Jacob’s Story

 

“Mosha! Mosha! Where have you gone? You’re always running off. I think you’re more trouble than you’re worth! Mosha, where are you?” Jacob wrapped his scarf around his neck and left the warmth of his fire to go search for his missing lamb. The night air was cold and he felt even colder when he left the glow of the campfire. The rest of the flock was gathered together and resting from the day’s journey. Hopefully, they would stay put allowing Jacob time to look for Mosha.

Mosha was Jacob’s favorite lamb. She seemed to have a mind of her own, always looking to go her own way – never one to be content with staying with the rest of the flock. Mosha reminded Jacob of himself. There were so many things that he would like to do, but it was his father’s flock that he had to tend. With no brothers, it was up to Jacob to care for the animals now that his father was too old to care for them himself. Mosha never seemed to tire. There was always something over the next hill that would catch her attention and off she would go. Sometimes Jacob thought about letting her go – “what’s one lamb?” If he could get the rest of the flock safely to Bethlehem he would sell them for a small profit and return home to his father’s praise. The money would see them through the winter and provide enough to buy some young animals in the spring to start another flock. Jacob was a shepherd like his father. He knew nothing else.

“Mosha! Come back here.” Jacob knew he couldn’t leave Mosha behind, so he set off to find her.  The moon was full and the sky was bright. The countryside was lit up by the nighttime glow. Jacob paused to look around for Mosha but she was nowhere in sight. He continued up the hill and hoped she hadn’t strayed too far. He needed his sleep, too. It had been a long day and he wanted to get back to the flock and the warmth of his fire. Tomorrow he would take the flock into Bethlehem where they would be sold. Caesar had ordered all people to return to their home villages to register for a census and the marketplace would be busy. It was a great opportunity to sell their flock of 30 lambs. But the thought of selling Mosha brought tears to Jacob’s eyes.

As Jacob continued up the hillside he remembered the day Mosha had been born. There was something different about Mosha from that very first day – something special in her eyes that Jacob never saw in the other lambs of the flock.  They quickly became friends and Mosha followed Jacob everywhere he went. Mosha was full of mischief, always getting into trouble, but whenever Jacob’s father would get angry at her, Jacob could always find an excuse for her behavior.

The gravel crunched under Jacob’s sandals as he walked up the path toward the top of the hill.  The stars were brilliant in the night sky, but the chill was taking its toll on Jacob.  He could see his breath with every step he took. From the top he hoped he would see Mosha chomping on some grass or the leaves of a bush. One glance at Jacob’s expression of disgust and Mosha would realize she was in trouble – but would she quickly return to the flock or decide it was time to “play” and run the other way? Jacob was in no mood to put up with Mosha’s antics tonight.  She had better come quietly!

Jacob made it to the top of the rise and stopped to look around. Off in the distance was the village of Bethlehem.  The lights still twinkled in the marketplace and in some of the homes.  The activity would continue into the early hours of the morning, but from here Jacob could only see the lights – not one sound carried the distance to his hilltop. In the silence he listened for Mosha. He could see clearly in every direction, but unless Mosha was moving she would be lost in the night shadows.  After watching carefully for several minutes there was still no sign of Mosha.  Jacob sat down to rest.

“Baaa! Baaaaa!” The sound floated through Jacob’s brain for a moment before he slowly opened his eyes. For a minute he stared quietly at the lamb standing on the path in front of him. “Baaaa.”  Jacob shook his head, realizing he had drifted off to sleep. Mosha was standing in front of him.

“Mosha! Where have you been? Come on, we have to get back to the flock and I want to get warmed up by the fire.”  Jacob turned and started to walk down the path back toward their campsite.  “I could have been sound asleep right now, but you had to go wander off again. Was it worth it? Did you find what you were looking for? Just one more night – tomorrow you will be someone else’s problem…” Jacob stopped. His tears were back at the thought of tomorrow. He would sell the flock and Mosha would belong to someone else. Jacob wiped his eyes and turned to look at Mosha. To his surprise, Mosha was still standing quietly at the top of the hill looking down the path at Jacob. “Mosha, we’re going back to the fire – now! Come on!” Mosha stood looking patiently at her master. Jacob was in no mood for this. He looked around and picked up a stick that was lying by the path. “NOW, Mosha!” Mosha turned and walked the other way, out of sight. Jacob dropped the stick and ran back up the path.

Once Jacob made it back up to the top of the rise he saw Mosha trotting down the path. Where was she going? He chased after her, but her trot was steady and it was apparent that she was not going to let Jacob catch up to her. Finally, at the bottom of the hill, Mosha stopped dead in her tracks, and turned back to look at Jacob. “This is not a game, Mosha. We have to get back to the camp – come on.” But Mosha stood in silence, looking over Jacob’s shoulder, back toward the top of the hill.

The crunching sound of hooves on gravel caught Jacob’s ear. He quickly turned and stared in astonishment as a rider came over the hill. First one, then another, and then a third! The men were dressed like kings, in robes that were colorful – even in the moonlight. From the packs they carried, it was apparent they had journeyed from afar. They were riding camels whose steps were slow and sure under the burdens they bore. Jacob stood in amazement as they approached.

“Young man! What village is that ahead of us?” asked the second rider.

“It is Bethlehem, sir” Jacob responded. “Where did you come from?”

The lead rider replied, “We are Magi from lands to the east. We are looking for the one who has been born king of the Jews. According to the prophets, this child would be born in Bethlehem and we have followed a star to this village.”

Jacob turned and looked back at Mosha, who stood there, knowingly, looking back at Jacob.  What did she know about all of this? The riders thanked Jacob for his information and slowly moved on down the path to the village below.

“Is THAT where you’ve been? You look like you’ve been up to something.” Mosha cocked her head as she listened to Jacob, then turned and started walking back down the path toward Bethlehem. “Mosha! We can’t leave the flock! We’ve been gone too long already!” but Mosha continued down the path, oblivious to Jacob’s pleas. Then Jacob followed her, slowly at first, but gathering speed as the two of them began to run down the path toward the village below. Boy following lamb, running in the moonlight, wondering what event had happened on this cold, winter’s night in the town of Bethlehem. Could the Magi have been right? Was a child born that would become the king of the Jews? Where would they find him? He must be in the biggest building in town. There would be many people gathered – wealthy people who had come to pay their respects. How could they get in? How could they even get close? Surely a poor shepherd boy would not be allowed to get near a newborn king!

As Mosha and Jacob drew closer to Bethlehem they began to pass small buildings along the road.  Mosha trotted along as if she knew where she was going. Jacob followed. Turning off the main road, Mosha walked between two small buildings. One appeared to be a small home and the other was an inn.  Peering through the window Jacob could see that several of the travelers were still sitting at a table drinking wine and talking with each other.  Did they know about a king being born? “Where are you going, Mosha? Town is that way.” Jacob said as he pointed back toward the main road. “We need to look for a crowd in order to find the baby. Come on, let’s go!”  But Mosha turned and walked toward the back of the inn.

There was little light and Jacob felt his way along the side of the inn until he found himself standing in an open area behind the building* He was afraid of making noise, sure the innkeeper would take him for a robber. What would a young boy be doing outside at this time of night unless he was up to no good! In the distance Jacob could see a faint light coming from another building. The stable. “Mosha,” Jacob whispered, “come here! There’s nobody back there except the animals that belong to those staying at the inn!” But Mosha persisted and Jacob ran up the pathway to follow the lamb.

Mosha stopped at the entrance to the cave. The candlelight spilled out from the entry way and illuminated the area in front of the stable. As Jacob walked up toward the stable he saw the Magi’s camels standing off to the side, tethered to a tree. Jacob stood next to Mosha in silence. Neither knew what to do next. Slowly, the lamb took one step forward, then another. Jacob stood still, his feet frozen to the ground. At the doorway, Mosha stopped and looked inside. She turned and looked at Jacob, as if to tell him everything would be alright, then walked into the stable and out of Jacob’s sight.

“This is not a place for a king to be born. What trouble has Mosha gotten us into now?” thought Jacob. “But the Magi’s camels are here. Could this really be the place they were looking for?”  Jacob slowly walked toward the entrance to the stable.

Inside the stable was a small gathering of people and animals. The Magi, dressed in their magnificent robes, had gathered around a manger full of straw.  Next to the manger a young woman was kneeling and another man was standing with his hand on her shoulder – all were looking intently into the manger. Mosha had made her way to the manger and she, too, was gazing at whatever, or whoever, was there. The woman looked up at the boy and a smile formed on her lips. “Come in, young man. You are welcome here.” His eyes never left the manger as he walked over to the huddled group of people. Laying on the straw, wrapped in an old cloth, was a newborn child. He was asleep. He did not look like a king.

Jacob stood in silence looking at the newborn child.  There was a peace and serenity in his face that Jacob had never seen before.  There was something special about this child – of that he was sure.  The Magi broke the silence as they presented his mother with gifts they had brought from their countries: gold, frankincense and myrrh.  They told the child’s parents how they had traveled to Jerusalem and met with King Herod as they searched for the child whose birth had been foretold by the prophets. Their journey led them to Bethlehem where they have found this child.  They knelt to worship the one who would become king. With glad hearts they could return to their countries. The Magi bid farewell and departed.

“What is his name?” Jacob asked.

“Jesus” said his mother.

In the comer of the stable a donkey became restless and the noise awakened the sleeping child. He did not cry, but he looked at each of the faces that were looking at him. Jacob laughed. “He’s so little!” His mother picked Jesus up and began to sing softly to her child. Jacob reached out his finger and the child squeezed it with his hand. Mosha came closer and put her nose up against the child’s head, nestled in the crook of his mother’s arm. The moment Mosha’s nose touched the little child a soft glow radiated all around, coming from Mosha! Jacob was startled at first, but watched with awe as Mosha’s fur became as white as new fallen snow! It glowed in the dim light of the stable. The lamb seemed unmoved by the change, in fact, Jacob was sure Mosha was aware of the change and even seemed to understand. Before long the child had fallen back to sleep and his mother laid him back in the manger. By now, Mosha was laying at Jacob’s feet. The father, his name was Joseph, told Jacob of the things that had occurred during the last 9 months. Jacob listened intently, hardly believing his ears. He watched the child’s mother, Mary, as Joseph continued with the story. There was a peace about Mary. A calmness. Love. No wonder God had chosen this woman to bear such a gift to the world!

“He really is the Messiah, isn’t he?” Jacob asked the child’s mother. “The one that the prophets said would come?”

“Yes. He is.” she answered softly.

“Mosha knew that you were here. She was the reason I came. I don’t have anything to give to you, but maybe he would like this…” Jacob took off his scarf and laid it over the sleeping child. “It will help keep him warm.”  Mary smiled at Jacob and he realized he felt warm for the first time since he left his campfire.

“I have to get back to my flock” Jacob said, “if they are still there!”

“Thank you for coming, Jacob. And for bringing your lamb.” Mary said.

“My lamb brought me!” Jacob answered. “Mosha. come on. We really have to go. Good-by little one. Good-by Mary, Joseph. Like the Magi, I’m glad we found you tonight.”

“Jacob, go and tell others what you have seen here this night,” said Mary. Her smile was as warm as the candles that provided the glow in the stable.

As Jacob and Mosha left the stable, they walked together in silence. The night sky had started to brighten in the east. As Jacob and Mosha arrived at the top of the hill, they turned to look back at the village they had left only an hour before. The sky was filled with stars, but one shown more brightly than all the rest. This one appeared to hang over Bethlehem as a jewel in the sky. Hadn’t the Magi said they had followed a star? Had this star pointed the way during their long journey?  In the twilight, Jacob could see the village below. A few lights still twinkled from small windows, though not a sound could be heard from below. Jacob felt the cold again and put his hand out for Mosha who was lying by his side. When Jacob looked toward his friend, Mosha’s fur was still luminescent! She glowed with a soft radiance. He recalled the stable. A warmth flowed through Jacob as he remembered.

“Thanks, Mosha. You knew, didn’t you?” Mosha put her head in Jacob’s lap as they looked together at Bethlehem below. “I’m not sure what we saw tonight, Mosha, but I think we were supposed to be there. I’m not sure what a poor shepherd and a lamb could have to do with the birth of a king, and I guess we will never know the answer, but I know we were supposed to be in that stable, and hear the story that Joseph and Mary told us. Mosha, you can help me lead the rest of the flock to Bethlehem tomorrow, but I’m not going to sell you at the market. You’re coming home with me.”

Jacob and Mosha got up and walked over the hill, back to their flock.  Mosha never lost her glow, neither did Jacob.

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