The Messiah’s Welcome, Part 3

(I hope you will forgive this being two weeks late. Between Christmas projects and unexpected traveling, I couldn’t get it posted. So I present it today, on the Twelfth Day of Christmas. In case you missed them, here are Part 1 and Part 2 for your perusal.)

My cousin Abijah did arrive two days after Joseph and Mary. He was old, but not frail. He could have lodged in the stable, but he got Uncle Zadok’s smallest upper room to himself. Which I thought extravagant in view of our cramped quarters, but of course I said nothing.

That’s how Mary came to give birth in our stable. The morning after I spoke with her, her pains started. They intensified throughout the day, as often happens with a woman’s first birth. In the afternoon, she lay down on fresh straw, and Mother hung blankets to screen the stable from the house. Aunt Abihail, Uncle Tilon’s wife, attended her, and I assisted because no one else cared to and because I was interested in midwifery. Bethlehem had a midwife, but she came only for difficult births.

Joseph insisted on being present, which was unusual for a father and made my aunt a little nervous, but I think Mary liked it, and he kept out of our way. Mary was calm and serene. Throughout the whole labor, she never screamed, unlike my cousin Elam’s poor wife. In fact, it was the most uneventful birth Aunt Abihail had ever seen except for one thing.

Mary was a virgin. Even Aunt Abihail had to believe it. We never spoke of it after that night, but she knew and I knew, and Mary knew that we knew. Yes, I was shocked. I folded and refolded the swaddling cloths about twenty times as I thought of it.

The baby Son of God entered the world near midnight, crying like any other baby. Then Mary called His name softly: “Jesus.” And He hushed and snuggled in her arms. After a little while I helped Aunt Abihail wash Him, rub Him with salt, and wrap Him in the swaddling cloths—long strips of soft clean linen. Babies like to be wrapped up, snug.

Then I filled the goats’ manger with the cleanest straw we had and covered it with a thick rug. There we laid Jesus after Mary fed Him. None of the family came to see Him. “To let Mary rest,” Mother said, but she’d been quick enough to visit Elam’s little daughter last year. They barely got a moment’s peace the first three days.

When there was nothing more to do, I went to the sleeping mat I shared with my sisters and crawled under the blanket. But I couldn’t sleep.

I had lain there for perhaps half an hour when someone tapped on the front door. I lifted my head, but Father snored on. Until the tapping became pounding.

Father sat up. “What’s amiss?” he shouted.

“Sir, is there an infant in your manger?”

I sat straight up. Who could know we had a newborn baby in our stable? With all the Romans in town for the census, I was frightened until I realized no Roman could speak Aramaic so naturally.

“What’s this foolishness?” Father grumbled as he got up. Mother rose, too, and lit a lamp. Father unbolted the door. “What?”

“We seek a baby in a manger, sir. Is there one in yours?”

“Well, yes.” Bewilderment filled Father’s voice. “How would you know?”

“We were watching our flocks in the field when an angel told us a baby had been born who was our Savior, the Messiah. May we see Him?”

Listening from my sleeping mat, I felt a strange tingle flow from my toes to my hair. This was so bizarre, yet quite appropriate. Of course an angel should announce the birth of the Son of God.

“You’re saying an angel told you the Messiah was born in my stable?” Father demanded.

“Not your stable, precisely. We just came to Bethlehem and this seemed the place we should knock.”

“I see.” Now Father sounded dumbfounded. “Come in.”

He stepped back, and in trooped half a dozen shepherds. Their smell was unmistakable. An unexpected audience for angels, but then, the Messiah in a manger was unexpected, to say the least.

A hand pulled back the blankets between us and the stable. Joseph appeared, saying, “Come and see Him.”

You should have seen the reverent quietness with which those shepherds crept into our stable. More amazing still, the utter awe on their faces when they slipped back out to let another group come in. I don’t know how many there were; more than fifty, men, women, and children. My brothers and sisters and I sat against the wall out of the way. The shepherds spoke little until the last ones had tiptoed back outside.

Then the one who had knocked spoke to Father. “We are honored by the hospitality you show humble shepherds. May the Lord bless you for sharing the Messiah while he lodges under your roof.”

“I still don’t understand how you know that infant is the Messiah,” Father said.

“An angel appeared to us, bringing good tidings of great joy for all people, he said. He told us a Savior was born, our Messiah, the Lord. And we would find him wrapped in swaddling clothes, and lying in a manger.

“And then, sir, the sky was filled with a host of heavenly beings singing, praising God. Such music you’ve never heard, nor could ever hope to hear. They said, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.’”

I wished with all my heart I could have heard that singing.

“But what does it mean?” Father demanded.

I don’t know. All I know is we have found it just as the angel said. And I will never cease to praise God for it as long as I live.” The man shook Father’s hand. “You and your household are greatly blessed.” With that, he left.

Father shut the door, shaking his head. “Rachel, am I dreaming?”

“If you are, so am I.” Mother slipped off the head-covering she’d thrown over her hair.

“Come,” I whispered to my siblings. “Come see the Messiah.”

“How do you know He’s the Messiah?” my brother Simon whispered back.

“Can you doubt after what we’ve seen? Come.”

Whether they believed me or not, they joined me in creeping between the blankets that screened the stable. I suppose in some ways Jesus looked just like any other baby. Sweet, red-faced, tiny. But somehow different. Regal, I’ll call it, for I can’t think of anything that suits better.

Mother and Father peered over our shoulders at the Baby clinging to one of Mary’s fingers as she lay beside the manger. I know not whether they truly knew the enormousness of what had occurred in our stable.

But I know that Jesus is the Son of God, our Messiah. And, as Mary said, one day the whole world will know.

-Miss Darcy

The Messiah’s Welcome, Part 2

(In case you missed the first part of Jedidah’s story, the link opens in a new tab.)

The stable was quite snug when we finished if you discounted the cow and the donkey in the other half. But I was used to their smell and noise, and I supposed Joseph and Mary would grow accustomed to it, too.

Mary was nothing like I expected. I’d imagined her bold and flamboyant, like a loose woman, you know. But she was quiet and dignified. Not the most beautiful girl I’d ever seen, certainly not pretty enough to make Joseph lose his head the way he had, but she had a sweet countenance. When she learned she was to dwell in the stable, she laughed as if she thought it fun and thanked Mother sincerely.

My cousin Joseph was kind, as usual, and devoted to his bride to a degree that surprised me. They slipped into the routine of the household just like our other visitors. Joseph joined a distant cousin in his carpentry shop, and Mary, although large with child, helped with whatever light work she could. She took no offense whenever Mother or one of my aunts slighted her. They didn’t do it much, for she was Joseph’s wife, but you know how women can deliver subtle barbs without appearing to.

Four days after their arrival, I got a chance to work with Mary. We were carding wool in the courtyard, and I was trying to come up with some real conversation, when a frown passed over Mary’s face and she pressed a hand to her back.

“Are you well?” I asked.

“Oh, yes.” She took up her wool-combs again. “Mother told me to expect such pains in the days before the birth.”

“Are you…” I paused, trying to form my question as politely as possible. “I suppose you would have preferred the census came at another time so that you might give birth in your own home?”

She smiled an odd smile. “Actually, it is fitting that the child be born here, in the City of David.”

“Why?” Mother says I always ask nosy questions, and I guess she’s right, but Mary didn’t seem to mind.

“Because he is the Son of David.”

I didn’t see how he was more a son of David than my own brothers, if the child was indeed a boy. “But…all the men in this household are sons of David.”

She smiled that strange, almost secretive smile again, then dropped her gaze to her work. “Not quite the same way.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“You would not believe me if I told you, Jedidah.” She lifted her brown eyes to meet mine, and she didn’t look a bit angry or upset.

“Try me,” I dared her, speaking like my brothers.

“Very well.” She went right on working, not looking at me. “The child I carry is not Joseph’s nor any other man’s. I am with child through the Holy Spirit.”

My mouth fell open as my brain jumped to the only logical conclusion. “Mary, what are you saying?”

“I’m saying this child will be called the Son of God. He is our Messiah.”

I laid my hand on her busy ones. “But, Mary,” I said solemnly, “that cannot be.”

She looked me full in the face. “With God nothing will be impossible.”

What does a person say to that? You must admit it sounded preposterous. Not the “with God nothing will be impossible,” but the idea of her bearing the Messiah. And if you’re completely honest, it sounds impudent, saying that she hadn’t sinned—when there was every indication she had—but that God was responsible for her pregnancy.

Yet I couldn’t help liking Mary, and I wanted to believe her even though half of my mind insisted she must be telling shameless falsehoods. So I said nothing.

“You do not believe me,” she said. “No one does. Neither would I unless the angel had told me.”

“The angel!” I burst out. Angels only appeared to important prophets in days of old.

“But it doesn’t matter, Jedidah. I know the truth. Joseph knows. One day everyone will know that God has visited His people.” She rolled the bit of wool off her comb and pinched another piece from the fleece we worked on. “Come, let us talk no more of it. Tell me about all these new relatives of mine, that I may get them orderly in my mind.”

So I told her of my aunts and uncles and cousins, and where our visiting cousins belonged on the family tree. And I mulled over what she’d told me until my head felt numb.

Still I could not decide what to believe.

To be continued next week…

-Miss Darcy

The Messiah’s Welcome, Part 1

(Jedidah, pronounced jeh-DYE-dah, is a Hebrew girl’s name meaning “beloved.”)

My name is Jedidah.I was fourteen the year Augustus Caesar ordered the world to be registered for taxes. You know those Romans. Forever counting everything in their possession so they can extract every possible penny. And they couldn’t let people register by residence. No, everyone had to travel to the town whence came the root of their family tree and register there.

Bethlehem isn’t the most up-and-coming place in Judea. Though it is the City of David, the greatest king in the Hebrews’ history, it’s only a small town with few people and many sheep.

But King David had many sons, and his sons had sons, and so on down the line to my own father. (I have four brothers.) When the census came, people began pouring into Bethlehem like wine pouring into a cup. Except a person pouring wine usually stops before the cup overflows. But the people kept flooding Bethlehem.

The marketplace was crowded all day long, six days a week. Prices doubled and tripled as more people arrived to buy the goods. Mother had many a heated argument with the sellers of fruit and vegetables, and most times she talked them down because we were regular customers who would return week after week, long after the crowds returned home.

At our home, my three sisters and four brothers and I had to vacate our rooms on the roof so that Uncle Hezekiah’s family could lodge there. It made for tight quarters in the main room below. My father’s other three brothers had homes adjoining ours, enclosing a large courtyard. Every upper room in the household was full to bursting at night, except one small room above Uncle Zadok’s house. We’d reserved that room for a distant cousin whom I had never met, but he was even older than my grandfather, so he deserved special consideration. With so many cousins, it was like the feast of Passover in our own town instead of in Jerusalem.

I was helping mother prepare the evening meal one afternoon, when Isaac, my fourth cousin, came walking in the open front door.

“Shalom, Aunt Rachel.” (She isn’t really his aunt, but she feels more like an aunt than cousin. I call his mother my aunt.)

“Shalom, Isaac. Come to play with your cousins?”

“No, I bring a message from Mother. The first of the relatives from Nazareth have come, and Mother says we cannot possibly make room for them.”

Which was quite true. Isaac’s family hosted our cousins who dwelt all the way in Phoenicia. They had seven children, and Isaac had four siblings at home. Not to mention their house and courtyard were much smaller than ours.

“From Nazareth?” Mother’s brow furrowed. “But we did not expect them until two weeks hence, after Hezekiah’s family had returned home.”

“It’s only Joseph bar Jacob and his wife Mary. Joseph says he dared not wait later, for Mary is so near her time.”

Mother pursed her lips, and I knew exactly why. We had heard of Mary, with child only a few months after she and Joseph were betrothed. We expected Joseph to put her away, for he was a righteous, just man as far as we knew. And, lo, he took her to wife anyway. Mother said that made it clear whose child Mary carried, and Father agreed, saying he feared what our family would come to if such shamelessness continued.

“Tell your mother to send them down here, Isaac. We’ll find a place for them,” Mother said.

“Thank you, Aunt Rachel.” He waved at me. “See you, Jedidah.”

“See you!” I called after him.

Mother went on kneading bread, pounding it harder than usual. “This is simply deplorable.”

“Why can’t we put them above Uncle Zadok’s house?” I suggested. “We don’t know when my cousin will arrive, and—”

“Jedidah!” Mother looked at me like I’d suggested we work on the Sabbath. “Your cousin Abijah is an aged and venerable man. It would be most unsuitable to give his room to Joseph and that wife of his.”

“Well, you’re not going to make them lodge at the inn, are you?” I was a little saucy because she’d scolded my idea so harshly. “You know what they’re charging for sleeping space these days, and since Mary’s with child, it doesn’t seem proper.”

“Hold your tongue, young lady. Of course they won’t lodge at the inn. They can sleep in our stable.”

“The stable?” I looked over my shoulder. My father wasn’t rich, and our stable occupied the rear half of our home, separated from the rest of the room by a step down and by a short fence. It didn’t seem like the place to put guests.

“Fetch your brothers and have them move the goats to Uncle Zadok’s stable. They can clear the straw, we’ll scrub the floor, and with fresh hay down it should be quite snug.” Mother returned her attention to the bread dough and muttered, “That half of the stable is bigger than Zadok’s room, anyway.”

I passed through the stable to the courtyard, seeking my brothers. I still thought an expectant mother ought to have more privacy than a stable even if she hadn’t been a virgin when she wed. But a stable was better than the inn.

To be continued next week…

-Miss Darcy

Fighting in the Dark, Part 2

(If you haven’t seen it, you might want to read Part 1 first.)

And so, rejoicing, the girl in white went on until she came to a place where the darkness pressed, thick and heavy. Her steps grew hesitant, though she continued on, and her circle of light seemed to be squeezed smaller.

“Father,” she whispered, “I am afraid.”

“I am here,” said the Voice, but it sounded weak and distant.

Her heart trembled.

Suddenly, from the darkness rushed five men in dark armor, their faces cruel and evil, where no hint of compassion survived. They surrounded her and struck her with fiery arrows and merciless blows.

“Worthless!” one of them snarled.

“Failure! Can’t even properly handle a few darts.”

“A disgrace to her own King!” shouted another.

“Unlovable!”

She cowered, trying desperately to hide beneath her shield, but it seemed about the size of a mustard seed. “Father!” she cried. “I do not know what to do.”

Her attackers laughed as she shuddered in a little heap on the ground.

Then they fell silent and drew back. Tears rolling down her face, she dared to look up.

There stood her Saviour. He bent down and lifted her, folding her into His embrace. “I love you,” He whispered in her ear. “You are Mine, and no one can snatch you away.” Softly, He sang over her, and He kept on until her sobs quieted.

Though the hideous men had withdrawn, they still stood near. They wouldn’t fight the Saviour directly, but they waited for a chance to strike again at the girl.

But as she calmed, the Saviour said, “Draw your sword.”

With a shaking hand, she obeyed. Her Saviour’s scarred hand closed over hers on the sword hilt, and He said, “Now fight. I will help you.”

So she spoke. “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.1

“But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, … the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.2

“I will rejoice greatly in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness.3

“For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”4

As she quoted the words, she found her heart blessed, her strength renewed. Under her Saviour’s guidance, the sword flashed with devastating sureness. For against these enemies, the wounds were not inflicted for healing, but for death. The fight was long, but when at last the men fled, the victory was exhilarating.

Turning to face her Champion, the girl knelt. Tears of gratitude streamed over her cheeks, as, taking His hands in hers, she bowed her head on them. “Thank you,” she whispered. “You never leave me, but always go with me. You are so good. I love you.”

Her Saviour drew her close in his arms. “I care for you, daughter. I love you. Keep relying on Me; keep calling on Me. My grace is sufficient in your weakness.”

Her Saviour disappeared from sight, but she knew He was still with her. For a while, she remained on her knees, thanking Him and rejoicing in His grace.

From the shadows, the girl in black watched in awe. She could not deny the light was a wonderful, powerful thing. She longed to go to the kneeling girl, to ask if she could walk in the light, to find if she could converse with the Owner of the incomprehensible Voice. Could she have that kind Person for her friend, Who had fought to defend the girl in white?

Unable to bring herself to step into the circle of light, the girl in black turned away. Only to meet the same five men who attacked the girl in white. Exulting over her weakness, they beat her down, taunting her.

She could do nothing, and there was no one to call on. Still, she screamed. “Help, please!”

Without warning, she was covered in that glorious light. She looked up to see the girl in white facing the men with no trace of fear.

“Depart, in the name of Jesus,” ordered the girl in white. “For the LORD reigns, He is clothed with majesty.5

“A fire goes before Him, and burns up His enemies round about.”6 Once more the beaming sword flashed forth, and the enemies fled.

The girl in white dropped to her knees beside their victim. “Did they hurt you?”

The girl in black sat up and clasped the other’s arm. “Can I walk in the light like you?”

“If you are willing to surrender everything–your desires, your habits, your very life–to the Giver of light, you can.”

“What shall I do?”

The girl in white smiled. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.7

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.8

“But if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”9

So the girl in black bowed her head and called on Jesus, confessing her sin and pleading for help. Suddenly the Saviour was there, His arms about her, guiding her, speaking to her, showing her what to do. She felt warm and safe, and looked up to find the light shining upon her and through her. Her black garments had been replaced with a dress of snowy white.

Turning, she looked into the eyes of her Saviour. “Thank You.” She could say no more.

“I love you, daughter.” With those words, He disappeared from view.

She had the strangest sensation that He was still there. She turned to her companion, who wept, but with unmistakable joy in her smile.

“Can we walk together?” asked the girl formerly in black.

“Yes, for as long as our Father bids our paths coincide. You are my sister now.”

The two girls embraced. Then together they rose and started out again, their voices blending into a sweet song of praise.

And the oppressive darkness of the place had lost some of its weight. Somehow the power of their light was pushing back the darkness.

So they rejoiced in the glory of the marvelous Light.

-Miss Darcy

1Romans 8:1
21 John 1:7
3Isaiah 61:10
4Romans 8:38-39
5Psalm 93:1
6Psalm 97:3
7Acts 16:31
8Romans 3:23
9Romans 10:9

Fighting in the Dark, Part 1

Part 1 of a story I wrote a few years ago.

Her snow-white robe absolutely glowed in the light which poured down on her. As though she were a prism, she caught and bent the light, radiating its soft glory all around.

The light surrounded her as she walked, lighting the path so she never stumbled. Darkness encircled her light, darkness filled with shouts and running feet and cries of people falling. Every now and then she could glimpse one of these figures at the fringe of her light: sometimes glaring, sometimes sad, sometimes curious. The girl always smiled, and the faces disappeared.

The girl conversed as she walked with someone no one else could see. Her gaze tilted upward and she would laugh, or question, or grow silent and thoughtful.

Just beyond the edge of her light lurked another girl. Her black garments blended into the darkness, but she found herself fascinated by the beautiful light. It seemed so safe and lovely, but so odd, so powerful, that it intimidated her. So she followed behind, always out of the light, watching and listening. Though she could hear both voices, she could not understand the language of the unseen speaker.

Unaware of the quiet watcher, the girl in white sang to her Redeemer. Until a dart struck her and she cried out. Several more followed, bitter words of hypocrite, liar, dreamer, and hateful.

Bending, she snatched up one of the weapons and hurled it in the direction it had come.

Before she could touch the others, the Voice interrupted. “My daughter, those are not your weapons.”

She left the others where they lay. “Oh, Father, forgive me. I forgot in my anger.”

“I forgive you, daughter.”

She leaned her head back as if she could see the Source of the light if she only looked hard enough. “Father, I love to walk in Your light, but sometimes I feel as if it makes me a target for enemies I cannot see.”

As if to prove her words, another dart pierced her. “Coward!”

Tears smarted in her eyes. “Father, they hurt. And I cannot see to fight them. It does not seem fair that hidden enemies may hurl their weapons, but I have only a sword and cannot see where to use it.”

“But your sword is stronger, and I will show you where to fight.”

She drew a long breath. “I know You will. Forgive my doubts.”

“I forgive.” She could almost hear the smile in the Voice. “Now take up your sword, and let Me fight for you.”

So she grasped the sword in her right hand.

“Turn,” said the Voice, “and face the east.”

She turned.

“Now speak.”

She opened her mouth and countered the last barb. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes.”1

She spoke, and her sword burned with unearthly intensity, throwing light farther in the direction she faced. It illuminated a figure in dark clothing, dodging away as though wounded by the light. But this sort of wound was intended to bring the person to the Healer, and thus it did not destroy.

“Now turn and face the south.”

She turned and replied to dreamer. “But we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”2

Directed toward another place, she refuted liar. “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”3

Once more, in reply to hypocrite, “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.”4

She was not allowed to respond to the barb of hateful, for she had already cast it back. But each time she spoke, her sword blazed its light, and her weapon hit its mark. When she was done, she sheathed the sword and looked up, a smile once again upon her face. “Oh, thank You, Father. You are so good to me.”

To be continued next week…

-Miss Darcy

1Romans 1:16
21 Corinthians 1:23-24
3John 8:32
4Romans 7:24-25

Complaining Dishes

I have no deep explorations into Scripture or theology or anything today. Just a fun story that I wrote five years ago. It amused me, and I hope it makes you smile.

“It’s such a shame,” declared a stainless steel serving spoon as it lay in the sink one day.  “Just because that old dishwasher didn’t clean me properly, I have to soak and then wash again.  And knowing those people, it will be back into that awful machine.  What a pain!”

“I know,” added a dinner fork, “but at least they put you head-up in the dishwasher.  How would you like to be upside-down in there?”

“Poor fork,” the spoon sympathized.  “That dishwasher is dreadful.  It makes scratches on my face, you know.”

“Scratches!” interjected a plate.  “Well just imagine if you were as white as I am.  Those scratches turn black.  It does spoil one’s complexion!”

“Do you think that is bad?” asked a pint measuring cup.  “My little cousin has endured one too many rides through the dishwasher.  His measurement markings have been worn off.  He is deprived of his very usefulness!  It frightens me to think that I may become like him.”

“Ah,” sighed a rubber basting brush, “almost always do I get a double run-through!  The dishwasher cannot get the butter from between my bristles so I must do as now and soak in hot water.  Then back into that hateful machine.”

“What I despise is the fact that the dishwasher leaves soap-scum on me sometimes!” grumbled the drinking glass in which the basting brush was soaking.  “And we must all endure that horrid machine just for the sake of the people’s convenience.”

“Not all of us,” corrected the spoon.  “The pots and pans get hand washed.  Oh, to always have one’s back massaged by soft dishcloths!” she said wistfully.

“You are mistaken,” said a frying pan from the counter above the sink.  “We are sometimes put in the dishwasher.  And often we are rubbed with hard plastic or scrubbing pads or, worse yet…steel wool!”  The pan shuddered at the thought.

“The knives have it best,” decided the fork.  “They are never put in the dishwasher, for fear it will dull them, and nothing ever sticks to them so all they get is the dishcloth.”  He sighed.

“Oh, ho!” exclaimed a chef’s knife from his perch beside the frying pan.  “I suppose you think it is fun to be bounced continually on your nose just because your nose happens to be sharp!  Some of those girls have way too much energy for my tastes.”

“You would never imagine what odd jobs we get used for,” complained a table knife.

“Well,” stated the serving spoon, “the china dishes have no worries at all.  They are so fragile that they are always treated gently.  But it is worse for the silverware when the china comes out—we’re scoured to a shine to ‘match’ the dishes.”

“Yet one time a china bowl told me that all of the china dishes get lonely, they are used so seldom.  Oh dear, what a sad world,” finished the glass, as someone came to clean the kitchen.

 ***

But to me, it all depends on your attitude.  The dishes were focusing on the bad things and in the process they forgot the nice things, like lying on the table making a good show, the pleasure of being useful, or sitting in the cupboard talking.  We use each dish for a different purpose, and each has a different lot in life. 

Just so, God made each of us for a different place but all to glorify Him.  We are all unique.  So let us be willing vessels, praising and working for God wherever he puts us.

-Miss Darcy

The Faith of a Gentile (Guest Author)

My sister Leah wrote this story, based on Luke 7:1-10, for a history project. I don’t know whether history projects are usually so powerful, but I wanted to share this with you. (Leah said I could.) I hope it blesses you like it did me.

The Faith of a Gentile
Leah Fornier

I sat on a stool by the bed of Agapetus. We had been companions since boyhood; he had served as my body slave for many years; he had been my friend; and now he was dying. The physician said there was nothing more he could do, no hope left.

I had done many great things in my life, but the thing I longed to do now was not in my power. I could not save Agapetus. I had begged him, ordered him, not to die, but all to no avail. So I sat beside him now, trying to keep his companionship for as long as possible, but knowing that death would soon take him from me. I realized I had not before appreciated Agapetus fully.

As I sat there contemplating these things, my wife entered. I was not aware of her presence until she laid a hand on my shoulder. I looked up and was momentarily jolted out of my misery when I saw her face, full of breathless excitement and urgency.

“What is it?” I asked, somewhat alarmed.

“Oh, Justinius,” she gasped, “such wonderful news! Jesus is in Capernaum!”

I stared at her blankly. “Jesus?”

“Yes, the carpenter from Nazareth. Surely you’ve heard of him, I know you have, and they say he can perform miracles, heal the sick, and raise the dead.”

“Don’t be foolish, Pomponia,” I began. “You know–”

But she interrupted me with an impatient little gesture. “It’s not foolishness, Justinius; it’s true, and you know it.”

I sighed. “I just don’t understand all these stories.”

“And what you don’t understand, you scorn,” she continued for me, “but that’s no way to go about it.”

“You’re right, I suppose.” I looked up at her. “What do you suggest, my dear?”

“Let us send some of the Jewish elders, Mattathias and Simeon perhaps, to Jesus and plead with him to come and heal Agapetus.”

“But, Pomponia,” I protested, “how can we ask the carpenter to do this for us, supposing he even could? He is a Jew.”

“He is Jesus,” she answered, “and he refuses no man who truly believes. You must only believe that he can heal Agapetus, and he will.”

I was silent, thinking it over. Pomponia waited, and finally I turned and looked straight into her eyes. “Do you believe he can?”

She looked back at me steadily. “Yes, I do.” The conviction in her voice assured me that she spoke the truth.

“Then send for Simeon and Mattathias and see if they will do this thing for us.”

She smiled at me, a truly glorious smile. “Of course they will do it, Justinius. Have you not built them a synagogue?” She kissed me quickly and left the room.

I still sat by Agapetus, but suddenly I felt happier than I had in days. For once again there was hope.   I remembered Pomponia’s words, ‘you must only believe,’ and I did believe. Why, I was not sure. Just a few moments before I had not believed, but Pomponia’s faith would rub off on anyone. She believed Jesus could and would heal Agapetus, and what my wife believed so firmly, I believed too.

……….

An hour later the city elders had come and gone, and all there was left to do was wait while they accomplished their mission. Pomponia sat with me in Agapetus’ room since I refused to leave him. Neither of us spoke much. We were absorbed in our own thoughts. Mine were centered on Jesus and my sudden strange belief in him.

While I sat there an odd feeling came over me. I felt as if Jesus were walking toward me, looking at me, and I knew I couldn’t bear to have him look at me. I was unworthy of his gaze. I turned to my wife in great distress.

“Pomponia, Jesus cannot come here!”

Her eyes widened wonderingly.

“We are not worthy to have him in our house. We are Gentiles,” I said.

She nodded in comprehension. “You are right. I didn’t think of that.”

“We must send someone to stop him,” I exclaimed, jumping to my feet.

“But how do you know he is coming yet?” Pomponia asked, her confusion evident. I was spared an explanation when a servant entered followed closely by my good friend, and fellow centurion, Gaius Marullias.

“Gaius,” I said, “what brings you here?” I had not expected him, and he had not waited to be announced by the servant. That was his way, never waiting to be announced.

“I was passing through the area and thought I’d give you a surprise visit, but it seems you would have been surprised anyway, without my coming.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“On my way here, I passed some kind of procession that appeared to be headed this way. It should be very nearly here by now.”

“I told you he was coming,” I said to Pomponia. “We must hurry and stop him.”

“Stop who?” Gaius asked. “Are you expecting someone?”

“Gaius,” I said, ignoring his questions, “would you do something for me?”

“Of course, Justin,” he answered, “you know I would. What is it?”

“I need you to go back to that procession, find the man named Jesus, and give him a message for me. Can you do that?”

“Certainly. What’s the message?”

I thought for a moment, getting the words in order. “This is what I say to him,” I told Gaius. “Listen carefully.

“Lord, do not trouble Yourself, for I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof. Therefore I did not think myself worthy to come to You. But say the word, and my servant will be healed.”

I turned to look out the window, but continued dictating my message.

“For I also am a man placed under authority, having soldiers under me. I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

I stopped and glanced at Gaius. His face showed intense concentration.

“This is what you must say to Jesus,” I said.

He nodded. “I will do it and come back.” With that he turned and walked out, and in the silence that followed, I could hear his footsteps retreating up the hallway. I sank down on the stool and drew Pomponia to me.

“Do you think I did right?”

“Yes,” she answered, “you did right.”

And again we waited.

……….

I do not know how much time passed, but suddenly the atmosphere in the room changed. It was as if someone or something else had entered, bringing peace with it. I looked at Agapetus feeling somehow that the change was associated with him, and as I watched, he opened his eyes and saw me, really saw me, without the haze of fever from past days. There was a radiance on his face like nothing I had ever seen. I stared in awe.

Then Agapetus reached a hand toward me and whispered, “Master.”

Behind me, Pomponia gasped. I clasped Agapetus’ extended hand. “You are well?” I said, half-afraid to believe he was healed.

“Master,” he answered, “I have seen God. I am well.”

I dropped to my knees beside the bed and wept for joy as I never remembered weeping before. But under the joy, there was a feeling of utter humbleness. I had felt, witnessed, the presence of Jesus.

There was the sound of running feet in the corridor, and the next moment Gaius burst into the room, flushed and panting.

“Well?” he said.

“Agapetus is healed,” I told him.

He grinned at me. “I knew he was, as soon as Jesus spoke.”

“What did He say?” I questioned eagerly.

“Not much.” Gaius frowned slightly. “I’ve never seen anyone like Him. I gave Him your message, and He listened intently. When I finished, He turned to those with Him and said, ‘I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel,’ and I knew your servant would be healed.”

I bowed my head, overwhelmed with the enormousness of Jesus’ statement. If I had not felt humbled before, I certainly would have then.

“Thank you for going, Gaius. I am eternally indebted to you.”

He shook his head. “No, I am the one indebted. If it hadn’t been for you, I would not have seen Jesus.”

I stood up and grasped Gaius by the shoulders.

“My friend, you have seen Him, I have felt Him, and Agapetus has been healed by Him. This man Jesus has the presence of a god in Him, the one true God, the God of the Jews, and a God worth following.”

Then all four of us, Gaius, Pomponia, Agapetus, healed of all sickness, and myself, knelt and thanked God for the blessing of faith He had given us that day.

I believed in Jesus, and the God He served, and my life has not been the same since I witnessed the power of the living God.

Do you believe in Jesus? He alone can make you well.

-Miss Darcy