The night sky was clear and chock full of stars, way up high and far away where they belong. Gabriel slowed down to a hover and turned to wait for me to catch up.
"Now what?" I said, still perturbed that I had to abandon my three wise men to follow Gabriel to Bethlehem.
"Do you see those shepherds down there tending their flock of sheep?" Gabriel asked.
"Yes." I replied feeling a slight kinship with those night workers.
"Your reward for making that painfully slow journey from Persia to Palestine will be to assist me in announcing to them the birth of the Christ that is occurring at this very moment."
"Are you telling me that these smelly uncouth sheep herders, and not my three kings of orient who have climbed mountains and crossed deserts to come here, will be the first to see the newborn babe? After all we went through!"
"Peace brother," replied Gabriel trying to calm me down. "This is the way The Lord wants it. We just take orders. Remember, the royal great-grandfather, King David, was a 'sheep-herder'. It is fitting that a Jew, a son of David, be the first to greet God as man." (Gabriel had a way about him that both reduced me to spittle and elevated me to the highest heavens.)
"Besides," he added, "Jesus is coming to shepherd the sons of Israel. It is important for our Lord, that the Jews come first, and then the Gentiles may follow with their faith and gifts. When will you learn, my angelic friend, to trust God and stop whining?"
With that Gabriel turned to fly down to the shepherds and of course I meekly followed. When we got closer I saw hundreds of still and prayerful angels quietly hovering around the oblivious shepherds.
Suddenly, in a blink of an eye, and without warning, Gabriel turned a dazzling spotlight on me! I looked at the shepherds who were as shocked and amazed as was I because I noticed that they could see me! What a thrill. This had never happened to me before.
It was as if God let me feel the joy that He was about to experience by walking among men with a human form.
After a few moments, while I gave the shepherds, and myself, time to recover from the shock, and with all the sound of authority I could muster I voiced the words that Gabriel was sending me telepathically.
We said, "Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger."
To make my announcement all the more phenomenal the hundreds of angels surrounding them also became visible like me. Gabriel, invisible, conducted them in the chant, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace to His people on earth.’
After the big display, one by one the angels flew back up to heaven to await further instructions.
I could feel myself disappearing again, and I was sorry to see me go. But I could tell that our mission had been accomplished when I heard the shepherds say to one another, "Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us."
Gabriel and I went with them across several fields (with the sheep) until we finally reached Bethlehem. Gabriel knew exactly where to go and seemed to be guiding the shepherds telepathically.
When we arrived at the manger, a sensation of elation gripped me. Could this be the moment I had worked for all these weeks? I felt sorry that my magi weren't present for this glorious moment, and wondered how they were getting along without me and the star.
The shepherds who were emboldened by my appearance and message seemed to know exactly where to go. When they arrived at the manger, because it had no door, they immediately saw the Infant lying there in swaddling clothes. They straightaway approached Joseph and introduced themselves. Joseph greeted the men warmly with tear stained eyes and a sweaty brow.
One of the shepherds said, "I am sorry for disturbing you, but we were in the field tending our flock when a massive light appeared from the east and before us stood an angel who announced the birth of the Messiah! Then suddenly hundreds of angels chanted Glory to the Most high God, and peace to His people on earth. Is this infant, your son who is lying there, the Messiah come to save God's people and restore eternal life?"
Joseph ushered them over to see the newborn babe wrapped in swaddling cloths laying on a bed of straw, sleeping soundly.
The newborn babe's mother, Mary looked up curiously. She was radiant, having just given birth. Joseph said, "Mary, these men have come from the fields where angels told them of the birth of your Son, and called Him the Messiah! Did you hear what they said? I am amazed!"
Mary shot a Mona Lisa smile at the shepherds, slightly perplexed by what had occurred. She wasn't at all sure of how much people should know about her Son, and when they should know it, and how she should respond. She had no idea of what to expect.
Before the shepherds left, Gabriel called to me and said, "Come, we have to get back to your magi, let's go."
I had almost forgotten about them. Gabriel and I took off back to Jerusalem. When we found them, they had just left King Herod.
"Balthazar, how stupid could you be to ask this king where the infant king of the Jews was born. Couldn't you tell how upset he became?" said Melchior.
"I have to agree." added Gaspar. "We just left one very angry Jew; he acted as if the infant would usurp his throne tomorrow. What should we do now? Where is that star?!"
Gaspar said, "Are we really going back to tell him where we found the king like he told us to?"
Melchior replied, "Let's sleep on it."
"Herod doesn't frighten me." responded Balthazar. We have not come this far to be bullied by that man. Look! There it is, our star! It has reappeared! Wonderful! "
The star reappeared because Gabriel recreated it, and then he tossed it back into my hands. I was so happy to have it back. It was warm and bright. I think the star was happy to be back in my arms. I knew just what to do. I carried it over to the three men who were running to me, to show the magi that the star recognized them too.
Soon, we were back on the road, slowly leading my three wise men to the manger.
When we arrived the shepherds had left. I entered the manger and stood at the head of the sleeping newborn king. Balthazar, Melchior, and Gaspar looked at each other in near disbelief.
"Could this be possible? Look at this poor manger; where is everyone?" exclaimed Melchior.
"This must be the right place," replied Balthazar, "The star went right in! Come, let us follow it to the infant King of the Jews."
The three magi entered respectfully and as the shepherds did, approached Joseph immediately.
They could not communicate with words because they didn't speak Aramaic, but they didn't have to. They were obviously foreigners. They spoke with their bodies. First Balthazar, followed by Melchior and then Gaspar bowed their heads, and knelt by the infant. When they stood up, one by one they handed their gifts to the Mother.
Mary gently received the Frankincense, then the gold, and myrrh. With each gift, she smiled warmly, and shyly bowed her head with half closed eyes.
After they handed over their gifts, the wise men bowed again and bid good bye, walking backwards so that their backs would never be seen by the infant, or His Mother or Joseph.
When they left I wanted to follow them to make sure they departed Palestine safely, but I couldn't separate myself from the babe and the star which I continued to hold for a very long time over His little head while gazing down at the beauty of Emmanuel, God with man. I recognized my God in Him, and yet He was so small and so powerless.