In The Hills of Bethlehem

A Short Christmas Story by Gary Piper

nativity

Preface

For me some of the greatest mysteries of Bible are not found in the Prophetic Books like Daniel, Micah, Zechariah, and Revelation but in the lives of the nameless characters whose stories make it come alive.

The story you are about to read is the result of the journey of my imagination to the time just before the birth of Jesus. It holds no likeness to the real events therefore I offer it not as historically correct but only as a tool to strike up your own imagination.

Leave it to God to do the unexpected. Of all the people he could choose to be the first to greet him upon his entrance in our world he chose shepherds.

According to Easton’s Bible Dictionary, “the duties of a shepherd in an unenclosed country like Palestine were very onerous. In early morning he led forth the flock from the fold, marching at its head to the spot where they were to be pastured. Here he watched them all day, taking care that none of the sheep strayed, and if any for a time eluded his watch and wandered away from the rest, seeking diligently till he found and brought it back. In those lands sheep require to be supplied regularly with water, and the shepherd for this purpose has to guide them either to some running stream or to wells dug in the wilderness and furnished with troughs. At night he brought the flock home to the fold, counting them as they passed under the rod at the door to assure himself that none were missing. Nor did his labors always end with sunset. Often he had to guard the fold through the dark hours from the attack of wild beasts, or the wily attempts of the prowling thief.” (Easton’s Bible Dictionary – WWW.BIBKJV.COM)

Because Jesus referred to himself as the Good Shepherd for many years I thought shepherds to be among the “upper crust” of society. However, as you can see from Easton’s Bible Dictionary they are not in fact in some ways they were outcasts. I suspect if Jesus were to be born in our day God would send the Heavenly Chorus into a factory.

Jesus’ introduction to shepherds was a twofold message. First of all God was establishing a backdrop for Jesus’ identity as the Good Shepherd. I can picture Mary and Joseph telling young Jesus as he was growing up of the shepherds visit the night of his birth. And even though he was raised as a carpenter in his heart burned the truth that one day he’d be a shepherd, The Good Shepherd.

The Second is of equal importance God told the world through Jesus He came for everyone not just the rich and powerful, that one day he’d use the simple to confound the wise.

The Story as it really happened in the bible

And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

And the angel said unto them, “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, “Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.”

And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.

And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them. (Luke 2:6 – 2:20 KJV)

The Story according to Gary Piper

“What’s wrong, Caleb?” Hannah asked her husband.

“Nothing, Hannah. Go back to sleep it’s the middle of the night.” Caleb reassured his wife. “I just woke up a little earlier than usual that’s all.”

“Well, go back to sleep you don’t relieve Gibeon until tomorrow,” she sleepily replied.

“Don’t worry, Hannah, you go back to sleep I’ll not be far behind you,” Caleb replied. In his mind Caleb knew sleep would not come, not at least until he could clear his mind of the haunting vision of old Zechariah.

An hour or so later Caleb carefully got out of bed dressed and walked out into the cool crisp night air. As a shepherd he was looked down upon so he was not a very religious man but he was familiar with the writings of King David when he, too was a shepherd.

Finding a soft spot under a large tree Caleb looked into the star filled night sky and began praying, “Father of King David do not let Zechariah take my sheep. If you can convince him to give me more time I will repay him all that we owe.” Half an hour later still under the tree his tired mind and body fell fast asleep.

Sleeping on the hard ground Caleb began dreaming that he was falling. Down and down he went the longer he tumbled the colder it became. At the bottom he could see a man with outstretched arms waiting to catch him it was old Zechariah. Suddenly in the distance he could see Hannah standing on the edge of the crevice in which he fell desperately he tried to stop his descent but the more he tried the faster he fell. Suddenly he heard Hannah calling his name and he immediately woke up in a cold sweat.

Giving himself a second or two to wake up he called out, “I’m here Hannah. I’m coming,” he called out as he stood to his feet.

Several minutes later Caleb was sitting at the table. “Are you going to tell me why on earth you were sleeping outside?” Hannah asked. “What’s been wrong with you lately, Caleb?”

Caleb wanted to avoid the issue entirely but he knew he wouldn’t be able to. He knew eventually the truth would come out so reluctantly he told Hannah that in the next day or so Zechariah would be around to take away their sheep. “He won’t give us more time to get what we owe him?” she asked.

“Not a chance.”

“But, what’s he going to do with sheep,” she said, “he don’t know anything about being a shepherd, does he?”

“The only thing he knows, Hannah, is money,” Caleb answered.

“What are we going to do if Zechariah takes our sheep,” Hannah replied, not seeing Josiah enter the room.

“Is Zechariah really going to take our entire flock of sheep father?” Josiah asked his father.

The words of his son cut deep into Caleb’s mind. “What did I do wrong?” he silently questioned himself.

“Are you alright father?” Josiah asked.

“I’m okay Josiah,” Caleb said, getting up from the table and walking toward the doorway, “I just need some time alone.”

“Can I come with you father?” Josiah said watching his father walk out the door.

“Let him be alone for awhile Josiah,” Hannah, Josiah’s mother spoke up, “He feels like a failure because we’re about to lose our livelihood and he blames himself.”

“But it’s not fathers fault,” the 14 year old boy remarked, “It wasn’t his fault I had my accident.”

Hannah remembered that terrible day six months ago when Caleb came rushing into the house carrying the near lifeless body of his son. She recalled the agonizing conversation between Caleb and Zechariah as they put up all the money they had to save Josiah’s life. Hannah prepared herself for what would come next.

“It’s my fault,” the young boy replied hanging his head, “it’s my entire fault why doesn’t that nasty old man take me instead of father’s sheep?”

Both Caleb and Hannah rehearsed repeatedly how they’d handle Josiah’s feeling of guilt ever since Zechariah demanded they pay back the money or turn over the sheep. “It’s not your fault Josiah things happen the way they do sometimes for reasons we don’t understand. Your father needs to understand that too,” Hannah replied.

The room instantly fell silent as mother and son sat looking at each other trying to hold back the tears. “We must not let guilt destroy what we have left because now more than ever we’re going to need each other,” Hannah’s voice while filled with pain resounded with confidence.

Meanwhile Caleb walked around to the back of the house looking toward the hills he helplessly watched as the events leading up to tonight began replaying themselves. “Look to the right Josiah,” he heard himself saying, “Go after that little one wandering away.”

“Don’t worry father,” he painfully recalled hearing his sons voice, “You can count on me.”

Tears welled up in Caleb’s face as he remembered hearing Josiah’s pain filled cries for help. “I’m coming Josiah,” he called out loud, “don’t worry I’m coming son!” One of the sheep bleated bringing Caleb back to reality. Turning he slowly walked back toward the house.

As Caleb walked through the door, “It’s not our fault father,” Josiah spoke first.

“I know son but the Father of Abraham could’ve stopped it,” Caleb replied with a bitter tone in his voice.

“You don’t really mean that Caleb,” Hannah quickly replied.

Without looking up, he snapped back, “He could have stopped it! He could have told me to go after the sheep! He could have…”

“He could’ve let Josiah die too!” Hannah interrupted him, “We’re not playing this game Caleb now do what you have to do.”

It was several minutes before he calmed down enough to speak in a normal tone of voice, “it’s just not fair,” he finally replied.

“I know it’s not fair, Caleb, but it’s also the way it is and there’s nothing we can do about it,” Hannah replied, in a reassuring tone.

“Well, I’m not sitting around here waiting for him to take away all we have I’ve got to go into the hills and relieve Gibeon and I’m not leaving the sheep here,”

“You’re taking them with you, father?” Josiah interjected.

“You bet I am. If he wants them he can go into the hills and get them,” Caleb answered sharply.

“But he’s and old man and knows nothing of tending and leading sheep,” Hannah commented.

“That’s his problem not mine besides maybe something might happen to him.”

“Caleb! Stop it! You don’t mean that,” Hannah interrupted.

“Yes I do!”

Silence suddenly filled the room. “Can I go with you, father?” Josiah’s voice broke the silence.

Once again the horrible memory of Josiah’s accident flooded Caleb’s memory and instantly he said, “No. It’s far too dangerous. Josiah besides you’ll need to be here for your mother.”

“Let him go, Caleb. I know it’s dangerous and I’m worried as well but if he’s ever to rid himself of his guilt feelings he needs to go,” Hannah interjected.

“Hannah, I know what you’re saying, but I don’t want him there when I turn over the sheep it’ll be too much for him to bear,” Caleb replied.

“Please, father, I am stronger than you think I am. Please, let me go?” Josiah pleaded.

Glancing quickly at Hannah then at Josiah without saying another word, Caleb motioned Josiah to follow him seconds later both of them were walking out the door leaving Hannah sitting in silence.

“Father of Abraham,” she began praying, “please do not be angry at my husband for blaming you we both know it’s not your fault. He blames you because he doesn’t understand you. I don’t understand you either but I don’t believe all our misfortunes can be blamed on you. I don’t know what we’ll do after tonight but I do know we’ll still have each other and you’ll still be our Father of Abraham. Please Lord, just as you opened up the Red Sea for our ancestors open the sea of our hopelessness so we make walk in the hope of your promises.”

In the Throne Room of Heaven, Abraham’s Father smiled.

Just outside the door Caleb paused for a few seconds to calm himself down because if he approached the sheep with his voice the way it was he’d frighten them. “You okay, father?” Josiah asked.

Turning and looking at his son Caleb was suddenly filled with pride because of Josiah’s concern for him, “I’m okay Josiah I just need to calm down when talking to your sheep you must always, no matter what use a comforting tone in your voice,” he replied.

“Do you think I’ll ever be a shepherd?” Caleb, asked his father.

Without thinking Caleb replied, “Of course you will one day these sheep will be yours.” He stopped abruptly when he realized that wasn’t going to happen.

Another smile broke out on God’s face.

About 20 minutes later father and son were heading for the hills where Gibeon was there with his flock. A few minutes later, “Please father,” Josiah cried out, “I’m doing the best I can but I can’t keep up with you my legs beginning to hurt.”

Caleb had forgotten his son was following, “I’m sorry Josiah please forgive me,” the older man replied slowing his pace.

“Why are you so angry at the Father of Abraham?” Josiah asked his father.

Caleb kept his anger toward God hidden all his adult life many times he came close to telling Hannah but he just couldn’t do it. Now it was different it was almost as if he were waiting for someone to ask him. Yet, because of Josiah’s young age he held back.

Before Caleb could say anything Josiah spoke up, “Mother says things happen to us that we don’t understand and maybe I don’t understand but I do know we are stronger because of the difficulties we’ve gone through. Mother says we’ll get through this too and I believe her but we’ve got to get rid of the guilt we are either accepting or giving to others.”

Caleb knew his son was right and for a few moments, he was awestruck at the wisdom his son had for such a young boy. “It’s long story Josiah. I’ve tried again and again to tell it to your mother but each time I try I hate him more and more.”

“Is it that bad father?” the youngster interrupted.

“For me yes it is,” Caleb sighed deeply and continued, “You see I killed your grandfather. Over and over on that night years ago I begged and begged Abraham’s Father to save my dad and take my life instead.” Tears were flowing freely down his cheeks.

It was minutes before either spoke again, “That’s first time I’ve ever told the truth about what happened.”

Josiah started to offer words of encouragement to his father but something told him to just listen. Seconds later Caleb continued, “I was 17 years old and it was on a day just like the day you had your accident. A sheep had wandered off and my father told me to go after it just like I did you.”

Listening to his father’s story Josiah began reliving the day of his accident as he tumbled down the rocky hillside. He again felt the pain in his legs; he again experienced again the world going dark.

“Just like you,” Caleb started again, “I lost my footing and fell down the hillside in nearly the same spot. By the time I stopped the pain was too much for me and I panicked. It didn’t take long for my cries to bring my father running,” his voice suddenly stopped.

Josiah tried to say something but an unknown voice whispered, “You must not interrupt him.”

“I can still hear my voice yelling I’m going to die, I’m going to die. I can still feel the pounding in my head. I can still feel the panic gripping me.” Josiah watched as his father trembled, never in his life had he seen so much fear in anyone’s face.

After a few seconds Caleb continued, “I can still hear my father saying, ‘Don’t panic Caleb you are alright,’ but I couldn’t stop screaming. I just couldn’t stop myself it was as if someone else was inside of me. Over and over my father unsuccessfully tried to calm my fears. I heard him tell me he was extending his shepherds staff to pull me up, ‘just hold on he said don’t pull,’ but when I saw it coming my way I reached out and grabbed it in desperation.” Again, his voice trailed off and went silent.

It was minutes before Caleb regained his composure enough to continue. “When I reached for the staff I didn’t know that my father had not anchored himself well enough for my weight.”

Caleb swallowed hard and started again, “I grabbed the staff and pulled for all I was worth. I didn’t mean kill him. I didn’t mean it father!” He screamed at the top of his lungs.

By now Josiah was speechless crying as hard as his father was.

After several minutes Caleb spoke in a more stable voice, “I’ve never told that story to anyone Josiah. Each time I told it to someone I lied, I told them when I had fallen father jumped after me and saved me from falling all the way down the slope but he couldn’t save himself.”

“I killed my father and told everyone he died saving me. My whole life has been a lie. Now I’ve failed you and your mother by losing the only thing that kept us together. It should have been me that died that day not my father.”

At that very moment the Creator smiled, “Are things ready Gabriel?” he asked.

“Nearly my Lord,” the Angel replied, “Zechariah still isn’t where he needs to be. Shall we begin without him?”

“No,” the Creators voice rang out, “it is very important that he be a witness.”

“Very well, Creator, the Chorus will wait,” the Messenger replied.

After nearly 5 minutes Josiah was the first to speak, “It’s not your fault father. Mother says things happen for a reason. If you had died that night, I would have never been born. Please don’t cry father, grandfather wouldn’t want you to would he?”

“It’s not that easy Josiah I didn’t tell the truth!” Caleb exclaimed, “I should have been a man and told the truth. How can anyone forgive me for that?”

“I do father,” Josiah answered back, “I know mother will and I’m sure grandfather would too. It was an accident father please stop blaming yourself.”

“How did you get so wise Josiah?” Caleb asked.

“I’m not wise father,” he answered, “I’m 15 and reckless just like you were but I love you and this is one of those times when love is greater than wisdom.”

Caleb suddenly felt closer to Josiah than ever before now he was experiencing a relationship that had gone beyond father and son to that of true friends. Deep in his heart a small seed began to sprout one that would soon germinate and mature. “You are wise my son, far more than you realize and I love you far deeper than I realize. We need to meet up with Zechariah and do what we need to do. We also need to relieve Gibeon so he can go home and eat his supper.”

Meanwhilel, Zechariah after stopping at Caleb’s farm was making his way toward his new flock of sheep. He knew nothing about shepherding sheep; in fact, shepherds on his social scale were just slightly above lepers and vagabonds. “Finally I will be getting even with you Mosiah by destroying your son,” the old man said aloud.

Far down the hill in the small village of Bethlehem where a large gathering of weary travelers was settling in for the night a young man and his young wife were looking for a place to stay. “All our rooms are full,” the Inn Keeper told the young traveler.

“Please sir,” the young man answered, “my young wife is in labor, and about to give birth don’t you have anywhere we can go?”

“Who is it?” a woman’s voice called out from the behind him.

“It’s a young man and his wife who is about to give birth,” the Inn Keeper answered.

“What did you tell them?”

“I told them we didn’t have any room for them,” he replied.

“But she is going to give birth! Don’t you have any feelings? Surely you must have somewhere they can stay,” the woman said.

“All we have is the stable. Would you want to give birth in a stable?” he asked, a little sarcastically.

“No,” came the quick reply, “but it’d be better than the busy streets! Give them the stable. And do not charge them either.”

“Okay, okay!”

Returning his attention back to the young couple, “Around in back you’ll find a stable the animals will be sleeping so they won’t bother you but a stable is no place for a baby to be born but that’s the best I can do,” the Inn Keeper replied.

“It will provide us with protection from the wind and will be less disturbing to your guests,” Joseph said smiling, “how much do I owe you?”

“Charge you! My wife has already said there’d be no charge,” the Inn Keeper flashed a smile in return.

“Thank you so much I am a carpenter by trade if I see any repairs to be made I’ll do them for you. May God bless you and keep you,” the young man replied.

Beyond time and space, “everything is nearly ready Creator,” the Messenger’s voice filled the throne room.

“Thank you Gabriel, when the birth and last piece falls into place proceed with the announcement.”

Caleb and Josiah remained silent for the rest of the journey. “I see Gibeon’s fire father,” Josiah’s voice broke the silence.

Caleb could make out the silhouettes of Gibeon and two of his three sons, “Gibeon, my friend,” Caleb called out, “you and your sons may leave now Josiah and I will take over watching the flocks.”

Gibeon had been a friend and neighbor to Caleb for years and knowing what would happen tonight decided not to go. “We’re staying Caleb,” he replied, “Jacob left a few moments ago to retrieve some food for us so we’ll eat when he returns. Our place is here with our friends.”

Caleb was instantly relieved to know he and Josiah wouldn’t be alone, “Thank you my friend I don’t know what I’d do without your friendship.”

“Maybe the old man will have an accident and not make it,” Gibeon replied, “why is he doing this to you? He doesn’t need the money nor does he like sheep.”

“I’m not real sure why Gibeon I know it goes back to the days when my father was alive but no one’s ever said. I’m just sorry I don’t have enough money to pay off my debt so I could be rid of him once and for all,” Caleb answered back.

“I sure wish I had the money to pay him for you but it’s been a hard year for us and we just don’t have it to give,” Gibeon replied.

“Don’t worry my friend he’s only getting my sheep not my property somehow we’ll bounce back at least that’s what Hannah tells me anyway,” Caleb said in a reassuring voice.

Meanwhile in the small town of Bethlehem, the painful cry of a woman giving birth pierced the quietness of the night. Within minutes, the Inn Keepers wife was there help with the delivery. “Make yourself useful young man, go quiet down the animals.” the woman said, “Men! Sometimes I wonder how people can say men are the stronger gender!”

Joseph wanted to say something in the defense of men but Mary’s screams changed his mind so he scurried off to assist the animals.

“Don’t worry young lady,” the woman said, “you are doing just fine. The pain lasts only the little while but the love will last forever. And don’t worry about your husband he’s doing real good too.”

Mary tried to relax but the pain would not let her. She thought it strange because she felt her labor pains in both wrists not where she thought it would be. Repeatedly she tried thanking the woman for helping her but each time she tried to say something she only screamed in pain.

As the Creator and the entire heavenly host watched Zechariah, the last witness crested the hill and walked toward the fire. “Let’s get this over with Caleb,” the older man barked out, “You can go now the sheep are mine.”

“You owe me an explanation Zechariah,” Caleb asked the older man, “what’s this all about?”

“I owe you nothing!” came the reply; “I will only tell you I’ve finally got the upper hand on your father. Now you and that crippled son of yours can leave.”

“Excuse me Zechariah,” Gibeon spoke up, “Do you know how to herd sheep?”

“You know I don’t Gibeon but you do,” Zechariah quickly replied.

“Not for your sheep I don’t! I’ll take them off your hands though after all you don’t want them,” Gibeon quickly replied.

“You or your sons won’t tend to them?” he asked.

“Not on your life Zechariah! Caleb’s my friend and neighbor,” Gibeon answered back.

“If I gave them to you you’d only give them back to Caleb! So I’ll drive them off the cliff before giving them to you,” Zechariah said in an angry voice.

“Please Zechariah,” Caleb interjected, “give me a second chance. Whatever you have against my father is in the past he’s dead thanks to me.”

“Don’t beg him father,” Josiah cried out, “the Father of Abraham will come to our aid! I just know he will!”

“You don’t understand Josiah,” Caleb answered, “We need those sheep!”

“No it’s you who don’t understand father,” Josiah said with tears in his eyes, “we don’t need sheep we need each other. Abraham’s Father will be there for us we’ll be okay. Please trust me father.”

“Things are ready,” an Angelic voice, echoed throughout the heavens, “everyone is where they need to be. The Son is born!”

Suddenly as the baby, Jesus drew his first breath and cried a light exploded from the heavens and instantly illuminating the hillside sending the six people to their knees.

Caleb was the first to look up it was as if the stars had moved to a few feet above the hill. One by one the other five still kneeling marveled at the brilliant points of light moving just above their heads. Then in less than a heartbeat each point of light turned into an angel. “What a glorious thing to be in the Light of God,” the angels began singing, “Glory to God in the highest. Peace on earth, goodwill has come to all the earth.”

After several minutes the Angel’s became quiet as Gabriel’s voice filled the air, “Why do you cower in fear? We have come with good news.”

Without looking up Caleb was the first to speak, “We are humans and cannot behold such brilliance. We fear because it is not good for us to be in the presence of such holiness.”

“We are here to tell you that God’s Son is born this night in Bethlehem. It is because of the baby you no longer need fear us for he has come to do away with your sins,” Gabriel replied.

The Angelic Choir continued singing praises replacing Gabriel’s voice. Slowly Josiah, Gibeon, and his sons rose to their feet but Zechariah remained on the ground.

“To your feet Zechariah,” Gabriel said in a commanding voice, “you will go with the others to see the miracle of all miracles in the town below.”

Zechariah jumped to his feet, “these are my sheep, and I’ll see them dead before I leave them.”

Caleb couldn’t believe what the old man said, “You defy a Messenger from heaven Zechariah?”

Fixing his eyes on Caleb Zechariah yelled back, “somehow you’re behind this and I’m not falling for it! I don’t know how you pulled this off but you’ll not get away with it. I’ll see those sheep dead before I leave this hill.”

Turning to Gibeon, “follow me Gibeon so we can do as the Messenger has told us to do.”

“But what of the sheep do we just leave them all for Zechariah,” Gibeon asked.

“We must trust the Messenger there is something far greater in the city for us to see,” Caleb replied in a reassuring tone.

“The one born in the City of David below is the one the Psalmist wrote about many years ago Gibeon,” Gabriel echoed on the hillside, “follow him and none will be lost.” Then the angels were gone leaving the 3 men and 3 boys alone with the angel Gabriel.

“How will we find this baby of which you speak?” Gibeon asked.

“The Great Creator has sent His Son into the humblest of surroundings therefore you will find him in a stable’s manger wrapped in swaddling clothes behind an Inn,” Gabriel replied.

“Well Caleb what are we waiting for?” Gibeon said.

“You aren’t going to leave me alone up here are you?” Zechariah’s voice broke the silence.

Gibeon and Caleb with their sons without saying a word turned in the direction of Bethlehem and started walking. “You can’t leave me here with all these sheep!” Zechariah cried out, “Gibeon I’ll kill yours too if you don’t turn around!”

Ten minutes later Zechariah found himself alone listening to the sound of the crackling of a dying campfire. He hadn’t noticed the sheep never woke up through all the commotion it was as if they were dead.

“Finally got what you wanted didn’t you Zechariah,” a familiar voice broke the silence.

Turning in the direction of the voice, “I thought you were dead Mosiah?” the old man shouted.

“Only to the world you occupy Zechariah.”

“You, the poorest man in the city beat me out of what was mine once before and you’ll not beat me again,” Zechariah’s voice was filled with hatred.

“What has been done has been done Zechariah. I have not come to beat you again but to give you a second chance at life. See the fire over there,” Mosiah’s voice commanded.

As the flames shot high, into the air, they instantly turned blue and a cold empty feeling filled Zechariah chilling him to the bone. “Those flames represent your life,” Mosiah’s voice filled the air, “now behold your life!”

Instantly the flames were gone as were the stars, the sheep, the lights below, and Zechariah felt as if he were floating in space. Never in his life had the darkness been so evil it was as if the evil had replaced the organs in his body.

Was he alive?

Was he dead?

Did he even exist?

Then just as quick as they disappeared the flames returned with their warm orange glow. Zechariah fell to the ground sobbing and weeping.

“There is still time my old friend,” Mosiah’s voice sounded one final time then disappeared.

“Do you think he’ll follow the rest to the stable Creator?” Gabriel asked, “His heart has been hardened by anger and hatred for many years.”

“He’ll follow Gabriel but it will be up to my Son to reach into his heart,” the Creator replied.

“I understand, Creator,” Gabriel answered.

Jumping to his feet, Zechariah turned in the direction of Bethlehem and started walking, “Father of Abraham,” he prayed, “I’m not sure of what just happened but I will go to this stable of which those apparitions spoke of but only to tell Caleb his little trick didn’t work. The dead cannot speak and angels do not appear to lowly shepherds. I will return in the morning and poison the sheep Caleb will not have them!”

About 15 minutes ahead of Zechariah the small band of shepherds hurried down the hillside. “Shouldn’t we go back and tell mother where we are going father?” Josiah asked.

“We haven’t time son,” Caleb replied, “we need to see the baby the Messenger told us about then get back to the hills.”

“You don’t think the sheep will still be there do you father?” one of Gibeon’s sons asked.

“I don’t really know son but if we trust the angel’s things will be okay.”

“What do you suppose this is all about Caleb?” Gibeon asked.

“I’m not sure my friend,” Caleb answered, “I think the Psalmist wrote the ‘Lord is my Shepherd’ so if what the Messenger said is true then it means the long awaited Messiah has come.”

“As a baby?” Gibeon asked.

“Come lets pick up the pace everyone,” Caleb’s voice was filled with excitement.

Joseph stood looking at his newborn son feeding from Mary’s breast began praying, “Thank you Father. I will be your Son’s earthly father and teach him well.”

Gabriel moved next to Joseph and putting his arm around the new father then looked into the heavens and said, “He’s got a good heart Creator I am sure the Savior will be in good hands.”

“I picked him myself Gabriel,” the Creator answered back.

“Are you alright Mary,” Joseph called out, “can I get you something?”

“If you have any extra courage, my husband I could use some. It’s enough just becoming parents but raising God’s Son how will we ever do good enough,” doubt filled Mary’s voice.

Joseph walked the few feet to Mary’s side and putting his hand on her head replied, “If God has given us the responsibility he will help us do the impossible, Mary. We need to trust in his judgment.”

Mary looked down at her newborn son kissed him on the head looked up at Joseph, “the Creator knew what he was doing when he gave me you,” she replied.

After a few moments of silence, “This is a great day Mary! I’ve got to go tell somebody the Savior has been born,” replied Joseph filled with joy and excitement.

“Please don’t go Joseph,” Mary’s voice stopped him dead in his tracks, “I don’t want to be alone not right now anyway.”

The two men and three boys made their way through the streets of Bethlehem they did so as if they already knew where they were going. “Do you know where you’re going Caleb?” Gibeon asked his friend.

Knowing he’d never been this far into the city and in unfamiliar surroundings he replied, “Nope but it seems as if someone is leading me and apparently they know the right way.”

“You can see someone leading us.” Josiah commented.

“I see only what you see my son, but I know someone is leading us I can feel him near,” Caleb’s voice was filled with anticipation, “we’re close.”

Over the next several minutes, no one spoke as shepherds hurried through the narrow streets. Suddenly Caleb stopped, “There it is!” he said pointing in the direction of dilapidated stable.

“The Messiah was born in that?” Gibeon asked.

“Are you going to tell Yahweh what he can and cannot do Gibeon?” Caleb asked in return.

“Not me!” he replied and started running toward the stable. Josiah followed at a much slower pace because he couldn’t run.

The nearer they got to the stable the light coming through the doorway and windows grew brighter and brighter. Upon reaching the doorway they stopped. “We have come from the hills to see the baby,” Caleb said looking at Joseph.

“Are you shepherds?” Joseph asked.

“We are and we have left our sheep in the hills because a Messenger from heaven told us to come here,” Gibeon replied.

“But our son has just been born and you have been in the hills with dirty sheep,” Joseph replied.

“Joseph, my dear husband the Creator has sent these shepherds to see our son do not deny them entrance. Come closer shepherds,” Mary spoke up.

There is no way the twenty six letters of our alphabet can be arranged to express what took place in the lives of the shepherds that night. For Caleb it meant light and forgiveness replaced years of hiding his darkest secret.

For Gibeon, the anger he’d harbored for years of abuse by his father turned to love. Since the birth of his sons, Gibeon had kept his distance from them so he wouldn’t follow his father’s example yet when his saw the baby the anger disappeared.

For Josiah the pain in his twisted leg slowly disappeared as the leg became straight.

Suddenly Zechariah’s entrance interrupted the tranquility of the stable, “It’s not going to work Caleb! I don’t know how you pulled off making yourself look like that no good father of yours but those sheep are mine,” his voice was filled with hatred.

Before anyone could respond, an unseen nail scarred hand reached across time and eternity grabbing Zechariah’s stone cold heart and began pulling. Although unaware of what was happening, Zechariah winced in pain and stood as if he were paralyzed and unable to speak. Caleb began recanting what Zechariah had just said but mysteriously no one heard him speaking as the struggle inside Zechariah intensified.

In the unseen spiritual world the evil one was momentarily surprised that a human could have such power but it didn’t take him long to recognize a power he hadn’t felt for some time. “You win this time Son of God but you are in my world now and eventually you’ll lose,” Satan hissed.

In response, there was explosion of pure light that sent the evil retreating in fear and defeat. Zechariah immediately fell to his knees in tears as his anger and hatred gave way to compassion and guilt. “Forgive me Caleb?” he said between sobs.

“There is nothing forgive Zechariah. What ever happened between you and my father is history let us move into the future,” Caleb was smiling.

Zechariah walked over to where Caleb was standing and the two men hugged each other and cried. Seconds later the older man turned to Josiah and said, “May I be the grandfather you never had?”

Josiah instantly turned to and faced his father saying only one word, “Father?”

“It’s okay son,” Josiah’s father replied.

On the other side of the stable Gibeon and his sons were embracing each other. Joseph turned and facing his young wife and said, “Our son is already at work.”

After quickly surveying the stable Mary replied, “Just as he should be. I’m really tired now Joseph.”

“We’ll be going now so your wife can get some rest,” Caleb said to Joseph “besides everyone must know what has happened tonight and we have been chosen to spread the word.”

Zechariah was next to speak, “Caleb you must get back to your sheep before they wake up or something worse happens to them!”

“He’s right Caleb,” Gibeon added.

“But the people must hear the story,” Caleb replied, “and the baby’s father must stay here so who does that leave?”

“That leaves just me so I’ll stay and spread the word. Besides, who’d listen to a bunch of dirty shepherds anyway?” Zechariah was almost laughing.

“We really don’t look like we fit Caleb! Zechariah is right who would listen to us anyway,” Gibeon replied.

Caleb looked himself over then glanced at Gibeon, “I hadn’t realized what we look like! There will be shepherds outside the city we’ll tell them on our way back to the hill,” Caleb joined Zechariah in laughing.

“Father,” Josiah said.

“Yes,” he replied.

“I’m clean can I stay with Zechariah and help him.” Josiah replied.

Looking at his young son Caleb suddenly realized his leg was no longer twisted,” What happened to your leg Josiah?” he asked excitedly.

“When I first looked at the baby I felt something warm in my leg and it all of sudden stopped hurting and looked like the other one,” Josiah said.

“Praise the Father of Abraham,” Caleb exclaimed, “my son has been made whole again!”

Everyone followed Caleb in praising God Caleb turned to his son, “you and Zechariah tell everyone you can about the birth of the Messiah. But get home and soon as you can and tell your mother what has happened she’ll be worried.”

“We’ll both go and see her Caleb,” Zechariah responded.

“Thank you Zechariah. And thank you for giving me back my life,” Caleb said as he walked toward the door.

Turning and facing Joseph, “Joseph we’ll be back to check on baby Jesus in a day or so,” Caleb told the young father, “and thank you for sharing him with us.”

“We’re from Nazareth Caleb and as soon as Mary and Jesus are able to we’ll be heading home. You can come and see us there if you’d like to,” Joseph answered back waving.

“Nazareth is quite a distance from here but we’ll see,” Caleb remarked turned and walked out into early morning darkness.

Although the sun was just breaking the horizon, there were many people moving in the streets so the six new evangelists told everyone they met to go the stable behind the Inn on Main Street and see the miracle.

“Why is it no one is paying attention to us Caleb?” Gibeon asked his friend.

“It’s probably because we’re untouchable,” Gamul, Gibeon’s oldest son remarked.

Caleb turned and looked at the boy, “Gamul, we may be untouchable in the eyes of others but not in the eyes of Abraham’s Father and His infant Son. You must never forget that you were one of only 8 people to witness the beginning of the end.”

“What do you mean Caleb, beginning of the end?” Gibeon questioned.

“I don’t really know my friend. Perhaps the Father of Abraham is the only one to know but the world will never be the same because the Messiah will exalt those of us considered social outcasts and will turn the world upside down. Don’t ask me how I know I just know what I know. Let’s pick up the pace the sun will be high in the sky before too long,” Caleb turned and picked up his pace.

“He doesn’t know how right he really is does he Creator?” Gabriel asked.

God simply smiled. “Will the path those shepherds walk ever cross Jesus’ path again?” the Arch Angel asked.

God instantly stopped smiling, “It will,” he replied, “Those who take part in his birth must also take part in his death there is no other way to salvation.”

Before leaving stable to proclaim the good news of Jesus’ birth Zechariah and Josiah went to the inn to get the young parents some food for their breakfast, “Is there anything else we can get for you Joseph?” Zechariah asked.

“We’ll be just fine my two new friends you’ve been so kind to us already. God has blessed Mary so we’ll be able to go for the census and then head for home,” Joseph replied.

“Are you sure the baby and mother will be okay? That doesn’t seem possible,” Josiah remarked.

“With God all things are possible Josiah,” Joseph answered, “After all you can run again can’t you? So if God can heal your leg can he not give Mary back her strength?”

All of a sudden it dawned on Josiah that he would be able to run again and a great big smile filled his face, “I’ve so much to learn and so much to be thankful for. Thank you sir,” he said to Joseph.

Joseph walked the short distance to where Josiah was sitting and putting his hand on the boys shoulder replied, “You will learn Josiah, and we thank you for your gift to our baby. You two had better be going don’t forget you told your father you’d be home for supper.”

“Thanks again my friend,” Zechariah spoke up shaking Joseph’s hand, “let’s go young man there’s a story to be told.”

Seconds later Mary and Joseph were alone in the stable, “I love you Mary,” Joseph said bending down and giving her a kiss on the forehead, “I’ll go to the census taker and return as quickly as we can.”

“And I love you too, Joseph,” Mary said in return, “we’ll be ready to leave when you return.”

For the first time Mary was alone with her new son. Watching his small chest rise and fall she bent her head over and kissed him son. He began to stir and then cry in response Mary moved him to her breast, “Father God,” she prayed, “I love you.”

Deep in her heart, she heard God say, “And I love you mother of my Son.”

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About Crusty the Christian

I am a Christian writer. I write Devotionals and I write Christian fictional stories of Jesus Christ. My books can be found on www.lulu.com/gpiper.
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