The light of the campfire flickered across the faces of the herders. They’d polished off the last of the cabrito. “Muy Bien,” said Tío, “I’m glad we got together. It’s been a long time. We lost José last year.”
Pedro said, “Yeah, if it wasn’t for him we’d never had the nerve to go to Bethlehem that night. It was scary when those angels lit up the camp ... bright as day!
“What I remember is the singin’,” said Juan. “It was like we were in a canyon full of sound, you could almost see it! I figured it would spook the sheep, but it didn’t.”
“Little Jake stood behind ol’ José, peekin’ around his leg,” said Pedro. “When them angels finished and rose up and flew outta there, José said, ‘C’mon boys we’re goin’ to town!’”
Tío stirred the fire with a stick. “Truth is I felt kinda foolish pokin’ our heads in every stable we came to, ’course Bethlehem ain’t that big, and, we was all surprised when we walked around the back of that inn and there they were, just like the angel said! They had an ol’ burro tied to a post ... I’ll never forget it. The man was layin’ out on a pallet snorin’ away ... shoot, he’d walked all the way from Galilee. And the lady, she was propped up against a feed manger holding a baby.
“They were country people, didn’t look like they had much. What struck me was it was so ... simple, so unfancy. I was expectin’ more of a fiesta. This was the baby that the angels had said was going to be a Savior to all the people in the world, but it didn’t seem right that they’d just invite a bunch of sheepherders? Seems like they’d tell the priest or at least the mayor, have some fanfare ... but they didn’t.”
That old feeling that had come over him standing 10 feet away from those angels all those years ago came back. A shiver ran up his arm. Tío had kept track of the baby. They’d named him Jesus. Tío had watched as Jesus grew up and turned into ... a hero. People followed him wherever He went. He performed miracles. He preached. He said He was the Son of God.
Well, Tío believed it. You can’t just make up angels. He touched the campfire with his stick. José’s son Jake, now a grown man, spoke into the silence, “I held Him.” He said quietly.
“The señora got up and needed to go outside. I took Him very carefully. He was warm, the baby, but it felt like He was holding me and not the other way around. I stayed very still and then, to my surprise ... He looked at me ... like He knew what I was thinking.
“Then he reached up and put his hand in mine, and I filled up inside like I knew everything that mattered in the world,” Jake paused, “and through all that has happened since then, to Him, and to me ... He has never let go of my hand.” ❖