Christmas in Their Shoes: The Wise Men

We study the stars. We note when new stars appear. Their position in the sky, the constellations they are a part of, their interaction with the planets. The night the star appeared, we took note. It outshined all the others, even the moon. It remained constant, always in the same place, unlike the other stars who dance across the night sky. When dawn approached, and the star did not fade, we knew this was no ordinary star, but a sign from the cosmos that something big was about to happen that would change the world. We consulted our records, never had there been anything like this. We then consulted other sources trying to figure out what was happening. Finally we found a prophecy in the Jewish Septuagint stating that a Star would arise out of Jacob, and a king shall arise out of Israel. This could only mean that this was the star of the prophecy.

We gathered our supplies and headed west, towards Israel to meet this king.

Upon arrival in Israel, we went to the place where we expected a king to be, the palace in Jerusalem. What we found at the palace was King Herod, the ruler of the Jews as appointed by the Roman government, who answered to the governor stationed in Capernaum. We asked if he knew about any newborn king of the Jews, since there was obviously no child to be seen. Herod was most helpful; he called the chief priests and Jewish scholars together to get this information. However, he seemed really uncomfortable discussing the topic with us. We were told that the child was to be born in Bethlehem. Herod at this point invited us to return to him when we had found the child so that he too could go to him.

As we traveled the star stayed put, almost as if guiding us to the child. When we reached Bethlehem, the star played a game of hot and cold with us the closer we got the brighter the star became and likewise the farther we got the dimmer the star became. When we finally found the child each of us bowed and offered a gift, which we realized later must have seemed morbid to his parents. One was a gift of Gold, something that any king would have wanted. The other two gifts, Frankincense and Myrrh, however, were extremely expensive and were used mainly for burial rituals.

As we left Bethlehem to return to King Herod, we stopped to rest for the night. The next morning we discovered we had all had the same dream, an angel warning us not to return to Herod. His intentions were not only to visit, but to kill the child, thus securing his reign over the Jews. We changed course and decided to head home by a different route than we had come from.

It was years later when news reached us of what had happened as a result of that decision. Herod had ordered all boys under the age of two within the Bethlehem area to be slaughtered. We wondered if the child and his parents had escaped the carnage. There was no way to find out.

Fifty years had passed when those who were left from the journey received news of an uproar in the Roman Empire. A new way of thinking was spreading like wildfire. They called themselves the Way and followed the teaching of a man who claimed to be the Son of God. The Romans had crucified their leader twenty years earlier, yet only three days later, his followers claimed that he had risen from the dead and forty days after that ascended into heaven, promising to return. They claimed that He offered a new way to salvation, a new covenant for all people, even those whom the Jews called Gentiles. We could not help but wonder if the man who followers of the Way described was none other than the child we had visited so many long years ago.

Christmas in Their Shoes: the Shepherds

He came out of nowhere.

We were keeping watch over our herds, making sure that no sheep were missing and that nothing got to them. All kinds of things lurk in the night, wild cat, wolves, and bandits, unseen dangers as the sheep walked about in the dark. It’s our job to protect them. Every evening we counted the sheep to make sure they were all accounted for. It is very tempting not to fall asleep on the job. However, there was to be no sleeping on that night.

Out of the blue, a man appeared among us in a flash of bright white light. He seemed to be speaking directly to us. “Do not fear,” he told us, “I bring good news that will be for all the people.” It was hard not to fear, but the good news was more confusing. “The Savior, the Messiah, has been born in the city of David.” That got our attention. Four Hundred years we had waited for something like this, for someone to finally rescue us from the Romans. The man gave us directions and what to look for.

We sensed that we were surrounded by something, having lived in the wild with our flocks. At that moment we could see and hear what surrounded us. None of us had ever heard such beautiful music, nor will any of us hear it again in our lifetimes singing praises to Yahweh.

As quickly as it had happened, it was all over. The light vanished and the hillsides went back to the darkness of night. That night all of us took off for Bethlehem, the City of David. We felt there was no other option but to investigate what the man whom we know knew was no ordinary man but an angel of the LORD. We left our flocks, not worried about their safety, somehow sensing that they would be protected in our absence.

When we went to Bethlehem, what we found was not what we were expecting. We did not find a babe in stately room with servants and the like, but a babe lying in a stone manger, in a cave surrounded by his parents and all sorts of livestock. The babe seemed to glow that night in his mother’s arms.

His parents, again not what we expected. They were a young newlywed couple, obviously not of royalty as we expected; the father’s hands looked calloused, like those of a skilled laborer not the soft hands of the upper class who had never had a hard day’s work in his life. The Mother, a young girl not yet out of her teens.

We returned to the fields that night in joyous celebration, stopping everyone we came across what we had seen and heard that night. Some believed our story; others we could tell were debating our credibility. After all, we are shepherds second lowest in society’s eyes, right next to the tax collectors.

If this child was indeed the long awaited Messiah, then Yahweh must have a sense of humor. A baby, save the world, delivers his people from their agony? How? It’s such a strange way to do so, but who are we to question Yahweh? The creator of the universe, the one who led us to freedom from Egypt, Saved his people through Esther’s courage. Yahweh has a plan, albeit a strange one, but a plan for the good of all humanity.

Christmas in Their Shoes: The Innkeeper

I will always remember that night. The night I swore if I heard another knock on the door I was going to kill someone. We were packed beyond capacity. Every nook and cranny had someone in it to the point that I could not see the floor. The people just kept coming; you would think that Bethlehem was Jerusalem at Festival time. Now that is a spectacle to see. Of course being forced to return to ancestral hometown by the Roman Emperor did not help the situation any.

Sometimes I wish the Messiah would come and relieve us from the oppression that the Romans have put us under. We, the people of Israel, used to rule ourselves, independent of anyone from the outside. That is until King Hezekiah foolishly showed those Babylonians everything…

I digress, where was I? O right, that night. Anyway I heard the last thing I wanted to hear, a pounding at the door. I opened the door and when I saw that it was a man looking for a room, I almost told him there were no rooms left, but there was something different about this man. I felt that there was a presence about him, and then I saw what I took to be his wife was pregnant. I told him to wait there. Why did I do that? We were crowded enough besides having to do with someone having a baby in the middle of it. I asked my wife what we could do. I thought of the stables out back and my wife went to “prepare” it as best as she could. I returned to the door and told the couple what I had. They seemed grateful for that much. It was obvious they had tried other locations with no such luck.

Later that night I heard a commotion in the streets and peered outside to see shepherds running though the streets yelling that the Messiah had been born. I wondered if it could possibly be the child that had been born in my stable. The parents did not seem to have a kingly vibe to them. If they were indeed royalty then I had done them a grave injustice in giving them my stable to stay in. They deserved the best treatment. Then the thought occurred to me “What kind of king associates himself with shepherds?” They’re lowlifes, nobodies, and the bottom of society, just above tax collectors. I dismissed any thought of that child being the Messiah.

Christmas in Their Shoes: Joseph

When Mary first returned from visiting Elizabeth, it was hard not to notice that something was different. For one there was a bulge at her midsection. Then there was her story that she had been visited by an angel from Yahweh and that what obviously was a child had been conceived by the Spirit of God. Everyone thought that she had gone crazy or was covering for the man.

I was furious; I was pledged to be married to this woman. I could have her stoned for her actions if I so chose. Out of love, I decided to break off the engagement quietly. However the night before I was planning on doing so an angel appeared to me in a dream. He confirmed Mary’s story and told me that the child would save his people from their sins.

Then the decree from Augustus Caesar, the Roman Emperor that everyone should return to their ancestral hometown to be counted for a census reached our ears. Funny, it came not long after Quirinius took over as governor of the region. That meant Mary and I would have to travel to Bethlehem, the city of David. Strange now that I think of it, both Mary and I can trace our lineage back to David. Anyway, it was a long trip and Mary was getting closer to birth as the days went by. We left as soon as I could make the arrangements.

As we approached Bethlehem, I could tell that it was going to be difficult to find a proper place for the child to be born. I began searching the minute we arrived, but everyone turned me down. Except one, an innkeeper who saw that Mary was due any minute and allowed us to his stable. My pride took a hit as the innkeeper led us to a cave out behind the inn. This was no place for a child to be born, yet it was the only place. Not long after, the child arrived.

As I looked into the eyes of the child, my pride was restored. Our firstborn, a son, the patriarch of my family if something were to happen to me. The child that I would watch take his first steps, teach all my trade secrets of carpentry to, would inherit a double portion, the blessing of firstborn, the one that would be offered up to Yahweh as the law demands.

My mind returned to the words of the angel, this child would save his people from their sins. What could this possibly mean? How could a child save the world? What was in store for this child as he grew into manhood?

Am I prepared to raise a child, a child that I did not bring into this world except in delivery?

Christmas in Their Shoes: Mary

If you told me a few years ago that I would be living in Egypt fleeing for my son’s life, I would have thought you were telling a crazy story about someone else. In fact, if you had told me any of what has happened I would have thought you were nuts.

It all started on a day like any other, I was going about my daily business when out of the blue, Gabriel appeared. I have to admit it was quite a shock. What was even more shocking was the news that he brought. Me, a young pledged to be married girl from Nazareth, to give birth to the Messiah? I had to be what, fourteen, fifteen at the time and was still a virgin. Still I had favor with Yahweh to the point where he wanted me to give birth to His son. I am His servant, may his will be done.

I also received news from Gabriel that my relative Elizabeth was going to have a child. That was a bit of a shock as well. She had been barren for so many years. I decided that I needed to go see her, to tell her the news from Yahweh. I was there about three months before I headed home.

After my return home, things got ugly. I had not told anyone about Gabriel’s appearance or the message he had given me. Who would believe me? I was already showing signs of the baby. My family was not happy to see that. It brought great shame on them. They still believed that I had slept with another man besides Joseph, my fiancé, and become pregnant, a sin punishable by stoning according the Law of Moses and a horrible way to die. It took all my strength to convince Joseph that I had done nothing of the sort and ultimately Gabriel appeared to him in a dream, affirming my story and that we were to name the child Jesus. Joseph took me back and we were married, however we did not have sex until after Jesus was born.

Shortly afterward, the Roman Emperor decided to take a census, forcing everyone to return to their ancestral hometown. In our case we had to go to Bethlehem, the hometown of King David. It was a long and painful journey to take, especially on the back of a donkey and being pregnant at the time.

By the time we reached Bethlehem, it was late and the city was bulging at the seams with people. It was also the night that the baby decided it was to be born. Joseph frantically searched for a place to stay, a room for the child to be born in. He returned with news that he had found something. He led the donkey past the inn, past the rooms and other buildings to a cave carved to be a stable of sorts. I have to admit it wasn’t pleasant, but it was better than the open wilderness or the streets as many others were forced to do.

When my son was born, I wrapped in the warmest cloth we had and used the manger as crib. It was hard to believe that I was holding Yahweh’s Son.

There was a knock at the opening of the cave. Joseph went to see who it was. He returned with a group of shepherds who had come in from the country side. They claimed that a great host of angels had told them that they would find the Messiah here and had come to see if it was true. I picked Jesus out of the manger and allowed them to see him.

Time went by and Joseph decided to stay in Bethlehem. He was a carpenter by trade and found work. Once the crowds died down he found a room for us to stay in. A few years went by when another peculiar event happened. A group of what appeared to be very wealthy men showed up at our door. It was clear that they had traveled a long way and claimed to follow a star to this location. They proclaimed great things about Jesus and left some odd gifts. Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh. Not your typical gifts to give a toddler, in fact they’re not used at all except in burial.

Not long after this Joseph dreamed that King Herod was out to kill our child and that we were to flee to Egypt to await Herod’s death.

I’m still not sure what this all could mean for our future, but I am sure that Yahweh will protect us and eventually bring us back to Nazareth.