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Chapter 24 - A Gift for a King

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  “Did you say the Messiah has been born in Bethlehem?” Daniel asked the excited shepherds. “Yes! Yes!” the shepherds quickly responded. “The angel said we would find the baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger. We must go and see this thing that has happened.” The shepherds who had been sleeping swiftly threw on their robes and grabbed their staffs. “Father, can we go with them to see the Messiah?” Rebekah asked. “Of course!” he replied. “Our people have been waiting for thousands of years for the Messiah to come. I certainly don’t want to wait another minute more!” Daniel and Esther strapped on their sandals as Rebekah did the same. Imhotep was circling near Rebekah’s feet, so she picked him up and rushed out of the tent, along with her parents, to join the shepherds and head toward Bethlehem. One of the shepherds had a small oil lamp, which helped to light their way. They walked as quickly as they could, and soon they could see the faint glow of evening fires lighting up Bethle

Chapter 23 - An Amazing Evening

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  The shepherds gave Daniel directions about where to find the field where they were watching their sheep. Daniel and his family watched their new friends leave and head back out to the fields where the sheep were grazing. Daniel, Esther and Rebekah, along with Imhotep, had a little more trading to do before they went to join the shepherds and accept their hospitality. Esther was able to convince Daniel to trade for some beautiful bolts of cloth that she found among one of the many traders’ items. Rebekah was treated to some figs and apricots, and a small portion of dried fish was purchased for Imhotep to enjoy. While Esther and Rebekah climbed into their cart, Imhotep curled up in the soft wool and was quickly purring loudly as he napped.  Daniel led the donkey and the ox-drawn cart out of Bethlehem and into the countryside.  It only took them about a half an hour to arrive at the shepherds’ field. There were several shepherds out in the field.  The ones who had met Daniel in Bethlehe

Chapter 22 - A Place to Sleep

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  “Esther!” Daniel exclaimed excitedly when he saw her approaching. “I’m glad you’re here. I was just finished making a deal with these shepherds for some of the softest wool I’ve ever felt!” He gestured over to the cart, which was half full of creamy white bales of wool. Imhotep leaped from Rebekah’s arms and hopped up into the cart, burying himself up to his neck in the wool. This made Daniel and his whole family laugh, though the shepherds seemed rather surprised to see this unusual animal.  “It’s all right,” Daniel said, reassuring the shepherds. “That’s a cat.  He was given to me as a gift from a trader in Egypt, and I gave him to my daughter as a pet. He’s actually a wonderful animal to have around, since he keeps the mice and snakes away.” The shepherds nodded hesitantly, still not quite sure what to make of Imhotep as they watched the cat prowling around in the wool, seeking his next meal. “I don’t think you’ll find any mice in there, Imhotep,” Rebekah told her cat. “They love

Chapter 21 - A Disappointing Surprise

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  After Mary and Joseph disappeared into the crowd, Daniel gathered with Esther and Rebekah to make plans for the rest of the day. His brothers had most likely arrived in Bethlehem by this time, and they had said that they would arrange for lodging. Daniel asked Esther to take Rebekah and connect with their other family members while he would take the cart full of goods to the market area to trade. Rebekah scooped up Imhotep, fearing that her cat would easily get lost in the crowds if left to move about on his own. Imhotep squirmed a bit at first, but as the noise of the crowds increased, he seemed to settle in. The trio went from building to building, until they finally met up with the rest of their family from Nain, who had arrived two days earlier. “It’s great to see you all!” Esther said to her family members gathered in the packed courtyard outside of a small inn. “The journey took us a little longer than we thought.  Our donkey was quite stubborn in the early days of the trip, sl

Chapter 20 - Arriving in Bethlehem

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  Having finished their mid-day meal, Daniel and Joseph once again assisted Mary as she climbed atop the donkey. Rebekah made her way over to the cart, carefully carrying her father’s knife, which still bore the sample of frankincense. Rebekah gently placed the knife next to a jar of olive oil, hoping it wouldn’t get disturbed as the milky resin dried. Imhotep was very curious about what she was doing, and so squirmed his way through a few jars of olive oil and sniffed at the drop of resin on the knife. “You be careful now, Imhotep,” Rebekah warned him. “That knife is sharp, and even though it may smell good, you don’t want to taste that frankincense.”  Imhotep didn’t seem too tempted by the strange new smell.  Mere seconds later, he crawled deeper into the cart, working his way down among the sacks of grain. It didn’t take long before Imhotep came out from the pile, with the tail of a mouse dangling from his closed jaws.  “That cat of yours is definitely an excellent hunter,” Esther d

Chapter 19 - A Sweet Smell

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It was a beautiful day for the final part of their trip into Bethlehem. The sun was shining and the temperatures were not too hot, nor too cold.  The travelers had last seen the cool waters of the Jordan River at about noon yesterday, as they then turned westward and headed toward Bethlehem. Daniel and Joseph had loaded up some water at that time, but since the weather was so nice, there wasn’t any question of making it the rest of the way with the water they had gathered. Rebekah and Esther didn’t mind the walking.  They had taken some breaks from riding in the cart during the journey from Nain, but had never spent a full day walking.  It felt good to walk alongside the cart, with Imhotep following close behind.  Rebekah looked over at Mary riding comfortably on the donkey.  Joseph led the donkey, but the donkey offered no resistance whatsoever. She couldn’t recall a time when she saw the donkey behaving so well. She was glad that Mary was able to rest as they got closer to Bethlehem.

Chapter 18 - A Ride to End the Trip

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After a good night’s rest, the newly formed group ate a quick breakfast meal and then prepared to make the final leg of their journey to Bethlehem.  Esther watched Mary as she struggled to her feet.  The only way that Mary was able to get upright was with the help of Joseph.  Esther couldn’t imagine having to walk as far as Mary had, while being so close to her time of giving birth. Just then, she thought of something that might help. She shared her idea with Rebekah, who thought it was a great way to help their new friend.  Esther called Daniel over to share the idea with him. “Daniel, I can’t believe Mary has made it this far in her condition. Walking must be getting harder for her every day. I thought about offering her a ride in the cart, but it’s probably even more uncomfortable than walking. Do you think you could unload our goods from our donkey and move them into the cart? Rebekah and I wouldn’t mind walking the final distance to Bethlehem, and then Mary could ride on our donke

Chapter 17 - Ahuv

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  “Ahuv?” Rebekah questioned “You’re having a boy? How can you be so sure?” She knew that ahuv meant ‘beloved’, just like ahuva, but it was the word you used when you were referring to a boy instead of a girl. Mary leaned in a little closer to Rebekah and spoke quietly, “Can you keep a secret?” Rebekah felt pretty special herself. She and her family had just met Mary and Joseph, but Mary was already trusting her with a secret. No other adult had ever done that before. “I can keep a secret, Mary,” Rebekah replied with a nod of her head. “An angel of the Lord visited me, and told me that I was going to have a son. Ever since that happened, I’ve been as certain as I could be that the baby I am carrying is a boy,” Mary whispered to Rebekah.  Rebekah took some time to think about what Mary had said.  She had never met anyone who had spoken to an angel before. She had heard about angels from the stories of old, but had never met anyone who had seen one. Mary continued, “My relative, also had

Chapter 16 - The Kick

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  Mary laughed at the thought of her being considered special.  It wasn’t very long ago that she was just a young girl from Nazareth, pledged to be married to Joseph, and wondering what God had planned for her life. She felt as ordinary as anyone and about as far from “special” as anyone could be. All of that changed during the past year though, when her life was turned upside down. “Why are you laughing?” Rebekah titled her head in confusion. She didn’t think she had said anything funny. “Oh, Rebekah,” Mary answered. “I’m just laughing because I really never thought of myself as being special. I’ve lived a quiet and ordinary life up until this point. But as you can see, things are going to change for me soon.” Mary stopped petting Imhotep and laid her hand gently on her belly. Esther suddenly spoke up. “I didn’t want to pry, but I had noticed that you are with child. Do you think you’ll be giving birth soon?” Mary let out a tired sigh. “I certainly feel ready, though I would like to g

Chapter 15 - A Good Deed

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Daniel and Joseph spread some blankets on the ground, while Rebekah helped Esther bring a basket of food over to the spot where they were preparing to eat.  Esther had brought plenty of food on the trip, since they were uncertain about how long the journey would take.  She set out bread, dried fish, olives, dates and figs. “Please, eat as much as you would like,” Esther told their guests. “I packed plenty for our journey and we can get more in Bethlehem for our travels home.” Imhotep seemed very interested in everything that was being set out for the evening meal. “That is very generous of you,” Mary replied.  “How can we thank you for such a wonderful gift?” “It’s our pleasure to share the gifts that God has given us with others,” Esther said. “My husband and his family own an olive orchard in the town of Nain.” “Well, that explains it!” Joseph proclaimed with a grin. “These are the best tasting olives I’ve ever had!” “Thank you,” Daniel responded. “We take pride in how we cure our ol

Chapter 14 - Making New Friends

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  After seven days of travel, the excitement of the journey was wearing off for Rebekah. She grew tired of riding in the cart, but was also weary of having to walk. Imhotep had no problem keeping himself entertained on their travels, but Rebekah was ready for it to be over. She was careful not to voice any of her complaints to her parents though, because she knew that she might not be allowed to go on future trading trips with her father. She had dreamed of going on trips like this for as long as she could remember, so the last thing she wanted to do was mess things up by complaining. During the past week, the group they traveled with was constantly changing. The donkey they brought along on their journey had definitely slowed them down.  It had a mind of its own, so they found that on some days, they would travel for 8 hours, and on other days they’d barely be traveling for half that time. Many of their travel companions had continued on ahead of them, and others, coming from all over