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And yet we share the harvest sheaves alike.
So he arose, and girded up his loins,
Now, that same night, as Abram lay in bed,
Out to the field, and borrow from my store,
So he arose, and girded up his loins,
So the next morning with the early sun
Now, the next night went Zimri to the field,
Then Abram came down softly from his home,
And laid it on his brother Zimri's pile.
1. A mile and a half, it may be two miles, southeast of Bethlehem, there is a plain separated from the town by an intervening swell of the mountain. Besides being well sheltered from the north winds, the vale was covered with a growth of sycamore, dwarf oak and pine trees, while in the glens and ravines adjoining there were thickets of olive and mulberry, —- all at this season of the year invaluable for the support of sheep, goats, and cattle, of which the wandering flocks consisted.
2. At the side farthest from the town, close under a bluff, there was an extensive mârâh or sheep-cote, ages old.
A number of shepherds, seeking fresh walks for their flocks, led them up to this plain; and from early morning the groves had been made to ring with calls, and the blows of axes, the bleating of sheep and goats, the tinkling of bells, the lowing of cattle, and the barking of dogs.
3. When the sun went down they led the way to the mârâh, and by nightfall had everything safe in the field; then they kindled a fire, partook of their humble supper, and sat down to rest and talk, leaving one on watch.
They rested and talked, and their talk was all about their flocks, a dull theme to the world, yet a theme which was all the world to them.
While they talked, and before the first watch was over, one by one the shepherds went to sleep, each lying where he had sat.
4. The night, like most nights of the winter season in the hill country, was clear, crisp, and sparkling with stars. There was no wind. The atmosphere seemed never so pure, and the stillness was more than silence; it was a holy hush, a warning that heaven was stooping low to whisper some good thing to the listening earth. By the gate, hugging his mantle close, the watchman walked. The midnight was slow coming to him, but at last it came.
His task was done ; now for the dreamless sleep with which labor blesses its wearied children. He moved towards the fire, but paused; a light was breaking around him, soft and white, like the moon's. He waited breathlessly.
5. The light deepened ; things before invisible came to view ; he saw the whole field, and all it sheltered. chill sharper than that of the frosty air smote him a chill of fear. He looked up; the stars were gone; the light was dropping as from a window in the sky;
as he looked it became a splendor; then in terror he cried,
6. Up sprang the dogs, and, howling, ran away. The herds rushed together, bewildered. The men clambered to their feet, weapons in hand.
“ What is it ? ” they asked, all in one voice. 6. See !” cried the watchman, “ the sky is on fire.” Suddenly the light became intolerably bright, and they covered their eyes and dropped upon their knees; then, as their souls shrank with fear, they fell upon their faces, blind and fainting, and would have died had not a voice said to
6 Fear not!”
“ Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.”
The voice penetrated all their being, and filled them with assurance. They rose upon their knees, and looking worshipfully, beheld, in the centre of a great glory, the appearance of a man, clad in a robe intensely white; above its shoulders towered the tops of wings, shining and folded; a star over its forehead glowed with steady lustre, brilliant as Hesperus ; its hands were stretched towards them in blessing; its face was serene and divinely beautiful.
8. They had often heard and in their simple way talked of angels; and they doubted not now, but said in their hearts, “ The glory of God is about us; and this is he who of old came to the prophet by the river of Ulai.”