SHEPHERDS AND SINGING ANGELS
 MONTHS passed after these angelic visits. The
green of spring deepened into the green of
summer, and lilies grew in the fields, and the
fruits ripened and were gathered into barns,
and the cold nights came on. And one night
there were shepherds in a pasture close by the
town of Bethlehem, watching their flocks.
We seldom see shepherds in this country.
The men with sticks who drive sheep through
the streets are not true shepherds. Shepherds
never drive sheep: they go before and call
them, and the sheep know the shepherd's
voice and follow him. While the flocks are
in the fields, the shepherds stay among them to
keep them from straying off and getting lost,
and to protect them from wolves and bears in
places where such wild animals are found.
There are countries where the grass is green
all the year round, and where almost the only
snow which the people see is on the tops of
 the mountains. In such countries the sheep
can feed in the fields even in the winter.
In the old time—in the Year One—people
when they went to church on great holy
days carried little lambs with them. That
would seem queer nowadays. Imagine a
church where everybody had a lamb under
his arm instead of a prayer-book! I am afraid
that most small boys, and even some small
girls, would find it hard to sit perfectly still
in a church full of frisky little woolly lambs.
But in those days they were used to it, and
did not mind it. The people brought the
lambs to give to God. And they brought the
very best lambs, because they wished to give
God the very best they had. Some of the
lambs came from these Bethlehem pastures:
and they who took care of the church lambs
would be good shepherds, gentle and kind
So it was in the winter night, and the stars
were shining and all was still, and in the fields
the flocks were sleeping while the shepherds
watched. We may guess that, as they watched,
 they talked together and told one another
stories; especially about David, who, when he
was a boy, had lived at Bethlehem and had
lain out many a frosty night in that very pasture
with his sheep, and once had killed a lion
and a bear. The lion and the bear had come
to get the sheep, and young David had fought
with them and killed them. And they sang
the Shepherd's Psalm, "The Lord is my shepherd."
And they spoke of the King of Glory,
how he would sometime come, according to the
promise; and they wondered how he would
look, and what he would do when he came.
And they said, "When he comes he will be
seen here in Bethlehem." For that was written
in the Bible.
Then, as they watched and talked and
sang, suddenly something happened.
All at once a great and wonderful light
began to shine, brighter and brighter, in the
black sky, till the night was like the day. All
the clouds came out in the splendid garments
which they wear in the early morning and in
the late afternoon. And out of the central
 shining appeared an angel of the Lord, gleaming
like a flame of fire. The shepherds fell
upon their faces, not daring to look up, hardly
daring to listen or to breathe, while the angel
spoke. "Fear not," he said, "for, behold, I
bring you good tidings of great joy which
shall be to all people. The King has come!
To-night he is born, yonder in Bethlehem.
There shall you find him, sleeping in a
And then the sky grew brighter still, as if
behind the clouds the gates of heaven itself
were swinging open, and out there came angels
upon angels, a multitude of the heavenly
host, shining and singing. This is what they
"Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace,
Good will toward men!"
Then the chorus ceased, and the choir went
back into heaven, shutting the golden gates
behind them; and the night was dark and
still again, and the shepherds were alone. So
up they leaped, crying one to another with
 great joy, "Let us go to Bethlehem and see!
Let us find the King!" And off they went,
down the frosty road, their eager feet making
a great noise in the silent night and their
breath white behind them.
ARRIVAL OF THE SHEPHERDS
Now, all that day, travelers had been journeying
in unusual numbers along the ways
which led to Bethlehem, for it was the time
of a census. Cæsar Augustus, emperor of
Rome, wished to know how many people were
living in that part of the country, so that he
could make them all pay taxes. Every man
had to go to his own city; that is, to the
place in which his family belonged. So there
was a great stir all about the land, with men
going to this place and to that to have their
names written in the census-books. Among
the others, out of Nazareth came Joseph the
carpenter, because he was of the family of
David, and with him Mary, his espoused wife,
who was to be the mother of the King. Down
they came like other poor folk, over hill and
dale, till they arrived at Bethlehem. But
 when they reached the town there was no
place where they might stay. Every house
was full of guests, and the inn was already
crowded. The only shelter was a stable,—a
common stable, strewn with hay, with dusty
cobwebs hanging from the rafters, and occupied
by cows and donkeys. There, accordingly, they went.
And there, while the angels sang and the
sky blazed over the pastures of the sheep,
the King came. The King of Glory came!
The mighty God, the Maker of all things, the
Lord most high, came to dwell among us.
And behold, he was a little child. And Mary
wrapped him warm in swaddling clothes, as
the way is with babies, and laid him in the
There the shepherds, all out of breath with
running, found them,—Mary and Joseph, and
the babe lying in a manger. And they told
what they had seen and heard about the singing
angels and the King of Glory, while Mary
listened, remembering the angel who had appeared
to her. So the shepherds returned,
 glorifying and praising God for all the
wonders of that night. Thus was kept the first
Christmas, with carols by the choir of heaven,
and God's own Son, the Saviour of the world,
coming as a Christmas gift for all mankind.