(A first Christmas today)
Looking on the events of the day, and those unfolding, the scene would not seem so remarkable if you did not stop and listen. Travelling along the road is a ‘tradie’ with his heavily pregnant wife…we presume. His ute has seen better days, but seems reliable enough, I mean it still goes.
He, like others around here, are probably on the road as the government has decided to do its census, and rather than use online technology, they have actually made people go to where there family belong…so probably an interstate trip for this duo…they look like southerners.
As I look on, it is obvious they are looking to find a room in our local town, but don’t fancy there chances. With the census, and also the local derby on, the hotels would be booked out…even the few Airbnb places…as this is not exactly a holiday destination. Pausing for one last look, silently I wish them all the best, and decide to get back to work…and my father’s farm.
The night was still…peculiar in away…I could not quite put my finger on it but it seemed like the atmosphere had suddenly changed, like it does during our normal summer storms, but there were no clouds. While most people were bunking down for the night, or filling out there census forms, we were out in the paddocks looking for a few lost cows and their calves. Times were tough and we could not afford to lose some of the better milkers. As an area, the once prosperous farming industry was faltering, and the main livelihood of the town suffering. There is talk of trying to stimulate new industries, all very well and good, but in the meanwhile there are cattle to be found.
So as to not spook the animal with motorbikes or utes at night, we were walking along the hill tops, presuming they would be hiding in the valley. My brothers and I paused to take a breath, sitting down on nearby tree stump. As we did the sounds around us quietened even further. We were about to jump up, and walk back down the hill, but somehow it seemed best to wait just a little longer. Just then the night seemed to give way to a curious light…perhaps a full moon making a late arrival. However, the light seemed to have a focus, and brightened over the top of the hill. Rather than think these were passing headlights, we decided to climb back up the hill..as we came of the top, the light suddenly became fiercely bright, and almost unbearable..but yet we continued to be drawn in.
The voice coming from the light was like a song, but with multiple tones, like a flowing brook. Suddenly, I became so conscience of how small we seemed to be amongst the night sky. Almost as those thoughts crossed my mind, a voice spoke with certainty, but softness, and said, “Do not be afraid, I bring goods news of amazing joy, which will be to all people”. We looked at each other, as if to acknowledge we all heard that, and turning back the light became in appearance the brightest form of a man, but with wings..and power.
Now we could even see a smile in this heavenly being, and he continued, “For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: you will find a Babe wrapped in a baby blanket and jacket, lying in a feed trough”.
Suddenly the skies were filled with so many of these heavenly beings, read angels, and the night disappeared altogether, and it was all we could do to remain standing..some couldn’t. Then this chorus broke forth, imvoking praises to God, and saying: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, and goodwill toward men!”.
The praises sounded so wonderful, and although it was another classic summer night, the brightness of the angels, and their song, drew you in like a wood fire on a cold winters night, and all you wanted to do was soak in its warmth. However suddenly, almost as quickly as they appeared, they were gone, and we were left there buzzing like we had been zapped by lightning, and perhaps just a little dumb struck.
After a while, my oldest brother started to say something…the silence was broken. He began talking of the old prophecies he had learnt in Sunday school regarding a promised Saviour, the Christ, and how He was to come and save us, but he was not sure what that all meant. Jim, our work experience student, chimed in with the clarity of the promise which was to save us from our sins, and bring us in to a forever place with God, where there was no illness or crying. All I could recall was the old story about the King who reigns forever….and remember the tradie and his wife, who I had seen knocking at the door of the local motel, she was pregnant.
Of course there was know doubt to us they were referring to the nearby town of Bethlehem named after some other place overseas, which was founded by the old pioneer David Branch. So still buzzing, we hot footed it to the utes nearby carrying two of the calves we had found, and made off to the nearby town. As we headed down the road we could not believe we had seen this, and wondered why just some farm hands were chosen to hear this rather than the fancy religious people we see some times on TV in the early hours of the morning, or during the annual festivals, or perhaps even the local Mayor or Premier.
In our rush we had not really thought about where we should go, but then as if out of nowhere we noticed this really bright star ahead of us, shining brightly above and behind the town. It seemed to be almost hovering above the old farm stay holiday place of Bethel, so we headed in that direction. It seemed to make sense to me as if it was that couple I had seen earlier, perhaps this was one of the few places they could have found to stay…but boy it was a bit run down…and a odd place for this Christ, the Saviour of the world, to be born.
It was not long before we were there, and the star oddly had not moved…bizarre…so we were convinced we were on to something. We were still full of an adrenaline rush, so pushed on through the gate to the owners house to see if they knew of a place where a baby was born…but then we realised the noise we were making might wake up the Babe, so we tried to move a bit more quietly. Our haste meaning the utes were still running, and the doors open…we must have been excited! As we approached the house we noticed a barn out the back of the surrounding paddock, and from it some low sounds, sounding like voices..and animals. A strange glow emanating from the door…perhaps an old kero lamp.
As we entered the barn sure enough there is the back corner was the couple, looking over an old feed trough that had been converted in to a type of cradle…joined by a couple of sheep and even a cow, lying down right nearby. They turned to face us, and seemed to wave us over. Amazing, fancy being left to have a child in this place….they must be quite capable. As we neared, the overwhelming sense of that warmth and light that filled our very being out in the paddock when that heavenly choir turned up, seemed even more intense. The man, reached out his hand to shake ours, introducing himself as Jo, and his wife Mary, who by now had picked up the child, and was seated on a bale of hay cradled him in a baby blanket, and a old jacket!
Stunned for a moment, we did not say anything, and then tripping over each other we shared all that had been occurring. It must have sounded to much, or confusing, but for some reason it did not seem to shock them. The reason becoming obvious, as both Jo and Mary went on to tell us about their encounters with an angel, and why they were here, and what the name of the Babe was, Jesus. Mary, it seemed, had a deep understanding of the enormity of the events, and yet both really could only do what we did, and that is ponder in awe and wonder at all we had seen and heard. While standing there, the two calves we had rescued strolled in to the barn, and sat down near us, along with the farm dog. Quietly, they just looked at the Baby, it was just another amazing sight, that seemed so appropriate somehow given what we had seen to date.
After sometime, and even some singing of the songs the angels had taught us in the paddock, we decided to leave the couple, who had by now being joined by the local farm owner, and head back to our property, somewhat reluctantly we thought we should go. As we drove back, we continued to share about all that we heard, and spontaneously burst in to praise for God…still abuzz with all that had occurred. Wondering though, why did this couple end up having a baby in a barn, by themselves, and without any help. Really not a good story for us, and those in town, for if we had stopped and listened, perhaps they would have been given better accommodation and a doctor. Somehow though, regrets did not seem to fit the occasion, as where Jesus the Christ was born, and the fact some workers in the declining agri-business were chosen to hear this good news, all indicated that something very special has occurred, and we were part of it.
As the days unfolded we would occasionally pay a visit to this new family, and hear more about what had been occurring. All of which adding more interest and wonder. Jo told us of how when they went to the local temple, as tradition demanded, to show the religious leaders their child, Ol’ Simeon rejoiced, sharing about how the Holy Spirit had shown him he would not die until he had seen the ‘Saviour for all people’. As if this was not enough, they then met old widow Anna, a very religious lady, but liked by all in the town, who suddenly started praising God at the sight of the baby, and declared to all the salvation and redemption this child would bring. Jo and Mary left dumb founded at all this, but nurtured well these statements.
One night we paid a visit, and by this stage the barn was a little more homely, as we looked to help others make it more comfortable for them. At least the farmer was letting them use the bathroom in his house, and, the blankets strung about around the temporary area in which they slept provided a little more privacy. I senses though that the couple seemed to not care as much, and when you visited there was no sense of concern from them.
Suddenly we heard some are noises outside, including voices. Going outside I saw some pretty flash wheels, and getting out of them some very official looking people.
The suits certainly not something you see around here. However despite there apparent “important status” they entered in with heads lowered, quietly nodding at me as they passed, and walked toward Jo and Mary, and baby Jesus. As soon as they neared the cradle, they dropped down their knees with out an apparent care for their fancy suits and shiny black shoes, and placed before them amazing looking packages, of stuff that seemed very fancy, and even gold bullion. The aroma from the frankincense and myrrh filled the barn. These guys were worshipping the Baby!
After a while, they started to share their story. It seems they were senior futurists, and government heads from overseas, and they had been led to come here with the blessing of their king,to worship ‘the King’ which they said had been revealed to them through their futurist ways, and from the reading of all religious manuscripts. The King of the Jews, Saviour, and even Messiah, phrases they used to describe the Babe.
As if that was not enough, they talked about how they know astronomy and had been following a new star that has appeared in the night sky, and through various measurements, decided it was probably pointing them in this direction…and actually was again somehow hovering above Bethlehem. Sure enough, as I went outside this seemed to be the case. Cannot figure that out, it was like the brightest light you know hanging off a silent helicopter, as it seemed to low. I did wonder if it was one of those angels again, but it seemed more like an extra bright star.
The rather official looking guys told us that had been to see the Prime Minister when they arrived, and asked him about where they might find this King. Of course he did not know, but when he called together the religious officials in the capital, they told him of old prophecies that pointed to such a King being born in our region. I think the PM would not be happy about this, as he really saw himself as the king, and so such news would have gone down like a lead balloon. However, he seemed to hide his jealous rage from these high powered futurists and just asked they report back to him if they found this child.
Of course the overseas visitors were not silly, and did not trust him, and after having spent some time in Bethlehem, they told us they had been warned in a dream by God to go back overseas via a different route. There desire to travel soon matched by the new family, who to decided it was time to apparently to leave the country for a bit. More travelling, just like that. It is hard to explain the feelings you go through with such actions occurring, certainly felt like an amazing roller coaster ride, but now there are lots of questions, and a real emptiness.
As for us, we continued to stop by at the barn from time to time, and stare at the night sky, pondering all that we saw and heard, and perhaps hoping for another heavenly wonder, and even travelling from time to time to nearby towns, interstate, and even overseas, in an effort to find this wondrous child. Remembering what Jo and Mary said, that our travel to them and those of the overseas dudes, had brought to the Baby the most important gift this Child seemed to want…ourselves. He showed no real interest in the gifts we brought, but his face would seem to shine with a beautiful smile as he gazed upon our faces. And so, we keep travelling, watching by night, for our desire is to be once again gazing back at such a face.