One of my Mom’s fondest wishes was to be published. She wrote a lot and submitted time and time again to publications like Ladies Home Journal, Life Magazine, and Readers Digest. She received rejection after rejection, but she never gave up! Sadly, cancer took her from us before she could get her work published. I think she’d definitely have been a blogger if she’d lived into the internet age. I think she’d have been very popular.
Like many people, Christmas always takes me back to my childhood and memories of my Mom telling us a story she’d made up in her head while we sat beneath the tree and the family creche. Recently, I had the chance to look over some of her surviving work and found this little gem of a story. It is the tale of a lost little boy in Bethlehem named Joab, and his unlikely meeting with a Child he would never forget.
To honor Mom and her stories, and of course the Christ Child for whom we celebrate the season, I wanted to share this with you tonight. Imagine yourself in a dimly lit room, in your pajamas, seated between the glowing Christmas tree and the manger scene, listening to the story Mom is crafting just for you tonight. This is my Christmas card to you, my readers.
Merry Christmas, everyone. May your Season be filled with light and family, love and security, and the hope of new life brought forth in a manger embodied by the Christ Child this winter night. “I bring you glad tidings of great joy! For you this night in the City of David, is born unto you a Savior, Who is Christ the Lord!”
A Christmas Story for the Little Children
The sun shone weakly in the pale sky, but no warmth was on the hard brown earth. Joab was so tired and so cold. Somehow, in the great influx of people into this town, he had become separated from his mother and father. Since the early morning, he had walked and called and cried. He knew that it wasn’t long until the sun set, and the dark lonely night would be upon him.
For a ten year old boy to be away from his parents for the first time was hard enough, but to be alone in a big city and to be lost and cold was even worse. The sun dropped even lower in the city of Bethlehem and a chill breeze began to blow down from the hills. With the tears cold on his face, Joab sat down in front of the biggest inn he had seen on his wanderings. He thought that if he could just wait where there were the most people, perhaps his mother and father would pass by and find him. Peering inside through a dirty window, he saw the bright fire and smoke from the torches that lined the walls. Mostly he saw the food on the tables. Once again cold tears fell on his small face as he remembered how hungry he was. The lump in his throat was greater than the hurt in his stomach.
Although it was almost completely dark, people were jostling one another up and down in the narrow crooked street. Fat merchants, slim girls and their hawk-eyed mothers; Roman soldiers who smelled of leather and horses as they passed with armor clanking and shining as it caught the reflections of the lights of the houses.
Once again Joab looked inside the inn and gathering his courage around his pounding heart, he started to go in. Even if no one took pity on the frail little stranger, at least he would be out of the bitter wind.
As he pushed open the splintered door, the noise hit his ears with a crash. Joab stood dumbfounded with the door latch still in his hand. In one corner, a group of strange people played lutes, harps, tambourines, and flutes in a wild and exotic melody. The smells of roast lamb, hot bread, wine, smoke from the blazing fire, and the odor of unwashed men were so overpowering it made Joab’s head reel and his eyes water. A fat pompous owner stood shouting orders to a tall thin young girl. The men at the tables all tried to outshout him and each other, and banged their cups on the tables in order to get the attention of the frantic servant girl. A flying cold of dirt from the floor, and a curse made Joab duck and quickly shut the door which he was holding. He sidled over to the corner and sat holding his breath for fear the red-faced owner would throw him out. All of a sudden, through a shift in the hazy air, the servant girl’s eyes met his. Joab almost jumped in fright. He just knew she would say something to the innkeeper who was still yelling, seemingly at no one and everyone at the same time. The brown haired girl set down the tray of tankards and stole to the corner where Joab huddled in misery.
“My name is Esther, don’t be afraid. Come with me quickly!” she said, taking a furtive glance over her shoulder. Taking his hand she led him around the tables until they were at the kitchen door. “Go inside and wait for me. It’s alright.” So Joab slipped into the warm kitchen and sat near the fire. It seemed an eternity before the girl came back. Without a word she fetched him some warm goat’s milk and a piece of cheese. Handing them to the boy she said, “Now tell me what your name is and what you are doing here by yourself?” Joab saw her smile and salty tears dropped into the cup of milk. Esther put her arms around his shaking shoulders and Joab sobbed out his story. Esther hugged him and said, “You must stay here tonight and in the morning I will take you to the Temple where I know you will find your parents. But you cannot stay inside the inn, for if you are found we will both be beaten. My master wants only those who can pay in gold. I know of a place that is warm and dry. It’s dirty but it will do for the night. Come, quickly.”
Without another word, the two children hurried out the back door–Esther in the lead with her worn sandals flying over the frosty ground. Down the hill they ran and just below the rise in the hill was a barn. The two pushed open the creaky old door and in the bright moonlight Joab saw piles of moldy hay, cobwebs, clods of dirt piled everywhere, and one lone cow chewing on a stalk of grain. With questioning eyes, Joab looked at Esther. “I’m sorry Joab. This is the best I can do. Tomorrow I will you find your parents. Snuggle down into the hay and it won’t be so cold. I can’t leave you a candle for they might see the light and find out what I have done. Sleep well, little one, and I’ll come for you in the morning.” With that she gently pushed him inside and closed the big door. Pulling her shawl more closely about her, she ran back to the inn with only one backward glance.
Standing inside the dark barn, Joab swallowed his fear and determined to be as brave as his father would have him be. Besides, he thought to himself, if Esther was right he would be rescued in the morning. With that, Joab decided to make the best of the situation. The moon put one small silver finger into the barn and Joab saw a pile of hay that didn’t look quite as dirty as the rest. He inched his way over to it and with a big sigh settled down for the night. Despite everything he had been through, despite the cold and the dark, he soon drifted off into a child’s easy slumber.
After a while, he suddenly awoke to hear the heavy footsteps of a man. He knew in his thumping heart that the owner had somehow found his hiding place. He shuddered at the memory of Esther’s warning of a beating, and crawled even further down into the haystack. The big brown door swung open and Joab shut his eyes and pulled himself into a small ball. He could hear the man moving about, and the terror in his heart almost made him cry out. Carefully, he opened an eye and the dim lantern light in the man’s hand he saw it was not the owner at all! A small sigh escaped him as he saw that it was only a wayfaring stranger like himself. Joab started to get out and speak to him when the tall brown-haired stranger left the barn taking the light with him. In a moment Joab saw the feeble light returning. This time it brought the man—and a woman wrapped in a blue mantle riding on a donkey. Joab knew there would be no talking for there were dark shadows under her eyes. Joab saw the man lift up his arms and helped the young woman from the donkey, saying, “You can rest now, dear one.” The man had spread his cloak on a pile of hay and the woman settled herself and smiled up at him with a tired smile. “Thank you, Joseph dear,” she said. Unwilling to interrupt the quiet talk of the two people, and with a strange calm in his heart, he closed his eyes again and drifted back off to sleep.
The next thing that woke him was a blinding light and the feeling of tender warmth, so very different from the dark cold of the night a little time before. Joab thought that morning had come and so he rolled over to see if Esther had come for him. When he opened his eyes, they almost popped out of his head and his mouth flew open. To his amazement, a musical sound of voices came from everywhere! The only people he could see were the brown-haired stranger and the young woman—–but wait!—–no!—–There had been another stranger in the night. Wrapped in white cloths and nestled in His mother’s arms was a tiny baby! And yet what kind of baby!!?? There was such a glorious shimmering light about Him, Joab couldn’t be sure he wasn’t dreaming. Joab was completely dumbfounded and bewildered by what he saw. He was afraid of the music, soft and crystal-like—–almost, he thought, as if millions of birds had put liquid gold into their throats and were singing a lullaby. Taking a closer look at the baby, Joab saw Him smile and suddenly the air was filled with the sound of soft flutterings and silken music. Shimmering lights of the rainbow and gossamer voices moved and filled that old barn. Joab was really frightened now. As quietly as he could, he crept forward to go around the opposite side of all that wonder and start for the door.
He had just put his hand on the door when it flew open and a group of men rushed in. They were breathless with excitement and dressed in the rough garb of the hill people. They stopped just inside the door and one of them asked, “Is this the Child? Is this the Messiah? The angel told us we would find Him here. Is He the Promised One?” At a nod from the woman, they went forward with wonder in their eyes to where the three were. Joab watched as the woman with the blue mantle held the Babe for them to see and welcomed them. They fell down on their knees, seemingly unaware of the light and the music that came from nowhere and yet from everywhere. Joab pondered a moment–trying to remember what had been taught to him about the Messiah who was to come.
Without thinking he walked back to the circle of glorious light and nudging between the rough men still on their knees, he found himself face to face with the Baby and the Mother. Looking at her face with its tender smile and then at the Baby, he knew (and how he knew he didn’t know) that this baby was the Messiah. Joab whispered, “He’s beautiful!” The woman looked up at him with all the beauty of heaven in her lovely eyes. She drew him down beside her and there he stayed far beyond the time when the men and the music had taken their leave. There he stayed until morning sleeping peacefully when Esther came to report that his parents had finally come to the inn and were waiting for him.
Joab stood up and the Mother kissed his cheek gently, sending him on his way. With a last look at the beautiful Child resting in His mother’s arms, Joab ran to relate to his mother and father his night of heavenly wonder! They looked at him with curiosity, exchanging puzzled looks that soon gave way to relief of finding their son who had been lost. “Come Joab,” said his mother, “Let’s get you some breakfast.”
Joab never forgot that glorious night, and when he was troubled or hurting he remembered the bright light of that beautiful Child.
Mickey believes everyone can reach high levels of performance if inspired and led. During his 28 year US Air Force career Mickey commanded thousands of Airmen, managed portfolios worth billions of dollars, and worked with military, civil, and industry officials around the world. He is a Distinguished Graduate from the Eisenhower School at National Defense University in Washington DC.
Mickey is the author of seven books, including Leading Leaders: Inspiring, Empowering, and Motivating Teams, Mickey’s Rules for Leaders, and The 5 Be’s For Starting Out. He’s a frequent contributor to industry publications and writes for his own blog and GeneralLeadership.com.