Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Christmas Gifts (11/13/08)
TITLE: Jehal's Strange Christmas
By Lucile McKenzie
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Moaning, he looked up at the star-filled sky. Remorse and self-loathing engulfed him. Burrowing deeper inside his robe, he shut his eyes.
Suddenly shepherds and sheep were surrounded by a brilliant white light! A shining figure appeared. Where did it come from? What did it want? Terrified, he threw himself on the ground, not realizing the other shepherds had done the same.
What was it saying? Something about peace. And some one had been born in Bethlehem? If his head didn’t ache so much maybe he could understand what the angel said. All at once there was a whole chorus of angels singing! Then, suddenly they were gone and the night was still.
Shakily, Jehal stood up. His fellow shepherds were talking excitedly. “Tidings of Great Joy!” cried Abram. “And a Savior born in Bethlehem!” exclaimed Ammad. “We must go see this wonderful Babe,” said Abram. Jehal was still shaking. It was all too frightening. He wanted nothing more to do with it.
“You go.” he said to the shepherds. “I’ll stay with the sheep.”
“No, no,” said Ammad,”You cannot miss this wonderful event. We’ll take the sheep, Bethlehem’s not far away. Think of it! The wonder of it! A savior and the angel, those heavenly beings.....” his voice died away.
“Come, Jehal,” said Abram taking his arm. “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see what the angel was talking about.”
Jehal sighed. All I want is a drink and sleep, he thought. He helped round up the sheep and walked with the shepherds. A savior, huh? Well, no one, especially a baby can save me. I’m too far gone. He looked up in the sky with new awe and fear. Why did that angel come to us? Does it know what a terrible person I am?
All the way to Bethlehem Jehal was silent, nursing his aching head as his companions jabbered about the angel and the Savior. If the baby was really a savior, he thought, why is it in a manger and not a palace or at least somewhere more grand? How can a baby save anybody? He didn’t believe it. He looked up into the sky. Had those angels been real? Even if Amman and Abram had seen it too, couldn’t it have been some kind of hallucination? The closer they got to Bethlehem, the more nervous he became. I’ll take a quick look at the baby then come back out with the sheep and wait till they head back to the hillside.
In the tiny village of Bethlehem it didn’t take long to find the Inn and the barn out behind. Joel trembled. Why was he so nervous? What could a baby do, anyway? It certainly wouldn’t know about his many sins.
Slowly the shepherds approached the barn and crept inside. A woman sat tiredly by a manger filled with straw. A tall, silent man stood nearby. An oxen and a donkey stood quietly in the back of the barn.
Jehal lagged behind. It is just a baby, he told himself. I don’t see what all the fuss is about. Amman and Abram approached the manger and dropped to their knees. What are they doing? Worshipping a baby?
Cautiously, Jehal moved toward the manger and looked at the baby lying there.
The baby turned its head toward him. Jehal looked into the baby’s eyes and a stab of bitter remorse cut through him. He dropped to his knees. “Forgive me, forgive me,” he moaned.
Peace and exultation filled his heart. He lifted a tear-streaked face. It was real! The whole strange, wonderful night was real! He knew deep inside that this baby was indeed the Savior of the world just as the angel proclaimed. And he, Jehal, had been saved! He danced around the manger with Amman and Abram, hugging and crying together. They saluted the baby’s mother and father and went out into the night.
All the way back to the hillside they talked about the angel and the wonderful baby born this night. Jehal, his headache gone, praised God. His sin-filled life was over. Tonight was a wonderful gift. A new life for a miraculous baby and a sinner like Jehal.
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