Today begins the serial release of an 8 part Christmas story. Imagine if newspapers existed around the time of Christ’s birth and some young reporter went to Bethlehem to investigate. Each segment reveals another aspect of the Christmas story and merges the accounts in Matthew and Luke. Please enjoy and share this with others. Expect segments to be released on 12/4, 7, 11, 14, 18, 21, 24, and 28.
One morning I was sniffing around the Jerusalem market, not for spoiled artichokes but for a story. Somewhere between Persian spices and dead chickens I ran into Denny, one of favorite sources. Denny was just a nickname, one he picked up because of his annoying coin flipping habit. “Denny, whatcha been up too?”
“You know I hate that name Squint,” he said in retaliation. Taking out a denarius, he began to flip it in the air, “I’ve just come up from Egypt, traded a load of Galilean dried fish for some spun cotton.”
“Pick up any news? My editor is about to fire me if I don’t come up with something good.”
“Pretty straight trip, roads were busy because of the crazy census. Even had to sleep under the stars one night, the inns being full and all. Now there’s a story for you, price gouging in the wake of the census by highway innkeepers. The headline could be something like – Innkeepers the New Highway Robbers?! Watcha think?” Denny smiled, trying to sell me on the story.
“Naw, my editor’s uncle runs an inn in Bethlehem, he’d never go for it.”
“Bethlehem, I hate that place it always stinks of sheep. You know I wasn’t the only one trying to sleep under the stars.” Denny said still trying to sell me the Innkeeper story. “There was this caravan from Persia, strangest thing I ever saw.”
“What,” I encouraged.
“Well, they weren’t selling anything. No trade goods at all. More like they were going to some royal gathering. I’d hope to trade with them before they came to the market, you know get a good deal, but they didn’t have anything or want anything. Well..” Denny thought for a moment, “that’s not true.”
“Come on, what did they want?”
“Information, they wanted to know where the king was born.” Strange, I thought to myself, wanting to see a king’s birthplace. “Anyway,” Denny continued, “I told them to head south to Edom. Perhaps someone down there knows where Herod was born. Turns out that they weren’t looking for Herod’s birthplace but some new king. They even had gifts for the baby.”
“Running a story like that wouldn’t get me fired, it would get me killed. You know how jealous King Herod is.” In my annoyance, I snatched Denny’s coin in mid flight. “Come on Denny, you always see something worth writing about out there. Think! Anything strange, anything out of place? Egypt, Beersheba, Debir, Hebron, Tekoa, Bethlehem. You went through all of those places there has to be something.” My annoyance turning to desperation.
“Bethlehem, there was something strange going on there.”
“I don’t know. I had to camp out to the west of town. The Innkeeper wanted triple the average rate. I really think you should run with that story.”
“Forget the price gouging story, what happened in Bethlehem?”
“Okay,” Denny paused for a moment composing his tale. “I was just about asleep when I heard several people running through my campsite. Looking out the tent flap I saw a group of shepherds running towards town. When I stepped out to get a better look at the commotion an older shepherd ran me over. ‘Whoa, what’s up friend?’ I asked. Well the old boy just stammered and pulled away. All I could get out of him was ‘angels’. Wondering what had startled them, I sent a servant back the way they came and returned to my hard bed. The next morning the servant reported finding a shepherdless flock of sheep. He stayed with them for a watch and quietly left when the shepherds returned.”
“That’s your strange thing, a bunch of drunk shepherds?” I asked incredulously.
“No, that’s just it. The old shepherd wasn’t drunk, I didn’t smell it on him. Although the sheep smell was a bit overpowering. Anyway, whoever heard of shepherds abandoning their flock and running into town where everyone would see them?”
I thought about Denny’s suggestion. It might work. Anything with angels would stir controversy between the Pharisees who believe in angels and the Sadducees who don’t. And as my editor always says – “controversy sells.” Slapping Denny’s coin back into his hand I explained my angle.
“It might work, but I think the innkeeper story is better,” he observed.
“You never give up,” I retorted.