In the second chapter of his gospel Luke gives us a simple little narrative of which one never tires, interwoven as it is with one's earliest recollections of childhood joys and of the great anniversaries of Love's festival with its lights and universal cheer: "And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. . . . And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying. Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men."

The few words which give to the story the atmosphere of glory and wonder, seem an adequate setting for the record of the birth of him who was the fulfilment of the prophets' hope and who opened up as never before the way of salvation. The very familiarity of the text seems to keep one from considering it from any other standpoint than that of childlike acceptance and of satisfaction and gratitude for its benediction, the cheer and comfort of its heavenly radiance. It does not seem to have much importance historically, since the recognition by the shepherds of the new-born child as the promised Messiah finds no further expression or notice at the hands of the gospel writer. In a way it seems to fit in with Jesus' first public utterances: "Blessed are they,"—"the poor in spirit," "the meek," "the pure in heart,"—for of all the many classes of inhabitants of Bethlehem, to none was the vision of glory vouchsafed except to these shepherds.

A few men keeping watch over their flock by night, simple, devoted to duty, faithful over the little things, evidently were more open and more alert to the revelation of God's love than many others whom the pleasures and cares of this world had absorbed beyond the possibility of being reached by the portent of the occurrence. The historical and ethical aspects of the Scriptures, however, are not all there is in them, and with the key to its spiritual treasures applied we find that their historic statements stand for universally possible experiences. In our own favored time of the second coming there are in that same better heavenly country of which we read in the epistle to the Hebrews,— the country which is the desire of strangers and pilgrims, the country into which all can enter,—even today there are shepherds "abiding in the field."

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February 10, 1912

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