Sam was a Vietnam soldier, a writer of books and articles, an illustrator and a graphic artist. He also plays the piano and writes poetry.
The Author's Thoughts
Why did men come from afar to visit the Christ child? I raise the question because of a scripture in the New Testament: John 10:16 says: "And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd."
There is also a scripture in the Old Testament that tends to show that a prophet is always necessary, to proclaim the doings of God: "Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets" (Amos 3:7).
I like to think that those Magi or "Kings" came to know of the birth of the Savior by way of revelation as opposed to "Magic" or "Astrology." And if the visitors were prophets - from "another fold" - then in order to properly testify of Jesus Christ, they would have to actually see Him. Associated with the workings of prophets are their writings. I talked with a man who walked among the Burmese people. He said that they have a verbal tradition that speaks of spiritual writings upon gold plates. I like to think that those writings contain the testimony of those "kings" that visited the Christ Child, and that some day they will come forth for all to see.
Avishai hurried to the inn where he hoped to meet Matthew. As he passed through the dusty streets, his tormented mind reviewed first, that wondrous night when the angels came to him and his fellow shepherds to proclaim the birth of the promised messiah. Demanding equal time was the tragedy almost two years later when his son, Levi, was murdered by Herod’s soldiers.
Initially, Avishai thought he could never be purged of the wonder of that glorious night when beings of light that exuded tremendous love sang songs so lovely and therapeutic that he thought could not have possibly been made on earth. But the murder of his son put a thick, black cloud over that experience, and the effects of the visions were wearing quite thin, now that 17 years had passed.
He had never seen this child – the supposed object of the prophecy; others had, but he went later, and found the house empty where they were reported to have been. He had been searching for this “messiah” ever since, though it was a half-hearted search after his son was killed. Later, he had inherited a good quantity of trinkets and precious metals from some anonymous relative or other source he couldn't explain. This distracted his search for the messiah, and he dedicated his time to the investment of the trinkets, which necessitated a move to another town for a time. Now, he was beginning to wonder if a messiah child was actually born, when he heard of a fellow by the name of Matthew who claimed to have some information on this subject.
When Avishai arrived at the inn, he found a small crowd around a young man of 18 years who was answering questions. Avishai wiggled his way to the front. When the young man was done answering the last question, Avishai asked, “Are you named Matthew?”
“You have spoken it,” The man answered, nodding.
Avishai leaned toward Matthew and spoke in a low voice. “I understand you know of the messiah child who was born in Bethlehem 17 years ago. Is he the Messiah?”
“Yes, it is he,” Matthew answered.
“And how do you know this?”
Matthew thought a moment then said, “There are many events surrounding this birth that are the fulfillment of prophecy. One, is that he would be born to a virgin. The husband of the child’s mother assured me that he did not know her when she conceived.
“Another prophecy is that the child would come from the house of David. This, too is true.
“Also, there was a prophecy that other children would be killed by a jealous king, to assure this messiah would not threaten his reign.”
Avishai’s mouth dropped. “What did you say?”
“Yes," Matthew replied. "Jeremiah prophesied: ‘Thus saith the Lord; A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, and bitter weeping; Rahel weeping for her children refused to be comforted for her children, because they were not.’ ”
Avishai raised his voice, showing a trace of anger: “You are saying that my . . . . my son was killed because of this messiah child?”
Everyone in the area, who had been buzzing with small talk, suddenly became quiet. All eyes were now on Avishai. Matthew looked at Avishai with a sad expression mixed with slight surprise. “Are you called Avishai?” he asked.
Avishai returned a puzzled look. “Yes, I am!”
Matthew turned to the other people. “Please let us be. I must ask this man’s time.”
Avishai watched with both puzzlement and patient anger as the crowd dispersed.
When they were alone, Matthew put his hand on Avishai’s shoulder. “I know of you. This child, who is named Jesus, has been looking for you. He asked me to bring you to him if I found you.”
As they walked to the place where Jesus was, Avishai wondered how he would confront him. Would he attack him? Would he ask him why his child had to die? He told Matthew the story in detail and threw accusations at him, as if he were the child of prophesy. He cried as he told of the torment in his soul, a torment where the visions of that holy night fought with the death of his son, and why should he believe in a messiah, now?
A young man of about 17 years saw them approaching from far off, and came to meet them. He was of frail build, carried a worried look on his lean face, and had eyes that looked deep into his soul.
Before Avishai could say anything, the young man asked, “Are you Avishai? The shepherd who witnessed the message of the angels?”
Avishai stared at the youth as he barely nodded his head.
“I am called Jesus," The young man said, "I was born that night, of Mary, wife of Joseph, son of David. You are the one who has lost a son to Herod’s rampage against the children.”
Avishai grimaced in an effort to hide his emotions. “Yes. Levi. How did you know?”
“When someone loses a child, especially to such a corrupt whim, it is hardly concealed from the public. My parents knew of you, and they tried to help you in their own humble way.”
“Why would would they want to help me?”
“Because you were the only shepherd who saw the glorious visions, and who also lost a son to Herod’s rage.”
“I don’t remember any help coming from them.”
“Do you remember an anonymous donation of myrrh for the embalming of your son?”
Avishai looked with surprise at Jesus, who continued, “My parents gave you a generous supply: many bottles to last you years, or to trade for money.”
Avishai just stared at Jesus.
“Later," Jesus continued, "you received some gold. Much gold. I suspect you spent it well, or invested it to bring you continual returns?”
Avishai sat down on the nearest bench. Shakily, he said, “I have never lacked anything in life.”
“This was from me," Jesus said. "My parents had saved it to give to me. I then sent it to you, without revealing my name.”
Avishai stared ahead. Weakly, he said, his voice wavering, “More important than gold or myrrh is the life of my son. How can that replace him?”
“Your loss," Jesus explained, "is a type for the loss our Father who is in heaven will suffer. He will give His only Son, just as you have given yours. But if this sacrifice were not to happen, then a more permanent loss will have come between you and your son.”
“I do not understand your words.”
“In time you will, good Sir. Meanwhile, I believe you are ready for a third gift which I have for you. Please follow me.” He turned and entered a carpenter's shop with a doorway that appeared to be permanently open. From a shelf, he pulled a box containing bottles of liquids and gummy substances. There was also a golden censer nestled in by the bottles. He turned to Avishai and held it out to him. “This is worth more than gold. But its spiritual value is worth much, much more. It is frankincense.”
Avishai looked at the box suspiciously. “Why are you giving this to me?”
“Take this box home with you. Put a cake of frankincense in the censer and burn it. As you feel the aroma, pray to our Father who is in Heaven, and ask Him to give you peace over your loss. Doing this, you will get an answer.”
Avishai hesitated, wondering if he should just unleash all his anger and frustration right now, while this person was still in his company. He looked into his eyes, and saw something that disarmed him: Again, he saw worry, but he also saw understanding and a calm reassurance. He saw a face that looked familiar – a friendly face – as if he had been his brother in another reality.
He returned home and inspected the box of frankincense, fingering the censer while he thought back on his miserable life.
Finally, he did as directed, and prepared some frankincense. After the cake was burning, and as he felt the aromas, he began a chant, which was his version of prayer.
His mind began to clear, and to quiet down – not of noise, but of turmoil and confusion. He felt peace growing within him. The peace turned into gladness. He saw comparisons of his past life. He saw the magnitude of the angels’ visit. He saw the heaviness of his son’s death. Next, he saw a visual representation of what Jesus had explained as “the sacrifice.” He saw the results of this sacrifice, discovering that it meant his son would live again, and they would meet at God’s feet in the end. The significance of this “atonement” became much more grand and important than the loss of his son, and in fact dwarfed what now seemed a brief time of bereavement.
Next, his son’s face appeared before him. The face was that of his infant son at first, then it changed into the image of a young man. Surprisingly, he spoke: “Greetings, Father.”
Surprised, Avishai hesitated. “You can see me?”
“Yes, Father. Have you been well?”
Avishai sobbed a few breaths of air, stifled a wail of gratitude, then said, “Levi! Levi! O, Levi! What has happened to you?”
“I am happy, Father, happier than one can dream of.”
“My son, you have died that Jesus might live! How can I accept that?”
“Father, Jesus--after living a perfect life--will suffer an unjust death. This will put the grave in subjugation to Jesus, and He will, in turn, use that power to overcome death for all of us. Thus, we will live again after we die.”
The incense burned out and the smoke thinned. “I must go now, Father.”
“Why must you go? Why leave me in this miserable world?”
“When you can’t bear it, light the censer again, and we will continue. But do not overdo it, lest you forget your life here, and your family. You have enough frankincense to return to me often enough, to the point of healing. Goodbye, father. Please find joy, and I ask that you keep that night with the angels sacred in your heart.”
Avishai noted that his wife was standing in the doorway. She asked, “Who were you talking to?”
He thought for a moment, then said, smiling serenely, “I was praying, my beloved. Next time I pray, I would like to take you with me, and see what is waiting for us. Meanwhile, I would like to talk to you about that vision I had from the angels on that special night, that now seems just the other day.”
Pull the family together and listen to the podcast of this story:
Samuel E. Richardson (author) from Salt Lake City, Utah on August 25, 2011:
Thank you, Bird. And thanks for the heads up on the podcast. I've been away, and didn't know it was done.
Brenda Barnes from America-Broken But Still Beautiful on August 22, 2011:
I just listened to the podcast and read your story. It is very touching and beautiful.
Samuel E. Richardson (author) from Salt Lake City, Utah on April 12, 2011:
Thank You, Simone, I appreciate that.
Simone Haruko Smith from San Francisco on April 12, 2011:
Most thought provoking. Hahaa, I enjoyed reading this!