Journey To Christmas
Posted on December 26, 2017
His life had been nothing much to brag about. He had made more mistakes than he cared to remember. He often wondered why he even existed? Did his life really count? If so, then why didn’t he have anything to show for it? His friends numbered no more than the fingers on one hand and he hadn’t seen any of them in months. He never married and had no other family, so basically, he was alone in the world. Oh, he had a few treasures wrapped in the blanket that was slung over his shoulder. A drinking cup, a sling, his hunting knife, a fishing net and a small leather bag with some items Esther had given him. It wasn’t much, but it grew heavier every step that he took over the rough terrain. He chose the more difficult, less traveled path for this journey. It was best if no one recognized him. He would just as soon his past stayed in the past. He laughed out loud. Who was he kidding? It seemed he had always taken the hard road in life. Speaking ,somewhat sarcastically, into the night air as if to smooth over his poor choices before his fellow travelers, who lived only in his mind, he said,”Why should I change now? Besides, I don’t know how to do things the easy way. That would be out of character for me.” Satisfied with his assessment concerning his pattern of living, he stopped and mumbled, “Yep. That’s about it. What do you say we sleep for the night under those rocks?”
Whenever he opened his blanket, revealing his belongings, his memories of Esther were awakened. And why shouldn’t they be? She was the only one who ever really loved him and cared for him. Raising him as her own from a young child to manhood. Never having a husband chosen for her and no children of her own, he became the child and then the man in her life. As he laid down, he thought of her faithfulness. Whenever the scrolls were opened, she was there hanging on every word and memorizing all she could. Then she would recite the stories about God to him at the end of each day. She believed that every person was created by God with a special purpose in life. Of course, being named after the famous Esther who saved her people from annihilation, gave her great incentive to believe that was possible. He often thought her special purpose was finding him when he was near death, washed up on the shore after his family’s boat was broken to pieces during a storm. His parents were never found. Esther took him in as her own and from that day forth she lived her life for him. She taught him everything she knew and when she died he was barely old enough to live on his own. Because of what he learned from her, he survived. Now, nearly twenty years later, he knew his days were numbered and he wondered, had he missed his calling? His special purpose? Could God still find him useful for anything significant? Drying a tear, he confessed, “I have fallen short of Esther’s dreams for me. She had such high hopes. God must be shaking his head right now, thinking, “what a waste”.
Speaking to no one there, he said,” Well, I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m hungry!” So, he started a fire beside the rock he had claimed for the night and with net and knife in hand went down by the waterside in search of fish. He did pride himself in his ability to hunt, camp and fish well enough so he had never been to the point where he had to beg for food and on occasion he could help others who weren’t able to provide for themselves. He could start a camp fire with little of nothing. And even at his age he was strong and agile and could take care of himself against those who sought to harm him. Esther was a remarkable woman. Training him up in ways most men weren’t capable of doing. If only he could thank her for all she had done for him.
As the sun set low, he expected, at best, to return to his campsite with one small fish for his evening meal. Wading into the water a little further and then standing still and quiet, as if he were pretending to be a statue, he waited. Starting to lose patience, he glanced back toward his camp to see if his fire was still burning when he felt movement around his feet. Looking down, he hardly could believe his eyes! There were four large fish swimming around his feet! A swift movement of his net brought them up out of the water. He held them high and shouted, “Jehovah Jireh! My Provider! I asked for an evening meal and you gave me a morning meal and noon meal as well! This has never happened before!” He stood for a moment in amazement, then off he went to clean and cook his prize. He was not a Jew by birth, but Esther had given him her family name and taught him that Jehovah God was his God as well and that he should show proper respect and honor to him always.”This is a good night”, he thought to himself, as he sat with his fish over the fire, anticipating the first bite.
Hearing the sound of a hoofed animal approaching, he called out, ” Who goes there?” A man’s voice answered back through the night air, “My wife and myself, on our way to my hometown to register for the census.” With one hand on his knife and the other searching the ground for a rock that would fit nicely in his sling, he called back,”Come near my fire so I can see you.” Knowing all too well that robbers were common in this area,he waited, muscles tensing and mentally ready to spring into action if it should be necessary. As they slowly walked into the flickering light of his campfire, he relaxed. It was obvious that they meant him no harm. Actually, they were somewhat of a pitiful sight. He noticed quickly the wife was great with child. Esther had taught him all about how a woman carries a child in the womb. Remembering how she described it, he predicted that this baby was about ready to enter the world!
Esther’s sweet voice echoed through the pages of his mind. “When God blesses you with plenty, share it with someone who has little.” He smiled and said to the ragged couple,”please, would you join me for this evening meal? I caught extra fish today! Looking relieved, the man replied,”That is very kind of you. Yes, we would love to join you. We have some bread, dried fruit and olives we can add to the meal!.” He gave thanks for the food and for company of the travelers. Ester had taught him to always be very attentive to the ways of those around him because, as she would often state, “We live in perilous times!” He found that lesson in living to be quite helpful a number of times, often alerting him to the dishonest, harmful intentions of others.. As they enjoyed the meal together he assessed the man and his wife and came to the conclusion that they were honest in what they had told him earlier. He also sensed they had not been married very long for they were not all that familiar with each other’s mannerisms. Which puzzled him because the wife was most certainly ready to deliver this baby and she was obviously very uncomfortable and ready to find more accommodating quarters. Regardless, they had faith that Jehovah would see them safely to their destination. Their faith reminded him much of Esther’s. Once he felt he could trust them, he apologized for not introducing himself and said, “I am Amos.” “I am Joseph,” the man replied,” and this is my wife, Mary.” “Amos is a good Jewish name!” Joseph said, as he and Mary began preparing to leave. I was given that name after the Shepherd Prophet of old. Amos felt an uneasiness in the night air and something deep down told him to stay close to this couple. He had an eerie feeling, like there was some kind of evil struggle taking place out there in the blackness of the night. Amos spoke up just as the couple was ready to go,”Why don’t you stay here for the night? You are more than welcome, then you will be rested up for another day of travel.” Joseph and Mary conversed briefly, then Joseph replied, “We accept your gracious offer! The rest will do my wife good.” Without thinking, Joseph added,” the time is near for our son to be born.” Amos was puzzled,”how do you know this child is a boy? Oh! Thinking quickly, Joseph responded, Women have a way of knowing these things. To change the subject, he said,”we will sleep over there in front of the rocks, away from the fire a bit. Mary was feeling very warm today. Before Mary laid down to sleep, she walked over to Amos and for the first time spoke freely to him, expressing her gratitude for all he was doing for them and then she placed her hand on his shoulder, asking a blessing over him,” May the Lord of Heaven and Earth, reward you greatly for the kindness you you have shown us on this day.” Amos turned and attended the fire, not wanting to show his emotion. Mary was the first person to speak to him in that way since Esther had died.
The three of them settled in for the night.
With one last gaze at the night sky, before drifting off, Amos prayed silently,” Thank you Lord God for Esther. If not for her, I wouldn’t be alive today. And thank you for this couple from Nazareth to be my guests and keep me company. I ask your protection over them both and their child in the womb, till they reach Bethlehem.”
Before his eyes were closed, a movement in the nearby bushes alerted him. A quick glance at Joseph and Mary assured him they were already asleep. Taking his sling in one hand and his knife in the other, Amos quietly rolled out of the light of the campfire where his eyes could adjust to the darkness. He focused intently on the bushes where he had heard the stirring. He could faintly make out the silhouettes of two men moving toward Joseph and Mary. One man was holding a large stone over his shoulder and the other held out to his side what looked to be a long knife. Without making a sound, Amos reached to the ground, finding a stone to fit his sling. He stood and released it. The stone found it’s target, striking the first man in the side of his head! He groaned and feel to the ground. The second man turned to run as Amos threw another stone by hand, striking him in the middle of the back. The man staggered, dropped his knife, then caught his balance and disappeared into the night. The first man sprang to his feet and ran off the other direction. Joseph heard the commotion and awoke in time to see the men running off. “Robbers!” Amos said with disgust.” Then he asked Joseph,”is there any reason someone would not want you to reach Bethlehem or want to cause harm to you and your wife?” Shaking his head, Joseph responded,”Not that I am aware of, however, I will tell you this. “The child Mary is carrying is very important and must be protected at all cost.” Amos didn’t quite understand all that, but then, he supposed every child was important to their parents. The two agreed they would take turns keeping watch through the night. Amos said to Joseph,” I am traveling to the town just beyond Bethlehem. I will walk with you tomorrow, but a short distance ahead so I can alert you to any danger along the way. The two men shook hands. Joseph thought of how fortunate he and Mary were to have come across a man as trustworthy and capable as Amos.
Returning to the campsite, they found Mary still sleeping. Amos spoke softly, “She must be exhausted… She is so young.” Joseph nodded and replied,”Yes, but her unwavering faith and trust in the Lord God is well beyond her years. I am blessed to have her as my wife.” I learn much from her every day. I am humbled to have been chosen to be her husband. I will do whatever it takes to protect her and our child and provide for them as long as God allows me to live.” Amos was moved by the faith of this couple and their strong devotion to each other.
The bright morning sun brought promise of a new day away from the dangers of the night. Amos was on watch at sunrise so he gathered some berries to go with the food that Joseph and Mary had brought with them.
As Amos was putting the last of the fire out a poisonous viper suddenly emerged from the ashes, slithering directly toward Mary! “Joseph!” Amos cried out. With one strong swing of his walking stick Joseph slung the viper away from them. Amos quickly picked up the large stone the robber had dropped the night before and heaved it, crushing the viper’s head! Shaking, Mary asked,”Where did that come from?” “From out of the ashes!” Amos exclaimed, “I’ve never seen anything like that happen!” They were all silent for a few moments and Amos spoke up,”I think we need to keep moving until we reach Bethlehem.” “Mary, are you up to that?” Joseph asked. Mary nodded emotionally, in agreement.
A long day of travel would bring them to Bethlehem by nightfall. Not the best time to arrive in a town where you have no family or friends living there anymore to help you settle in, especially in Mary’s condition.
As they began their last day together, determined to reach Bethlehem, Amos felt a deep sense of responsibility to see this couple and their baby safely to Bethlehem. He believed there was some force much darker than anything he had experienced before trying to stop Mary from having this child. For the first time in his life he had a purpose that was worth dying for.
Amos walked ahead about twenty paces, but when there seemed to be no danger he would fall back and walk along side of Joseph and Mary. He knew them only one day, yet he felt he could trust them with anything. He shared with them how Esther had saved him from near death and taken him in, raising him and teaching him all she knew. Joseph in turn shared with Amos that Mary had become with child before they were married, so even though they knew this trip would be very difficult on Mary, it was somewhat of a relief to have left Nazareth, where they were looked down upon because of their situation.
The closer they were to Bethlehem, the more turbulent the atmosphere became. It was as if a mighty battle was taking place all around them. One they could not see or hear. Their legs became heavy as if someone was trying to pull them backwards. As the sun dropped out of sight, flickering lights came into view. “We are almost there”, said Amos, in hopes of encouraging Mary. “Joseph!” Cried Mary,”This baby is coming soon! You must find a room for me and someone to help with the birthing!” Amos ran toward Bethlehem. Yelling back,”I will find a place for you!”
Reluctantly, Amos met the couple at the edge of town and said to them, “Everything is full in town because of the census! No one will offer you any place to stay.” Mary began to weep. “There is a man, Amos added, not far up who said we could use his stable, down the hill behind his house. He has a lantern we can borrow and I found a woman who is warming some water for us and will give us some clean cloths. I’m so sorry I could not find a room.” Mary screamed! “There’s no time! Get me to the stable fast!” Amos led the couple to the stable then ran for the water and cloths and lantern. Arriving back at the stable he found Joseph cleaning a stall the best he could, looking frantic as he anticipated the arrival of the baby in such a dirty place. Mary was in much pain and Amos knew time was running out. Leaving the water and cloths by Mary’s side, he said reassuringly,”I will stand guard just outside the stable for the rest of the night… If you need anything, call me.”
The night air grew cold and the gentle breeze became gusts coming first from one direction and then another. to his left Amos heard a pack of wolves howling nearby that seemed to be drawing closer! To his right he heard a sound that he was certain came from a wild boar preparing to charge! He had two small stones in his sling and his knife in hand. He stood poised as a soldier on the front line of battle, ready for whatever comes next. Then suddenly the wind stopped and animals were silent. Amos held his breath, not knowing what to expect. Out of the silence came the most beautiful sound he had ever heard. The cry of a newborn baby! With his back against the post of the stable, he slide down to the ground and cried out,”Thank you Lord!” He listened to the sweet sounds of the baby and Joseph and Mary laughing and then crying and then laughing again. “It’s a boy, Amos!” Joseph shouted. “Imagine that!” Amos replied back with a laugh. “Come and see him, Amos.”Mary called out in a soft voice. “I’ll give you two some time. I’ll be there in a bit.”He answered emotionally.
Amos closed his eyes, remembering Esther’s words as she told him about when the great Esther of old was about to approach the King to ask him to save her people. Mordecai, who raised her, said to her,”Perhaps you were born for such a time as this.” Now, for the first time, Amos felt he could claim those words as his own!
He was startled by the sounds of footsteps and men’s voices approaching the stable! “Who goes there?” Asked Amos. One of men spoke,”We are shepherds from the field just outside of town.” They stopped when they saw Amos facing them with a weapon in each hand. Another man spoke up,”An angel appeared to us in the sky proclaiming a Savior is born tonight in the city of David and we would find him lying in a manger. We have come to see him! Is he in there?” Mary cried out,” Let them come in. It’s OK” One by one, with great reverence, the shepherds entered the stable. It was the most awesome sight Amos had ever seen. Some of the shepherds knelt before the child, heads bowed. Others stood back with hands raised, praising God! Mary spotted an older man who had not entered the stable. She motioned for him to come to her. In a broken voice he said,”I am not worthy to be here.” Fixing her eyes upon the man, Mary said gently,”Because of this child, all people can be worthy. Come and touch him.” With tears streaming down his face the old man shuffled slowly through the straw toward Mary. He reached down and softly touched the baby. He turned and fell into the straw, sobbing. Amos stood by, taking it all in. Hardly believing what he was seeing. The shepherds left the stable, glorifying and praising God for all they had seen and heard! Amos brought his small leather bag into the stable and knelt in the straw before Mary, Joseph and the baby. He pulled out a strip of cloth that Esther had written on her favorite words from the ancient Prophets. Amos searched the small writing until he found what he was looking for. He stood in the light of the lantern and proclaimed,” From the words of the prophet, Isaiah, For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given. He will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace!”
Of course, this story of Amos is not found in the Bible. He lives only in my imagination. However, Joseph and Mary must have come in to contact with many people as they journeyed to Christmas. We know, as well, from the scripture that the angels of God were in a fierce battle with the forces of darkness as they attempted to kill the Christ child and stop the birth of Christ from taking place in Bethlehem. Glory be to God! For Satan was defeated and the prophecies of the birth of Christ stand fulfilled and the Christ child has become the Savior of the world! Hallelujah!
This Christmas season, just as Amos discovered his purpose in God’s sovereign plan, may we survey all the Lord has given us and the people he has placed in our lives and may we find that we also, have been born for such a time as this.
Merry Christmas! Bob
Such a good reminder of the realness of the Christmas story. Thank you for sharing your inner characters; this is beautiful. -Tessa