the shepherd's face, every bruise and smudge of dirt and smear of sheep dung.
It's too real. Holy among the unclean. God's messengers with the outcasts.
Maybe God did it that way to signal something.
Because, just a few miles from that hillside, God had moved into the neighborhood. He came to dwell in our mess, in our gritty reality. The outsiders moved in faith and sought out the baby in the manager, and they became insiders, privy to witness the greatest miracle of all time.
God among us.
He is here.