Interesting thought about the Christmas angels: they told the shepherds that they’d find the new baby lying in a manger.
Americans don’t really think too much about that. We’re used to putting babies in cribs. But back then, that wasn’t the case. The family bed was very much alive and well. A new mom (who at that point you can bet would be breastfeeding) would be tucked into bed with her newborn, and the baby would remain by her side.
This is my thought: the baby was born. It was pretty much just Mary and Joseph in that stable, and stables aren’t known for being clean. There may have been a midwife too, but really, it was just one or possibly two people trying to clean up the mom, sweep up the straw, chase away the rats (I mean, we’re talking about a stable) and clean up animal refuse. It didn’t smell really good, and in order to do this, they had to put the baby somewhere. The corn crib kept the baby up off the floor long enough for them to sweep up the used straw, pile it in a corner or outside, spread out new straw, and then put down a blanket for the new mom and baby couple to lie down.
How long would that have taken? Maybe half an hour?
The angels managed to tell the shepherds and get them there within that half hour time period.
To me, that says the angels were really, REALLY excited by this new baby boy. They were bursting to tell someone — anyone — and they had already told each other as many times as they could stand. So they went out to find people who were awake and bored enough to listen. Shepherds fit the bill. And they were close enough to show what the angels were so unbelievably excited about.
I just found that so neat, that angels would get excited about something enough to “jump the gun” and announce it so fast.
And what a perfect audience to announce it to. Imagine staying up all night long to stand outside in the crisp air and stare at a group of animals. Now I like sheep and wool and all things related to either, but in truth, they’re not that interesting to watch all night. Mostly they sleep. Sometimes they get up, eat or drink something, and go back to sleep. Imagine doing this, night after night, for weeks.
Then imagine something, anything, truly amazing and wondrous happening. Something miraculous. A shepherd in that situation would likely badger the strange visitors for every detail they could get.
Come to think of it, that makes it a pity most shepherds at the time were illiterate. Could you imaging finding a diary from that day? “You’ll never believe what happened last night. I was on flock watch, minding the sheep, when this angel appeared, I mean a literal angel, wings and all, and…”
My favourite Christmas story at the moment is Jean Little’s Pippin the Christmas Pig. I told it last year on a bus to a bunch of grade 3’s coming home from a field trip. (Big mistake; at least wait until you’re on the highway and the engine isn’t so loud.) I prefaced it with the Christmas Story (since there are a lot of immigrant kids, mostly Muslim), and you have to know the older one to appreciate the newer. A very excited bunch of animals.