Following the Star...
A Christmas Story...
I wrote this a couple of years ago.
It has been one of my favorites.
David yawned and stretched at exactly the same time as a white fire exploded in the sky. A dazzling trail of sparkling dust bled down from the inferno. Next the core of the burst slowly twirled around and around, with sparks jumping off and rearranging into points around a circle to form a glistening star. It blinked once before pirouetting across the expanse of inky black. The young shepherd stumbled in surprise but grasped harder on his staff to keep upright. The white pulsating light danced across the horizon, beckoning the lad with every blink.
David's heart pounded with such force it was a wonder it didn't burst into a million particles. The star was alive with fire. It telegraphed a message, a familiar one of love...love in its purest, simplest form. The apparition glided across the expanse of black like a sailboat skimming across the water.
"I've got to follow," the young shepherd murmured. The sheep had settled for the night. He would slip away. Gathering a blanket, the boy glanced at his animals. A lamb slept separately from the rest. Enamored from the start by the tiny creature, he'd given it a nickname, Gentle. He gathered Gentle in his arms and gazed at the sky. The star continued to travel on its glistening path.
David rushed after it in what turned out to be a half night's journey up and over fragrant grassy hills, until finally he arrived on the dry, dusty road leading to Bethlehem. Moving quickly to keep up, his heart sang on the exhilarating journey. His lungs filled with cool air while the spicy aromas of the countryside tickled his nose. He loved the land in all its aspects.
Father would not be pleased he had abandoned the flock, but an emotion like white fire had overtaken his heart as the starry light led him onward.
Bethlehem proved to be a busy town, as multitudes of travelers wandered in for the census. The Inns were full, and many camped along the road. Children played together as their weary parents prepared makeshift bedding and scoured their supplies for a bit of bread or water. They stared at the intense young man as he passed by. Oblivious to their gazes, David's pounding heart pushed him farther into the tiny city.
He imagined his father would be exasperated at dawn to find the sheep unattended. David sighed. What kind of life is a shepherd's anyway. Samuel, his friend, made a good living stealing at the marketplace in Bethlehem. With hands like a magician, he could grab up an item and hide it in his cloak before anyone was the wiser. Bringing the items home to the village, the town's people were eager to buy cheaper than they would pay in Bethlehem. Samuel would no doubt someday be a rich man. He had offered to teach young David all his tricks.
"That's what I should do," the boy said out loud, as though speaking the words would make them true. Satisfied with the thought, David barely noticed the star had stopped moving. It pulsated in the sky over a ramshackle stable standing behind a nearby Inn.
His heart's fierce pounding sounded in his ears again. A yearning in his soul pushed him toward the stable. He needed whatever was there, but what was it?
A man, a woman, and a baby, who was nestled in a manger of straw, met his gaze. A cow and two horses lingered in the back, the only sound being the gentle swish of the cow's tail, back and forth, back and forth. What were these people doing in a stable with animals?
The baby opened his eyes and caught David's glance. The little one's gaze burnt with the fiery magic of the star. The baby was the star.
Cascading emotions rushed David, dropping him to his knees. His heart was in a cacophonous turmoil of love, reverence, and confusion woven together in a pattern of gaudy mismatched hues. His weakened hand lost its grasp of Gentle and the lamb ambled forward to the babe.
The infant's eyes paralyzed David in their light. Who was this child? The boy's heart crashed to the ground as the infant's eyes, with a waver, read his heart and desire to be a thief, like Samuel. The orbs shot to David a message like a whisper. He had a decision to make, to follow the righteous path and be a proper shepherd, or follow the way of dishonesty to acquire material riches.
Visions of David's flock floated through his mind, and a rush of its sublime and simple beauty wrapped around him like a satin ribbon. He knew he wanted the life of an honest and simple shepherd. All honest work had dignity on God's good earth. On the hillside with the sky and grasses and sheep, he would be close to God. He glanced to the child, and a glint in the tiny eyes reassured him.
David averted his eyes as his soul filled to brimming. Looking up, he nodded to the man and woman.
"The lamb," he said, nodding toward Gentle. "It is a gift...for the baby. For surely this infant is the lamb of God."
The woman's smile could light up the entire night sky. David bowed to them and turned to go. The time had arrived for a new beginning, one full of purpose and self-knowledge, and the right path to God.
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Copyright 2005 JO Janoski