Noel~ Glory; Strange Campaign; While Mortals Sleep
Zadok, Elias, Cephas, and half a dozen other shepherds burrowed into their fleece vests as the fierce wind tugged on their tunics. “If only we could light a decent fire,” Elias muttered.
“Not tonight,” Zadok, chief shepherd, cautioned. “The wind is too strong. We wouldn’t be able to keep it under control even if we could light it.”
“Well then, “ Cephas lazily reached out his crook to poke a wayward lamb. “How about a story?”
“Your stories all start with the same source—a wine jug!” Another shepherd snorted.
Cephas waved off the criticism. “One night, I was sitting here, keeping watch like always,”
“Over a wine jug—“ The same voice interrupted.
“When I saw something in the sky.” Cephas pointed to the horizon. “Right there, I saw—“ he stopped abruptly, staring into the sky. “I do see something!”
The others ignored him.
“And what’s that sound?”
Cephas’s wayward lamb bleated suddenly, leaping back to its’ mother.
And the night sky changed.
None of the nine could say for sure what happened at that moment. Was it a light? A voice?
Zadok cowered on the ground, a tiny speck of humanity weighed down by the weight of heaven’s glory. All his failures pressed upon his heart, blotting out any scraps of righteousness he might have proclaimed. Though no prophet, his heart echoed the cry of the prophet Isaiah centuries before him. Woe is me! I am undone!
“Do not be afraid.”
Something like a shaft of silver light cut through Zadok’s darkness, raising him from Sheol’s depths.
“There is born to you this day, in the City of David, a Savior, Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you; you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”
The great voice was joined by an endless harmony. “Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth, peace and goodwill towards men.”
The words echoed in the shepherds’ ears. “Peace and goodwill to men.”
Then the sky was empty, sprinkled only with stars.
Elias spoke first. “Let’s go find this Messiah!”
Zadok nodded in agreement. “We’ll have to take the sheep with us, though. We can’t leave them alone.”
Cephas staggered to his feet. “I…I…what happened here?”
“A miracle,” one of them answered.
This is the only story not directly inspired by a specific song. If there is any one source for it, it would be our youth pastor’s sermon last week. He spoke of how the glory the shepherds experienced was not merely light, but the presence of the Holy God. What would it be like to stand beneath the unmediated wrath of God?
Joshua Davidson leaned towards his campaign manager Gabe Engel. “Who’s running for office here, you or me?”
“You,” Gabe admitted. “But look, there’s no way you’ll win with these strategies. Your official announcement of candidacy, for example—you’re holding it in Fargo, North Dakota! Not Los Angeles. Not Washington D.C. Not Chicago. Fargo!”
“It’s not as cold as you think it is, Gabe. Especially not in August.” Joshua grinned. “What about my guest list? Have you contacted everyone?”
“That’s another problem!” Gabe threw up his hands. “An unwed teenage mother and a construction worker? I know everyone wants to cater to Middle America but that’s just too far.”
“Who’s in charge?”
“You. But your keynote speakers are a pig farmer and a member of the religious right. They’ll laugh you out of town—if they even pay any attention to them. The press contacts you have—I’ve never even heard of them. No one will take them seriously even if they show up.” Gabe pounded the table. “Joshua, I respect you as a man of integrity. But you’ll never win this way. People want excitement and flowery promises, commitment to change.”
“Oh, things will change.” Joshua looked out the window. “But when people ask for change, their eyes aren’t always open to what that will mean.”
At first, this may not appear to be a Christmas story. But the names of the characters may provide a clue. ‘Gabe’ is short for Gabriel, and Engel is a German surname meaning angel. As for Joshua Davidson…Yeshua is a Hebrew name meaning salvation. The Greek translation can be Joshua…or Jesus.
Such a strange way, this is
Such a strange way
A strange way to save the world
A strange way to save the world
While Mortals Sleep
Aaron awoke to the uneasy bleat of a nervous goat. “Shut up,” he mumbled, spiting out a mouthful of straw stubble. “Can’t you let a boy get some sleep?” He burrowed deeper into the stable’s pile of straw, preferring the stink of goats and chickens to the freezing cold outside. Through chinks in the thatched roof, Aaron could see scattered stars in the midnight sky.
A chicken snapped up some choice mite it found in the straw. The goat seemed to stare at the boy. “What is it?” He emerged from his straw burrow and crept to the door, wincing at the protesting hinges. As his eyes adjusted to the half-moon’s light, Aaron saw a figure walking down the road.
What was someone doing out at this hour of the night? Curiosity splashed in Aaron’s face like a bucket of icy water. He looked behind him at the goat, which turned away and began munching from Aaron’s vacant bed of hay.
Aaron gingerly closed the door behind him and crept after the stranger.
The man strode quickly down the road to a snug cottage. He went up to the door and knocked three times. Tap. Tap. Tap.
No one answered.
The stranger sighed and turned away.
Aaron trailed after the stranger, darting between tree trunks and peeking out. The man tried two more houses with the same response. When no one answered, the stranger turned and looked at the tree Aaron hid behind. “Come out. Don’t be afraid, Aaron.”
The boy stepped out, blinking at the stranger. “How do you know my name? What are you doing here?”
“Looking for people who are ready for adventure.”
“In the middle of the night?” Aaron raised an eyebrow.
“Adventures often come at the most inconvenient times.” He eyed Aaron. “What about you?”
“An adventure? It sounds exciting.” A piece of straw tickled Aaron’s nose. “But I…I—acHOOO!”
“Bless you,” the stranger replied. “As I was saying, would you be interested.”
“I’m nobody special,” Aaron looked down at his feet. “I snuck into the stable for a warm place to sleep…I don’t even belong here.”
“Neither do I,” The man laid his hand on Aaron’s shoulder. “I was born in a stable. There was no room for my mother when she went into labor, just as there often is no room for my ways in people’s hearts.”
Aaron cocked his head. “I’d like to go an adventure with you. When would it start?”
The stranger laughed. “Why, it started when the goat woke you up.”
“That’s a funny way to start an adventure,” Aaron replied. “Most stories begin with ‘once upon a time.’”
“But this is a very special story.”
Oh Bethlehem, what you have missed while you were sleeping
For God became a man
And stepped into your world today
Oh Bethlehem, you will go down in history
As a city with no room for its King
This Casting Crowns song struck me during my church’s Christmas musical. Not only did it make me think of what people missed on that first Christmas, it also reminded me of my National Novel Writing Month story, Three Dark Roses, for it too has a King who people ignored because he came quietly. Furthermore, while looking up the lyrics, I found two other verses; one about the ‘silent night’ when Jesus conquered death at Jerusalem, and another about Jesus’ return.
United States of America
Looks like another silent night
As we're sung to sleep by philosophies
That save the trees and kill the children
And while we're lying in the dark
There's a shout heard 'cross the eastern sky
For the Bridegroom has returned
And has carried His bride away in the night
America, what will we miss while we are sleeping?
Will Jesus come again
And leave us slumbering where we lay?
America, will we go down in history
As a nation with no room for its King?
Will we be sleeping?
Will we be sleeping?