“In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘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 Savior, 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.’” Luke 2:8-12
During my time in the Atacama Desert of Chile, I regularly noticed shepherds tending flocks, orienting their lives around the daily rhythm of their sheep. They still spend countless devoted hours crouched on the edge of a field, watching their flock and waiting.
The sun has just set. The air is crisping up. Viviana brings water and blankets and settles into the hill next to David.
“How was it today?” she asks him. “Hot?”
“Oh, it wasn’t too bad,” David says. “There was a good breeze, and my eyes were sharp.”
He was working on his 12th hour out in that field. As long as there are sheep, he won’t waver, but his eyes were starting to blur. Esteban shows up as the stars come out. He brings sandwiches for the three of them. It’s going to be a long, cold night. They eat and sit and watch. They spend a lot of time sitting and watching. Tending sheep is not a glamorous job—your feet get really dirty, your butt gets tired, and you end up having sheep for best friends—but it’s what they have, and nothing could compromise their dedication to their flock. They’re steady, ready for whatever comes.
At night, it helps to have an extra set of eyes watching out for the sheep. So the three of them spend most nights bundled up, looking off at the horizon together. Something about tonight feels off, though.
“Do you all see that?” Viviana asks. “Or are my eyes playing tricks on me again?”
“No, that’s really weird,” Esteban says. “Where is it coming from?”
The sky above them seems to be getting brighter. Then there’s music.
“¡Dios mío! ¿Qué es eso?”
“No tengan miedo,” the angel in the sky says.
David, Viviana and Esteban are holding their breath. They blink a few times to try to clear their eyes. The angel is still there.
“We’ve got amazing news to tell you!” The angel pauses, acting like this sky-full-of-light-and-angels thing is normal. When the shepherds don’t respond, he carries on.
“There’s a new baby! And this baby is God. He’s born for everyone, and he’s very much like you. Go see him! He’s staying in a stable tonight, just in the city. You’ll recognize him.”
David, Viviana and Esteban are trying to remind themselves to breathe as the angels start singing. They’re shaking.
“A…ba…a baby?” Esteban manages a couple words.
Viviana is already up, rounding up the sheep. “Well?” she says with a face full of tears. “Come on! Let’s go find him!”
Lesley-Ann Hix Tommey is a photographer, writer and minister. She keeps discovering the abundant, wild Spirit of God among folks who don’t share her same story, so she is following a call to cross-cultural ministry. She graduated from McAfee School of Theology with an MDiv in 2014 and now lives with her new husband, Blake, in Charlottesville, VA.