The Child-King in His Cradle
by Jesse Lyman Hurlbut

  Neither King Herod, nor the Emperor Augustus, nor the high-priest and rulers in Jerusalem were there to welcome their new-born King, there were some visitors at his manger-cradle. In the open fields around Bethlehem were shepherds, watching at night over their flocks of sheep, just as, a thousand years before in the same fields, the young shepherd David had cared for his sheep, guarding them from wild beasts of the wilderness and from robbers.

Suddenly a great, dazzling light flashed upon these shepherds, and they saw, as Zacharias had seen by the altar, and as Mary had seen in Nazareth, a glorious angel standing before them. The shepherds were filled with fear and fell upon their faces on the ground, not daring to look up at the shining form. But the angel spoke to them kindly and graciously, saying:

"Do not be afraid, for I come with good news, which will make you glad; news for all God's people. On this very night is born in yonder city of David, one who shall be the Saviour, even Christ your Lord and King. Would you wish to go and see this child? I will tell you how you can find him. Look for a newly-born baby wrapped in such clothes as babies wear, and lying, not in a cradle in a house, but in the manger of a stable, where the oxen and the asses are kept. There you will find the child who is to be the King of all the earth!"

While shepherds were listening to the words of this angel, they saw that the entire midnight sky over them was filled with a multitude of heavenly beings. The shepherds heard them sing:

  "Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men in whom God is well pleased."

Then the vision faded away, the angelic host passed out of sight, and in the dark sky only the stars were shining above them. Then the shepherds said to each other:

"Let us leave our sheep here for a little while, and go to the village and see this wonderful thing that has come to pass. How good it is that the Lord has given this word to us, that we may be the first to look upon our King!"

It did not take the shepherds a long time to find the right stable and the manger, for Bethlehem was then only a small village. They came, opened the door, and found just what the angel had said they would see, a tiny baby lying in the manger, his mother hovering near, and Joseph watching over them both in tenderness.

They saw the royal little one, and bowed low around his manger cradle, then went again to their flocks in the field, praising God for his goodness in sending the long-promised King. The people to whom the shepherds told this story, wondered at it, hardly knowing whether to believe it or not; for this was not the way in which they looked for the King of Israel to come. They were expecting a prince to be born in a palace, not a working-woman's child in a dark cave where cattle were kept.

But Mary, happy with her little one, clasped him to her heart and said nothing to anyone of the angel that had come to her in Nazareth, and of the promises given her about this child. When the day came to name the child, she simply said, "His name shall be Jesus," but she told no one why the name was given. It was a common name among the Jews, so no one was surprised at the name. But no word could tell better than his name "Jesus" what this child should become, for the word Jesus means "Saviour."