A Caravan to Bethlehem

Christmas season has come round again and again we’re hearing the story of Jesus’ birth. However, over the centuries since the Apostle Matthew and “Luke, the beloved physician” penned their accounts of the nativity, many bits and pieces have been added to the initial tale. A heartless innkeeper, sheep and cows, a cold winter’s night, a littlest angel, a drummer boy.

We hear about Joseph and Mary making their lonely trek into Jerusalem with Mary riding on their donkey. Picturesque, but unbelievable. There’s actually no donkey in the Christmas story, which doesn’t say Mary didn’t ride one, but basically the donkey is an add-on. But the story of the “Good Samaritan” illustrates the very real danger of people traveling alone, especially on a dark night. Thieves jumped the merchant, robbed him, beat him and left him to die. The Samaritan rescued him. Because of this danger, very likely Joseph and Mary were in a caravan together with many other travelers headed for Bethlehem that night, all obeying Caesar’s command.

At the Christmas season we often hear, in one form or another, the story of the three wise men who traveled from “the East” or the Orient, to see the Baby Jesus. Again, you get the idea of three men – and I’m not sure how the number three got into the story – starting out across the desert bearing precious gifts. Legend has even attached names to the three.

Again, picturesque, but… Assuming they left Babylon and took a familiar route across the desert, and assuming the locals knew something about their trek – and their treasures – how far would these three brave souls have gotten all alone before thieves attacked them? In all probability they were traveling in a large group for safety sake. In reality, any kind of nobility or ambassador, at any point in history, traveled with his retinue of servants, helpers, in this case camel drivers, and at least a few bodyguards.

Bible scholars have always felt that the wise men, maybe a dozen or two, plus their retinue, would have made up a significant caravan. One that would have discouraged robbers. And this caravan, arriving at Jerusalem and inquiring for “he that is born king of the Jews” would have made quite a splash. Not just three fellows showing up at the palace with a tale of following a star.

But wait! Here again, the Bible doesn’t say they followed the star. It says they saw his star in the East. They realized this star, according to old Jewish prophecy, indicated the birth of a ruler in Israel. So they headed for the capital city. Ambassadors do that. Nobility does that. They head for the capital and want to meet with the head of whatever state they’re visiting. Where would you look for an infant king but in the palace? But when King Herod found out from the Jewish wise men where the baby would be born, he told the foreign dignities and off they went in the direction of Bethlehem.

“When they had heard the king, they departed, and lo, the star which they saw in the east went before them till it came and stood over the place where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.” Matthew 2: 9-10

This brings me to a rather sad part of the Christmas story, something the Bible doesn’t say. When the wise men left Jerusalem they continued on alone. Even though they’d announced the fulfillment of an old prophecy, the birth of a king, and the Jewish scribes had told them where the child should be found, we see no caravan of Jewish leaders, scribes or priests on the road to Bethlehem. The ones who claimed to be eagerly awaiting the Messiah didn’t rush to Bethlehem to greet him. The caravan of wise men hadn’t impressed them enough; they were still going to wait and see.

Ragtag Daily Prompt: CARAVAN

(Image credit: No-Longer-Here at Pixabay)

A Christmas Prayer

Snow image: Gerd Altmann — Pixabay
by Robert Louis Stevenson

 Loving Father,
 help us remember the birth of Jesus,
 that we may share in the song of the angels,
 the gladness of the shepherds,
 and worship of the wise men.
 Close the door of hate
 and open the door of love all over the world.
 Let kindness come with every gift
 and good desires with every greeting.
 Deliver us from evil by the blessing
 which Christ brings,
 and teach us to be merry with clear hearts.

 May the Christmas morning
 make us happy to be thy children,
 and Christmas evening bring us to our beds
 with grateful thoughts,
 forgiving and forgiven,
 for Jesus’ sake.

The Small Joys in Our Lives

The Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning is JOY, which is a very fitting word for the season. We’ve been hearing all about joy this past week, as we’ve been listening to Christmas programs put on by various of our parochial schools across North America. Two nights ago we heard the one from Buhl, Idaho; last night we listened to the school program from Lime Springs, Iowa – and after that, Christmas songs by our own school children here.

Though we can’t visit these schools in person to hear the carols and stories told, thanks to the technology of streaming we can get in on the joyful celebration surrounding the birth of Jesus, the hope and light of all the world. We still get a thrill as we hear the children singing the old familiar carols and also enjoy the new ones being introduced each year.

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 Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:10-11

The angel’s message still circles the globe and floods this old world with hope. God has reached down to man in the form of Jesus Christ; we can be reconciled to our Creator. Also, we now have Jesus’ teachings and example of living in peace with our fellow humans.

Naturally speaking, joy may not be the first word that comes to mind. Because the incidence of COVID -19 has been on the rise in our province, restrictions are tightening up more and more. Families won’t be gathering if private homes are limited to five people at a time.

With more restrictions starting Dec 26th, or traditional Boxing Day sales will likely be rather a fizzle this year. According to space-per-person guidelines, only so many people will be allowed into stores at a time – and if it’s cold enough, folks aren’t apt to stand around outside waiting to get in. Most of us, if we’re honest, will admit that we have enough stuff now, but I hope our merchants can weather this storm. All this gives us a special joy to look forward to next year: the time when Covid-19 is a thing of the past.

For us right now, the kitten we found on our doorstep a month ago – such a lively little puffball – has brought many smiles and small joys into our lives. We’re so thankful we discovered him there before Angus could chase him away and/or something awful happened to him.

Tuffy looks quite much like this.
Image by Ben Scherjon at Pixabay

Book: The Christmas Sweater

The Christmas Sweater: A Short Story for Christmas by [Janice L. Dick]

The Christmas Sweater
by Janice L Dick

If you want a nice relaxing, interesting read over the holidays — or in January when a blizzard sweeps down and you’re snowed in, check out The Christmas Sweater: A Short Story for Christmas, by Janice L Dick

Jeanne, recently widowed, is dreading her first Christmas alone, but tends to cocoon herself in her grief. Until an old school friend moves back to town — right next door. And she shows up frequently just to chat. Using their past friendship and a good bit of prodding, Debbie gets Jeanne out of those old sweats she’s been dragging around the house in, out of feeling sorry for herself, and back into life.

While Debbie’s friendship proves invaluable to Jeanne, there comes a time when Debbie has to draw support from Jeanne’s friendship as she faces her own trials. It is a great short story about how friends can help and encourage one another.

The Bedazzled Shopper

The Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning is EVANESCENT

The primary meaning of this word, according to the Oxford Dictionary:
soon passing out of sight, memory, or existence; quickly fading or disappearing.

Which makes me think of last Christmas. Do you remember it? So this quickly composed verse shall be my response to the prompt.

The Bedazzled Shopper

Whither fled the season
of good cheer, holly and ivy,
red bows and candle glows
and don’t be a Scrooge,
spend, spend, spend!

How did the tinselled trees,
twinkling lights and
red bows vanish evanescently
in December’s puff and stuff?
A distant memory now

as to my wondering eyes appear
all these chicks, fluffy cute,
and pastel plastic eggs
pulled from their nest in
stockrooms, with the signs
Sale! Sale! Sale!