For the rest of his days, Judah could not explain how it all happened, but it was as though God directed them directly to the stable where the Messiah lay.
The three shepherds entered the old stable warily. Judah’s senses immediately took in the surroundings. First was the mixed smell of moldy hay and fresh, clean hay and the unsavory odor of manure from the pens. Filling the room were the chorus of hee-haws; the soft, snorting and nickering and pawing of horses; the low, brooding moo of cattle, which were all very numerous with the huge influx of people that had come to Bethlehem for the taxation. As Judah’s eyes began to adjust to the darkness of the indoors—his eyes were still dazzled by the sights of the angelic visit—he could see dusty cobwebs hanging from rafter to rafter and netting across the hay. He could depict the forms of the cattle, donkeys, horses, and even a few camels. Finally his eyes rested on the sight he was looking for: a young girl, lying amongst the strewn hay; a young man sitting next to her; and before them a low manger, the animals’ feeding trough. Instinctively, Judah took a step closer.
The young man sitting by the woman looked up with large brown eyes, his face marked with rigor, courage, contentment, and love. A brief glance of his eyes served as a survey of the visitors—the very impromptu and perhaps intrusive visitors, Judah felt that he might be thinking. Then the man spoke with a hint of surprise in his voice: “My good men. To what do we owe this visit?”
Alphaeus, the leader as usual, stepped forward. Judah’s eyes flashed from him to the young man to the little figure in the manger—tiny, red, and still. Awe enveloped him as his father spoke: “Forgive us for barging in on you in the way. But—we were given a grand announcement from heaven and—well, we came to see if we might see the—the Messiah. They—they said we would know him by—they said he would be wrapped in swaddling clothes and—and lying in a manger.”
The young woman, who had awakened upon the shepherds’ entrance, turned her wan face towards them, and a light of joy—or something more, Judah could not tell—crossed her tired face, and her parched lips parted in a soft smile. The smile was all the answer the shepherds needed. They reverently approached the very modest, rough feeding trough to have a full glimpse at the one promised by God from the days of Adam. Judah took in the sight with awe. There was nothing apparently outstanding about this baby. He was tiny, and wrapped in plain white swaddling cloths, his eyes were shut tight and he was puckering his mouth a little; and on his head was a soft black fuzz. He was beautiful, and it awed Judah’s heart that this tiny, helpless little baby was actually the Messiah of the world.
“But why are you here?” Alphaeus spoke up with a note of concern in his voice. “This is no place for One so great to enter the world—any child, for that matter.”
“I am afraid we had no other choice, save the streets,” replied the man Joseph, gravely. “There was no room in the inn, but they let us stay here.”
“No room!” Alphaeus repeated the words in the same tenderness. “No room for the Messiah, the Savior?” He looked softly at the sleeping child, and then carefully lifted him out of the manger to his broad chest. “Oh, my Lord,” he whispered, resting the Christ Child against his shoulder, “but there is room in my heart for You.”
To an uninformed beholder, the child in Alphaeus’ arms would seem like just any other baby. But Judah’s eyes, which had beheld the wondrous sights of the angelic heralds of goodwill, knew that this was no ordinary baby. Inside that infant body was the Spirit of the Living God Himself, God in the form of a created human being. This was fully God—and yet He was fully human. It was in that moment that a thought dawned on Judah. The Messiah did not come to overthrow Roman tyranny in a powerful wield of the sword, with banners flying over Him and the shouts of warriors around Him. He had come that night in human flesh to fleshly humans to turn their hearts to Himself—He came quietly, and yet He would change the world.