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TITLE: You Gave Your Life
By Martha Black

The audience for this story can be quite large, starting with 1st grade and up.
Martha Black

“Elam, you should have been there! It was the most incredible night!” I toss Elam up into the air as he giggles with glee. My baby brother with his fat cheeks and curly hair loves being tossed over my head and hearing about “that night” even though he doesn’t understand a word of it.

Elam is the joy of my life. We’re inseparable when I am not in the field with the sheep. I was the only child for fourteen years until Elam was born. Elam is also special for another reason—he was born two days after the most remarkable night of my life.

Sitting under a vine I tell him the story again. “It was an ordinary night. We sat around the campfire as it burned low, and our heads nodded as Sallu strummed softly on his lyre. The sheep were calm, and the night sparkled with stars, but we were too sleepy to notice. Suddenly the sky exploded with a glorious light and an angel stood before us. We dove to the ground covering our heads.”

Elam nestles into my arms as I continue. “The angel smiled when we finally looked up at him. ‘Do not be afraid! I am bringing good news that will bring great joy to you and to the entire world. Today in Bethlehem a child was born. He is the Savior, Christ the Lord. You will know I am telling the truth, you will find the baby in a manger wrapped in swaddling clothes.’

“Oh, Elam, it was incredible! The angel rose into the air and the sky filled with angels singing ‘Glory to God! Peace on earth and good will to men.’ By now, of course, we’re standing and staring at the marvelous sight before us! Our eyes are filled with light like none we had ever seen, our ears dance to melody sweeter than any earthly music, and our hearts overflow with the very peace they are singing about!

“The angels drifted into the heavens.” Elam’s eyes followed my upward motion. “The light faded, the music dimmed and there was nothing left but the peace, mixed with incredible excitement!

“Jozabad said, ‘We must go—now! We must see this baby the angel told us about! We must go see our Savior!’

“My father looked at me, ‘Jeshua, stay with the sheep while we go into Bethlehem!’ My distress must have been obvious, but before I could protest he said, ‘I know, Jeshua, it will be painful for you to stay while we go, but someone must stay with the sheep and you’re the youngest.’

“Elam, imagine how hard it was to watch them go toward Bethlehem, without me. Somewhere, Elam, there’s a child two days older than you who’s going to be our Savior. Someday, somehow I will meet him!” Elam nodded as though he understood my passion.

This conversation with Elam played in my mind as I prepared to go to Jerusalem. My uncle, Nethanel and I were to drive sheep inherited from his father-in-law back to Bethlehem. We were leaving at night so we could return to our flock as soon as possible.

As we neared the edge of town, I heard Nethanel draw his breath in sharply. There in front of us was a young couple with a small child. The man knelt by his donkey, holding its foot. “Please, sir, allow me to help you,” Nethanel said.

The man turned in surprise, and it seemed, in fear. When he saw we were shepherds, he calmed and said, “My donkey has a rock in his foot.”

Nethanel knelt and gently dislodged a small but uncomfortable stone from the donkey’s foot. When Nethanel and the man stood, Nethanel said, “I was there—that night. I was one of the shepherds who told you about the angel’s message and their song. I worshipped your son that night!”

I could hardly believe what Nethanel was saying. In the mother’s arms was that child—that special child! I moved closer to the woman and her son. “Please, may I look? I had to stay with the sheep that night and did not get to see him.”

She moved the blanket from the child’s face. Resting his head on her shoulder, the boy looked at me. A feeling unlike any I had ever felt swept over me. Angels had announced this child’s birth and had promised he would bring joy to the world. I believed it, because I felt that joy. “His name is Jesus,” his mother whispered.

My first desire was to run home and wake Elam to tell him that I had seen the Christ child! But I couldn’t do it! I had to go to Jerusalem to help Nethanel with the sheep. As Nethanel helped the woman onto the donkey, her husband said softly, “We were warned in a dream to leave Bethlehem because our child is in danger.” Now I understood his fear!

They turned south while we turned north toward Jerusalem. I looked back at them and wondered how anyone could hurt a child like Jesus. I asked Nethanel, but he had no answer.

Our trip took longer than we planned, which was difficult for me, because I was so anxious to get home to Elam. What a wonderful addition I had to his favorite story. At last we started back toward Bethlehem. Walking behind the sheep, I wondered how far Jesus and his parents had gotten. I was grateful to God for protecting the Christ child by sending his father a dream.

A mile out of Bethlehem, a troop of soldiers almost drove us off the road. I wondered if they had anything to do with the story we had heard in Jerusalem. Herod was furious at some wise men that were supposed to have told him where a child had been born. Suddenly I knew who that child was. That was why Jesus’ father had the dream telling him his child was in danger. These soldiers were going to Bethlehem to find Jesus. How relieved I felt, knowing that Jesus and his parents were far from Bethlehem, safe from Herod’s soldiers.

As we neared the outskirts of Bethlehem, we heard loud wailing. We stopped a man who was crying and asked him why. His face was pale, and he looked as if he would faint. “The soldiers from Jerusalem have orders to kill every baby boy in Bethlehem under the age of two.”

Now it was my turn to feel faint. Elam was under two. Without regard for Nethanel or the sheep, I ran toward my house. Elam was safe; he had to be safe! I would hide him, hide him forever if necessary! As I ran through the town, the sound of wailing intensified to a drum beat in my head. My heart pounded so I could hardly breathe.

I saw my house ahead, but heard no wailing coming from it. As I got nearer, I saw my mother crumpled against the house, her hands covering her face. In the yard I saw what looked like a rag doll. As I got nearer, I saw that it was Elam. My bubbly, exuberant brother Elam lay in the dirt, silent and still.

I knelt beside him in disbelief. Then slowly, gently I scooped him into my arms. How could anyone as feisty and alive as Elam lie so still? There was blood in his curly hair and his chubby cheeks were slack. I held him close and rocked him.

“Oh, Elam, I saw him! I saw the child! His name is Jesus!” I whispered in his ear. “He is as wonderful as I told you he would be. He left Bethlehem the night I went to Jerusalem, because God warned his father that he was in danger. He’s alive, and you are dead! Do you know what, Elam? You and the others died that Jesus might live. Someday, Jesus our Savior will die for you, for me, and for the world!”
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