Our story took place a very long time ago, in a faraway place.
Things were a lot different in the days of old when the Messiah came into this world; there were no cars, no highways, no buses, trains or planes, and if a person went on a trip, they had to walk the whole way. Travel was hard, there were no rest stops, no fast food places; you have to carry everything with you.
I was only a small child in those days in the little town of Bethlehem; not much went on in Bethlehem then, but our little town was still famous, for centuries earlier, it came to be known as the City of David, for it was King David’s hometown. Yet when I was little, nothing much ever happened there, well that is until the decree came out that ordered a Census.
Now in those days, the land was ruled by the Romans; we hated the Romans!
Well, I suppose nobody likes a foreign power ruling your country…
Anyway, their King, Augustus was his name, he sent out this decree that ordered the people to go to the town of their forefathers to be counted. Now the only reason they did this was to make sure that they knew exactly how much money they could squeeze out of the folks, poor as we were, so they could build palaces and form new armies to oppress us with.
Yep, those were bad days.
People from out of town began to come to Bethlehem for the census, and one day after school, I was hanging around the main street of town when I saw a curious sight; there was this man who looked to be from Galilee, and his wife coming into town. She was really pregnant; I mean really seriously pregnant, like she was going to have a baby any minute, and she looked miserable, red in the face, sweat pouring down in the sun… I wasn’t sure if I felt sorrier for her or for her husband… she did not look very happy!
I was curious about them, as small boys are about unusual things, so at a safe distance, I began to follow…
The man asked someone for directions to the Inn, and set off to find it. When they got there, I knew they’d have trouble; it looked like it was overflowing with out of towners. Shortly after going inside, he came back out looking dejected as he told his wife there were no rooms to be had. Even I knew there was only one Inn in our little town; I wondered what they would do next, so I followed. After some time, they came upon a man who pointed to a farm a ways away, and they continued. The farmer let them stay in his manger with the animals. I crept closer to hear what they were talking about, and I heard some very curious things:
The wife, whose name it turns out was Mary, kept going on about how there really must be room for them somewhere, because the angel had told her that she was having God’s Son; how could she have God’s Son in a manger with a bunch of animals and such? Apparently, her husband had been visited by an angel too, because he kept saying that the angel he talked to had never said anything about where the baby would be born, just that the baby wasn’t “regular” like.
That was kind of curious for a small boy like me to hear from a grownup; these people seemed a little strange to me, so I kept hanging around. After a while, I knew it was getting late and I had to get home, but I decided I’d creep out later, after everyone had gone to sleep, to see what happened next.
When everyone was fast asleep, I crept out of our house and headed back into town. It was much cooler in the night air than it had been that afternoon, and I could see the campfires lit by the shepherds out in the fields who were keeping watch over their flocks; those guys were always out there at that time of year, because of the wolves and other wild animals that came in looking for sheep to eat… and that’s when I saw it.
All of the sudden, there was a bright light shining out there in the fields; I have never seen anything like it before or since. It was so bright, that the countryside was lit up almost like daytime. I was scared to death, and judging from the shouts of the shepherds, they were too; what was making that light? I got low to the ground and crawled toward the shepherds, the grass of the fields was cold and damp, but I didn’t care!
As strange as the scene was, I suddenly noticed something even stranger, for then I suddenly realized the light was coming from an angel of God, and the angel said: “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
I simply could not believe my ears! Those strangers from Galilee! That pregnant woman, her baby and the angel that had spoken to both of them about the baby being special… It was the Messiah; the Messiah was being born in our little town!
Ever since I could remember, the adults talked about the Messiah. The Messiah would come to save us, just like the prophets had said ages before… and I had seen these people, I had followed these people: I knew exactly where they were right now!
I jumped up and started to run, but something else happened right at that moment that stopped me in my tracks:
Right at that moment, the one angel was joined by a whole choir of angels and they said:
“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
And then they were gone. I was frozen for a minute, and then I heard the shepherds talking about going to the manger to see what all of this was about, and I bolted right past them. They shouted at me, and I just yelled, “Follow me!”
Well, they followed me right to the manger, since I knew which one to go to, and there was the scene; the pregnant woman, Mary, had the new baby in her arms; her husband, Joseph was his name, was there too, looking a little sick.
The shepherds rushed past me and stared. No one spoke, the baby was quiet.
Then the shepherds left and started telling people what they had seen, it created a commotion in town, but still Mary, Joseph and the baby were quiet. Suddenly the shepherds were back, and they told Mary and Joseph what they had seen in the fields, and they shouted praise and glory to God. Mary and Joseph looked at each other, but neither really said much.
A week later they named the child Jesus, which they said is what the angel of the Lord had told them should be his name. People around the town talked a great deal about the three of them in the manger, and about what the shepherds had said about the child and the things we saw out in the fields that night. Some people believed the story, others were skeptical. Sometime later, there were new visitors to the manger, only this time, I seriously kept my distance, for these were rich folks, and wherever rich folks go, there’s trouble. People said these men were kings, or wise men or great teachers from the East, but I don’t know who they were, for they left town suddenly one day and we never saw them again. Then Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus were gone too. Shortly after that, the soldiers came.
Some thought that the soldiers came to kill the baby Jesus, and most believed that they succeeded, but I knew that the three of them fled the town, because an angel told them there was danger, so they left, but I didn’t tell anyone about that. After the soldiers of the king came and killed all of the baby boys, people didn’t talk much about the strange happenings of the fateful night. In time, people pretty much forgot about the whole thing, but not me, and not those shepherds; we had seen all of it, and we remembered everything.
Many years went by before I heard any mention of Jesus again. By the time I heard of him again, he must have been over 30 years of age. At first, I didn’t think much about it, but then I heard more about him. They called him Jesus of Nazareth, and Nazareth is in Galilee. Some thought that he was a prophet, others thought he might be the Messiah; everyone agreed that he was something to see, so one day, I traveled to see him preach in Galilee. He preached about the Kingdom of heaven and the forgiveness of sins. He healed sick people, made the lame walk and restored sight to the blind; I saw him do it! He even drove a demon out of a man; everyone was amazed. One time, I got a brief chance to ask him if he was that child from Bethlehem that the angels had told the shepherds about. He looked at me for a moment, put his hand on my shoulder and smiled at me, but he didn’t say a word. From then until now, I believed in him, and I’ve followed him ever since.