The First Christmas Gift
"Mother, Mother?" Eli yells as he
runs into the yard.
"Eli, please don't yell. Your
sister is asleep." Sarah scolds as she walks out of the
"I'm sorry, Mother. I hope I
didn't wake Elizabeth up. Guess what? Father said I could go with
him, John, and Timothy tonight to watch the sheep. Isn't that
great?" Eli says as fast as he can not waiting on his mother to
reply to his question.
"Eli, where is your father?" His
mother asks quietly.
"I am right here, Sarah" Thomas
answers as he walks toward the house. "Eli, I thought we agreed
that I would tell your mother? Thomas walks over the Eli and rubs
the top of his head.
"I know, Father, but I couldn't
wait. I'm sorry."
"Eli, will you please go check on
your sister? Don't wake her just see if she if okay. Thank you."
Sarah asks as she looks at her husband.
"Thomas, Eli is just six. Are you
sure he should go tonight? It's going to get cold." Sarah lays
her hand on Thomas' arm and looks worrier into his eyes.
"Sarah, Eli will be just fine. I
will be with him, so will John, and Timothy. Besides with all the
people in Bethlehem and everyone having to go to their ancestry
home towns to be counted I really do need another pair of eyes.
Eli will be fine and he will remember this night his whole life."
Thomas gently pats Sarah's arm and softly kisses her cheek.
"I guess you are right. I just
worry about him being so young."
"It will be fine. Eli has to learn
how to talk care of the sheep sometime. Now how about dinner for
your men before they go and stand watch over the flock?" Thomas
walks and together they walk toward the house.
The family eats dinner and Sarah
packs some bread, cheese, and put milk and water in the goat
bladders so the men will have something to eat during the long
"Master Thomas, are you ready to
go?" John asks as he walks toward the open door.
"Yes, John. Eli and I are ready."
Thomas kisses Elizabeth and Sarah goodnight.
"So, Eli, are you ready to help
keep an eye on the sheep?" John asks as he takes the bags of food
and bladders from Sarah.
"I am ready. This is going to be
fun." Eli replies as he puts on his outer coat. "I want to learn
to be a great shepherd just like Father."
"Eli, be sure to stay with your
father. Stay warm." Sarah says as she tightly hugs her young
"Mother, I will be okay. Father
and the others will be with me." Eli hugs his mother real hard,
feeling a little scared but excited also.
"We will beck tomorrow morning
just as soon as Ruben and James arrive to relieve us. Sleep in
God's hands." Thomas kisses Sarah and takes Eli hands.
Thomas, Eli and John walk through
the crowed streets of Bethlehem to get to the fields where Thomas
keeps not only his sheep but the sheep of others he has agreed to
watch during the census. Since Thomas belongs to the House of
David, he doesn't have to travel doing this time. He agreed to
help his neighbors and friends by watching their sheep. Having
the extra sheep to watch was one of the reasons Thomas wanted Eli
to go with them. He needed as many eyes as he could get. Besides,
Thomas thought it was time Eli started learning the family
"Eli, stay close. The streets are
crowed and I don't want you to get lost. Hold my hand"
"Okay, Father. But why are there
so many people in our small town?"
"They are here because Caesar
wants to know how many people there are, so everyone must go to
the town where their forefathers lived to be counted." Thomas
answers hoping Eli would understand.
"Why didn't we have to go
somewhere else?" Eli asks as he looks at all the people in the
streets and doorways.
"Because our forefathers are part
of the House of David and Bethlehem is the City of David so we
didn't have to go anywhere. Besides I have already filled out all
the required paper work."
"Are you also from the House of
David, John?" Eli asks.
"Yes, Eli, I am. So I guess that
makes us distant cousins." John jokes as they walk along.
"Excuse me, sir. Do you know of
any place left with a room? You see my wife is expecting a child
and we have been traveling for a long time to get here." A young
man leading a donkey with a very pregnant young lady on it asks
"I'm sorry but I believe all the
inns are full but you might try Simon's inn down the street. I
hope you find somewhere to rest. Your wife looks very tired. May
God be with you and your new family."
"Thank you, kind sir. May God be
with you and yours tonight?" The young coupe slowly walks down
the street. As the donkey passes Eli, the young wife turns and
smiles at him.
As the trio walks out the gate,
Eli tugs on his father's arm. As Thomas stops and leans down Eli
whispers, "They were a nice couple. Do you think they are special
"Why do you ask that, Eli?"
"I felt that they are special. I
don't know why, do you?"
"No, son. I thin they are just
like most of the people here just doing what they have to do. The
lady looked very uncomfortable. I hope they fined a good place to
Soon the trio arrives at eh field.
Stephen and Benjamin already have a fire going. The sheep are
quietly eating grass or lying down. Everything looks peaceful and
"Everything is fine, Thomas. We
counted the sheep and if the numbers James and Timothy gave us
are correct all the sheep are here." Stephen says as Thomas, Eli,
and John walk toward the fire.
"What do we do now, Father?' Asks
"We watch the sheep, making sure
they don't wander off and get lost. We take turns sleeping and
"Is that all? I though there was
more to being a shepherd."
"Eli, being a shepherd is a good
job. Sheep are not smart. They follow each other and can easily
get hurt. There are wolves and bears who like to eat sheep, so we
must make sure they are protected and stay together." Thomas
"Wow, that is a big
responsibility. I hope I will be a good shepherd, one who watches
over his sheep and keeps them close." Eli replies feeling really
good about his new job.
The group stays near the fire as
the temperature slowly drops and talk about everything. After a
while Stephen and John fall asleep. Eli tries to sleep but he is
so scared that something is going to happen to the small lamb he
found. The lamb is very small, only a few weeks old. His father
gave him the lamb to watch over and told him that the mother had
gotten lost and they feared a wolf go her. Now it was Eli's job
to tend this little one.
Eli gathers the lamb in his arms
and wraps his coat around both of them. Soon both the boy and the
lamb are asleep.
"Thomas, look at that star. It is
so bright and looks so close. It is almost like you could reach
out and touch it." Benjamin whispers trying not to wake
"I have never seen it before. It
is almost like it reaches to the city. It is such a beautiful
night. So calm, so peaceful. Like my father used to say 'God is
in His heaven and all is right with the world.'." Thomas replies
smiling toward the night sky.
Thomas and Benjamin glance toward
the sheep only to see all of them asleep with the dogs watching
Suddenly, both men see a bright
light near them. From within the light a person in bright white
clothing walks toward them. Because the light is so bright it
wakes John, Eli, and Stephen.
"Father, what is going on? Is it
morning already?" Eli asks rubbing his eyes as he sits up holding
"I don't know, Eli. But for some
reason I can tell all of you that everything is okay." Thomas
reaches out for his son enfolding him in his arms.
"How do you know everything is
okay?" Asks Stephen.
"I just know. I have a feeling of
"Do not be afraid, for behold I
bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.
For there is born to you this day in the City of David a Savor,
who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign to you; you will
find the Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths lying in a manger." The
angel of Lord says to the shepherds who stood as if they are
paralyzed. (Luke 2:9-12 NKJ).
Just as the angel finishes
speaking the whole sky glows as a multitude of angels appear
praising God saying "Glory to God in the highest and on earth
peace good will toward men. (Luke 2:13 NKJ).
As Thomas looks at Eli; the Sky
grows dark again. The stars seem brighter and all of them feel an
extreme feeling of peace and love.
"What did we just see?" Benjamin
"I think we have been in the
presence of an angel of God." Stephen replies.
"Why would God send an angel to
tell us about this Savior being born?" John questions.
"Father what are we going to do
now? Are we going to the town and see the baby?" Eli asks as he
tugs on his father's coat.
"I think that is a good idea. God
wouldn't have given us this important message unless we are to
go. Do you think we can find the manger where the baby is?"
John glances toward the sky and
seeing the new star shinning brightly replies, "I thin we are to
follow that star. It will lead us to the baby."
"What about the sheep? Should one
of us stay here with them?" Benjamin asks.
"They will be fine. The dogs will
watch over them. Besides I think God will also be watching over
them for us. Don't you think He would care for them for us so we
can go see the child?" Thomas tells the group.
The men look toward the flock of
sheep, and all of them nod. They gather their staffs and start
walking toward the city.
"Eli, you should leave the lamb
here. He belongs with the flock." Thomas says as Eli places the
lamb across his shoulders.
"Father, the lamb is for the baby.
Every boy should have a lamb to raise. I know you gave him to me
to raise but I can get another one. Besides everyone gets
presents on their birthday."
"Eli, when did you get so smart? I
thought I brought a little boy with me tonight but I now know you
are not that small any more. I am very proud of you." Thomas rubs
his sons head.
They walk in silence into the
crowded city. Even thought it is well part midnight there are
people still awake. There are people everywhere, some sleeping in
doorways, others just sitting on the ground. All waiting for
"There, there the star seems to be
over there." Johns say excitedly pointing toward Simon's
The group walks through the city
toward the outer edge. Here there are few homes and only one or
two inns, one of them Simon's. They slowly walk to the entrance
of the stable to Simon's inn. Thomas softly knocks on the door
frame. From within they hear the small coo of a baby.
"May I help you, Gentlemen?" The
young man Thomas, John and Eli had met on the street earlier
"Sir, we were in the fields
outside the city tonight watching the sheep and we were visited
by an angel of God who told us that a Savior was born tonight
here in the city. We have followed the new star to this stable.
May we see the baby?' Thomas asks politely.
"Joseph, who is there?" The
shepherds hear from within
"Shepherds, Mary, led by an angel
to see Jesus. May they come in?" Joseph answers.
"Yes, Joseph, they may. We could
not turn them away especially since God sent them here." Mary
says smiling down at her new son.
"Please, come in." Joseph moves
away from the entrance so they may enter.
Thomas moves to the side to allow
John, Stephen, and Benjamin to enter first. He then follows with
Eli holding the boys hand tightly. The men bow down as they near
Mary who is holding the child. No one says a word. As John,
Stephen, and Benjamin rise to leave they smile at Mary and shake
hands with Joseph. They depart through the entrance to wait on
Thomas and Eli.
As Eli walks up, he removes the
lamb from his shoulders and gently sets it at Mary's feet.
"Here is my present on the day of
your birth, little one. I hope you like it." Eli looks at the
"Thank you, young man. My son will
take good care of your lamb. You have been a very generous boy to
give up your own lamb. I know you have given from your heart."
Mary replies leaning over to gently kiss Eli on the cheek.
"Good lady, may your son grow to
be a strong and brave man. Thank you for sharing him with us. May
God always watch over this family. You are blessed among women."
Thomas says as he bows down in front of Mary.
Thank you, gentle Shepherd. Your
words mean a lot to my family and me." Joseph replies as he
shakes Thomas' hand.
Thomas and Eli leave to join the
"Father, did you see the baby
smile at me when I gave him the lamb. Do you really think he is
the Savior the rabbi says will one day come?"
"Yes, Eli, I do. I don't know how
I know but I do."
"Remember, Father, I told you
earlier that I thought they were special."
"Yes, Eli, I do and they
"Thomas, if you don't mind I think
I will go and wake James and Ruben. They have to know about this.
I have to tell someone. I can't keep this inside" John says
turning to walk toward James' home.
"Wait, John, I will go with you.
If you don't care, Thomas?" Stephen calls to John.
"Go ahead, we can see to the sheep
till morning. See you then." Thomas reaches down and takes Eli's
"In the morning we will tell your
mother, but for the rest of the night someone must watch the
sheep. We will go back to the field and pray to thank God for
sharing this great event with us." Thomas tells Eli and Benjamin
as they walk back toward the field.
When they reach the field, they find the fire
still going and the sheep and dogs just where they left them. The
three of them kneel down and Thomas leads them in a prayer to God
for all He has done for them this night.
Soon all three fall into a
peaceful sleep. Come morning they are awakened by Stephen, John,
James and Ruben.
"Did what John told me really
happen." James asks Thomas.
"Oh, yes, James. I know in my
heart everything happened last nigh. I also believe we were
allowed to be the first to see our Savior. Just to think lowly
shepherds the first to see our Savior." Thomas says looking
toward heaven as if to say thank you once more to God.
"Why don't you and Eli go home and
tell Sarah. We will stay with the sheep." Benjamin says helping
Eli roll up his bed roll.
"Mother, Mother! Guess what
happened to us last night?" Eli yells at the top of his lungs as
he runs toward the house.
"Eli, please no so loud." Sarah
says as she appears in the door way.
"But, Mother, we were visited by
an angel and went to see a new baby. I gave him my lamb as a
birthday present. He smiled at me. It was great." Eli relates his
experiences to Sarah at such a fast pace that she just
"Thomas, what is Eli going on
about? He sounds so excited."
Thomas picks up Elizabeth, who has
started to cry because o fall the noise, and motions for Sarah to
come and sit down on the bench under the tree.
"Eli, take your sister and play
with her while I tell your mother about last night."
Eli picks up Elizabeth and takes
her t a spot on the other side of the tree to play.
Thomas looks at his wife and
slowly tells her all that happened over night.
"Wow, Thomas. What a great
experience to have. An angel of God giving you all the greatest
news ever. I am so proud of Eli giving up his lamb to the baby.
Eli is such a good boy; I know he will be a good loving man just
like his father." Sarah says after Thomas has finished.
Sarah and Thomas can hear Eli and
Elizabeth playing and Eli is telling Elizabeth all that happened
even though Elizabeth is too little to understand.
Sarah gently kisses her husband's
cheek and smiles as she watches her children.
"Father, why are we moving to
Nazareth?" Eli asks as he places another chair on the
"Because your grandfather needs my
help with his flock, since he hurt his leg and grandfather lives
in Nazareth." Thomas answers as he puts the last piece of
furniture on the wagon.
"Where will we live, with
"Yes, Grandfather's house in a
nice large one close to a carpenter named Joseph. Mary and Joseph
have children you and Elizabeth can play with." Thomas lifts
Elizabeth to Sarah who is already sitting in the wagon.
The journey takes about a week to
travel. During this time the family stays the night with friends
along the way.
"Grandfather, we're here!" Eli
shouts as he races toward the house.
Eli's grandfather, James, slowly
walks out of his house leaning on a wooden cane. Three months ago
James fell in the field while tending the sheep and broke his
leg. It has been hard for him since he must now use a cane all
"I am so glad you are here. Thank
you, Thomas, Sarah, for coming to help me. I have been so lonely
over the past few years since your mother died and now I have
hurt my leg. I just can't tend the sheep like I could. Thank you
so much for coming to help." Grandfather James takes Eli hand and
walks toward his daughter and son-in-law.
"Father, you know we would have
come early if you had wanted. You kept telling me you were okay
after mother died 3 years ago." Sarah says as she hugs her
"I didn't need help until I got
hurt. I can cook and clean and could still watch my flock but
once I fell and broke my leg, I had to accept that I needed
help." He returns Sarah's hug and offers his hand to
Thomas, Sarah, Eli, and Daniel,
Grandfather's hired hand, start to unload the wagon.
"Father, you sit down and play
with Elizabeth while we get this wagon unloaded."
"I'll start supper. Elizabeth, you
can help me." Sarah says after they have finished unloading the
"James, I will see you tomorrow."
Daniel states as he leave to go home.
"Thomas, you and Eli come with me.
I want you to meet my good friend Joseph." Grandfather James says
leading them down the lane. "Sarah we will be back in about 30
Grandfather James, Thomas and Eli
slowly walk about 300 yards and stop in front of a carpenter
"Anyone Home?" Grand father
"James, my friend. Come in, Come
in." a large muscular man walks out of the shop door. He is
followed by a young boy about 5 years old.
"Joseph, this is my son-in-law,
Thomas and my grandson, Eli. They have come to help me with the
flock. Thomas, Eli this is Joseph and his son Jesus."
"Please to meet you. Please come
in. Jesus and I were working on a table for Mary's mother, Anna."
Joseph led them into his work shop.
Eli and Jesus look each other over
and then shake hands and smile.
"Joseph, may I ask you a
question?" Thomas asks.
"You look very familiar. Were you
in Bethlehem 5 years ago for the census?
"Why, yes. Jesus was born there.
Why do you ask?"
"Do you remember group of
shepherds that came to the stable?"
"Yes, I do. How do you know about
"Well, Joseph, Eli and I were with
While the men are talking, Eli and
Jesus have gone outside to play with left over pieces of wood.
Jesus is showing Eli just how to join the pieces together so that
the seam will not be seen.
"Jesus, five years ago, I was
helping my father & his friends keep the sheep one night.
Suddenly there was a very bright star and angels. We were told to
go back to Bethlehem and find a baby in a manger. I think that
baby was you. I gave the baby my lamb. If that baby was you, you
are special." Eli tells Jesus.
Jesus just smiles and says, "Eli,
thank you for the lamb. I am sure it was hard for you to give it
"Father, Father." Yells Eli.
"Jesus was the baby we saw in the manger."
"Eli, please you don't have to
yell. I know Joseph and I have been talking about that night.
Isn't it great to have them live so close to Grandfather?"
"You must come in meet Mary. She
will be so happy to see you again." Joseph hangs up his apron and
leds the group to the house.
"Mary, we have guest." Joseph says
as he holds open the door for James, Thomas and Eli.
"Oh, Joseph. The house is a mess."
Mary says coming out to the kitchen.
"Mary, the house is fine. You,
Hannah, and Ruth always keep our house spotless."
"Mary, I would like introduce you
to my son-in-law, Thomas and my grand son, Eli, but I think you
have already met them about 5 years ago." James says.
"Joseph, are these the
"Yes, Mary, they are. Isn't that
something after all these years? They are here to live with James
and help him. We shall be neighbor."
"Thomas, you and your family will
have to meet the rest of our family. However, Joseph's older
sons, Joseph and James, are both married and do not live here.
Joseph lives in Cana and James in Bethany. The younger boys,
Simon and Juda are out making delivers for Joseph. Hannah and
Ruth are in the kitchen helping me with supper. Girls, please
come here.' Mary calls to Hannah and Ruth.
Hannah, a lovely twelve year old
with big blue eyes and long dark hair walks out with her sister,
Ruth., a young girl about ten who looks like a smaller version of
"Yes, Mother." Hannah says wiping
her hands on her apron.
"Girls, this is Thomas, and Eli.
Thomas is James' son-in-law and Eli is his grandson. Thomas and
Eli were with the shepherds who come to see us when Jesus was
born. Eli is the young man who gave us the lamb. You remember we
told; you about this when Anna brought all of you to Bethlehem to
live. "Joseph says.
"Yes, Father. Pleased to meet you,
Thomas, Eli." Hannah says. Ruth just stands behind her sister not
"Mary, Joseph, I hate to bring
this nice reunion to an end but I told Sarah we would only be
gone a short time. We have to get back. I know she will have
supper ready and I don't want her upset we are late and supper is
cold." James announces.
"I am sure my children and your
children will be good friends. We must get together soon so we
can all get to know each other." Thomas says as he shakes hands
with Joseph. "Mary, girls, it has been a pleasure to meet
"May the Lord watch over you and
your family will we meet again." Joseph says seeing them
"Father, wait till we tell mother.
She must meet Mary and Joseph real soon. I am sure she will like
them" Eli says as they walk home.
"I am sure she will, Eli. And you
and Elizabeth will have other children to play with."
"Sarah, guess who; your father's
neighbors are? They are the young couple Eli and I meet the night
of the bright star. They are Mary and Joseph. Joseph is the
carpenter your father talks about all the time. You will have to
meet them soon." Thomas says not allowing Sarah to guess.
"That's great, Thomas. Hopefully
we will all be good friends. Now go wash so we can eat before it
The men wash and the small family
sits down to eat. James asks the blessing upon their meal.
"Sarah, this bread is very good.
"Grandfather says eating another piece.
"You must thank Elizabeth. She
made it." Sarah replies
"Elizabeth, you did a wonderful
job. Thank you for the bread." James says smiling at his
"Thank you, Grandfather."
"Thomas, do Mary and Joseph have
any other children?" Sarah asks during the meal.
"Let me answer, Thomas. Yes, well
Joseph does. Jesus is Mary and Joseph's only child but Joseph has
6 other children from his first marriage to Rebekka. Rebekka died
when their youngest daughter was born. The oldest boys are
married and live elsewhere. Joseph in Cana and James in Bethany.
They are 20 and 18. Simon 16 and Judas 14, who like to be called
Jude, and Hannah 12 and Ruth 10 still, live at home. "
"Father, I am so glad Joseph has
Mary to help raise his children. I must meet her. Elizabeth and I
will go over tomorrow. Besides we need a larger table. This one
is too small for us. No offense, Father, but it was fine for you
and Mother, but not for five people. I will ask Joseph if he will
make us a new one."
"No offense taken, Sarah. I
understand. You will be pleased with Joseph's work. He is a very
"Elizabeth, please help me with
"I'll help to, Mother." Eli
replies picking up the plate.
"Thank you, Eli."
"Thomas, come outside with me. I
want to hear the story of how you meet Joseph and Mary and
The men walk outside and Thomas
retells the story again. James has heard it before.
"To think God choose to allow
lowly shepherds to be the first to see His son. I wish I could
have been there with you."
"It was great. I
feel so blessed. And now to have them living so close. For my
children to be able to be friends with Jesus and his brothers and
sisters. I h