A Christmas Tale

“Grandpa, what do the stars say tonight?” The young boy looked up into the sky. He shivered just a little as the breeze danced through his hair. He shrugged the thin coat higher up on his neck. The old man beside him looked up as well and smiled.
“Well, boy, you see that one in the western part of the sky, the one that is so much brighter than the others?”
“Yes, Grandpa, that one is Jupiter.” The boy was proud of himself for remembering. He and Grandpa have been coming out nightly so that the old man could teach him the language of the stars. Some of the names were hard to remember, but he knew Jupiter was the brightest one in the sky.
“Yes, but did you notice that it is especially bright tonight?” The boy looked again and the star did look much brighter than when they had seen it a few nights ago.
“Why is it so bright, Grandpa?” The more the boy looked at the star, the brighter it seemed, as if it wanted his notice.
“It is bright, because while clouds and storms have been hiding the stars, it joined with another one. My Grandpa told me long ago, that if it ever happened that I should take special note because something wonderful is going to happen.” The old man paused, his hands clasped behind his back.
“Like what?” the boy whispered. There was little in his short life that was wonderful, so just the thought made him breathless.
“Like a king being born.” The old man’s voice was low, nearly too quiet to hear.
“A king, really?” The boy bounced on his cold toes. A king was defiantly exciting, especially since Israel used to have kings before Rome came and killed them all.
“But not just any king, a special king.” The old man wiped his eyes before looking down at the boy beside him. “I have seen these two stars come together three times in the last year. Three times, something neither my grandfather nor his grandfather ever saw. Three is the number of Yahweh, the number of Divine Perfection. When we see it, we are to pay attention.”
“But, Grandpa, what does it mean?” The boy had gone from nervous excitement to quiet wonder.
“It means, my boy, the Messiah has come and while I am too old to know him, you must be on the watch for him in the coming years.”
“But how will I know him, Grandpa? What will he be like?”
The old man thought before he answered.
“Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer and the mute tongue shout for joy.” The man looked toward the west where the small town of Bethlehem nestled beneath the brightly blazing star. “Pay attention to the teachings of the prophets and listen to the whisperings of your own heart. Then you will know the Messiah when he comes.”
All through the long cold night, the old man and the young boy stood and gazed toward the star. Only when the sun rose and the bright light of the star gave way to the brighter light of morning, did the two turn back to their tent.
Many miles away, in a dim stable surrounded by animals, a tiny baby clung to his mother’s breast.

May the Stars watch over you and the child in the stable bless you. Merry Christmas

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Blind leading the Blind, conclusion

“It is Jesus, he is coming!”

I began to shake. For a moment, I was back in the market surrounded by enemies. My body wracked with the pain of blows I couldn’t see coming. I had no defense, no shelter from the wrath of those who beat me with impunity. The terror of being at the mercy of an enemy I couldn’t escape filled me beyond bearing.

“Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me!” The words escaped my throat in a rush. I could sense people on either side of me pull back, no doubt not wanting to be too close if my outburst brought punishment. Voices shouted from the direction of the street.

“Shut up, old man.”

“Leave the teacher alone.” Someone nudged me with a sandaled foot. I could not stop shouting.

“Son of David, have mercy on me!” Even as I cried out the words, panic rose within me. What if he ignores me? What if he refuses? I will be like this forever, always afraid, always alone. Wrapping my arms around myself, I began to rock trying to fight back the terror. The voices in the street began to mutter angrily. Beggars were not supposed to demand the attention of important people. Beggars were to meekly accept whatever was given whether blows or blessings.

“Call him.” The voice was calm and firm. My rocking slowed. The panic ebbed away.

“On your feet beggar, he is calling you.”

“Cheer up, he wants you to come to him.” The voices calling out were the same ones that had told me to be still. The words had changed, but the tone did not. They did not like me to bother the man they were following but I did not care. He had answered my call and I must to go to him. I struggled for a moment to untangle my legs from my cloak so that I could stand. Finally, I threw it off. The desperation to go to Jesus overpowered everything else. I staggered to my feet and lurched toward the street.

“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus spoke calmly. My heart raced.

“Rabbi, I want to see.” For a moment, nothing happened. No one moved. The only sound was that of people breathing and shifting. I flinched as a hand touched my bruised face but the touch didn’t hurt. It was soft and gentle as a breath of wind. Gentle fingers touched my closed eyes then moved away. A moment later the man spoke.

“Go, your faith has healed you.” I could hear the man step back. For a moment, I continued to kneel. Could it possibly be true? I opened my eyes. Brightness seared my brain. My eyes snapped shut once more. The familiar darkness was comforting for a moment, but the memory of that light drew me. I opened my eyes a tiny crack. The light was still bright, but no longer painful. I opened them a little more. The light shifted and moved. It changed from light to dark and back. A little more. The shifting light was shapes moving back and forth around me. I blinked and opened my eyes fully.Dazed, I staggered to my feet. This was sight. It
was more that I had ever dreamed. Colors, what were their names? It was a symphony of shape and color and texture. Tears streamed from my eyes. It was overwhelming.

Can you imagine what it would be like to see for the first time after being born blind. Just having to walk through a strange place without the benefit of my contacts or glasses is enough to send me into a near panic. Imagine seeing nothing but  blackness. Forever. Then Someone comes and offers you sight. The play of light and shadow on water or on a field of grass, the colors of a sunset or the simple perfection of a flower all available to you for the fist time. Even the hard things, the suffering face of a friend, the death of a loved one, the devastation of war. In all of those things, God shows his face, his love, his sorrow.

But do we see? There is none so blind as those who will not see. How many of us have the blessing of sight but refuse to open our eyes to the world around us. God calls us to be salt and light to the world. Our world is hurting so much right now. What are we doing to bring the light of God’s Word to others? How are we leading those we love and even those we don’t to the blessings God has planned for his people.

Open your eyes and see what God has for you today.

Blind leading the Blind

As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (that is, son of Timaeus), was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”

So they called to the blind man, “cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.

“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.

The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”

“Go,” said Jesus, “Your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.

Mark 10:46-52

This story has intrigued me for some time. Going blind was a fear of mine since I was young. My optometrist told my mom when I was 13 that I could be legally blind by 18 if I didn’t get contacts to slow the deterioration of my vision. It worked, at ….somewhat older than 18….. I can still see, as long as I have my contacts in, but the fear has lingered. Therefore, the stories of Jesus healing the blind have always drawn me. This story attracts me especially, because Bartimaeus is one of the few names we have of those that were healed. The gospels of Matthew and Luke tell this story as well. They don’t mention the man’s name, but add some other details.

The main part of the story remains consistent. Bartimaeus is sitting beside the road begging, when Jesus comes by, he calls out for mercy. The crowd tries to silence him, but he calls out louder. Jesus has compassion on him and calls him closer and heals him. In Matthew 20, there are two men and Jesus heals them by touching their eyes. Luke 18 adds that he followed Jesus praising God.

I  have begun writing Bartimaeus’ story using details from all three gospels. To me, Bart is a man who had been born blind and has accepted his lot in life. He has taken a boy under his wing who has slowly lost his vision over his youth until he can he can see light and dark, but little else. On the day that they meet Jesus, Bart and the boy have to find their way through the city of Jericho without the benefit of their usual guide. Bart manages well enough until they reach the marketplace. They need to get across relying on their wits and their remaining senses. Can they do it? What happens to make Bartimaeus so desperate for healing?

Tune in next time for more….