Chapter 24 - A Gift for a King
“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 Bethlehem.
The town was quiet, with no one in sight, and there weren’t any people in the streets, which was in stark contrast to the crowded streets they had encountered yesterday when they arrived. It didn’t take the group very long to scour the town, but they were unable to find a newborn baby anywhere. They expanded their search to the outer edges of town, and finally spotted a small cave with dim fire light illuminating the entrance. As they approached the opening to the cave, they noticed that people were inside. The shepherds entered the cave, followed closely by Daniel, Esther and Rebekah. Rebekah was shocked to discover who was in the cave.
“Mother! Father! It’s Mary and Joseph!” she excitedly whispered to her parents. “And they’ve had their baby!” Rebekah declared, pointing to the newborn infant in the small manger in front of their friends from Nazareth. The shepherds knelt down in front of the manger.
“It’s the Messiah!” one of the shepherds said. “Just as the angel told us. He’s wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger!”
“We must go and tell everyone about this wondrous thing that has happened,” said another shepherd. As quickly as they entered the cave, the shepherds left and went out to Bethlehem to share the good news.
Imhotep squirmed in Rebekah’s arms, jumped down and walked over to Mary. He rubbed up against her legs, and Mary reached down to scratch his head. “Hello, Imhotep,” she said with a tired, happy voice. Mary looked up and noticed Daniel, Esther and Rebekah. “It’s good to see you again so soon, my friends.” Imhotep leaned his front paws onto the side of the manger and peered at the baby resting inside.
“Oh Mary,” Esther said. “You’ve had your baby!”
“And your baby is the Messiah!” Rebekah exclaimed. She couldn’t believe that the young woman who had traveled alongside them to Bethlehem was the mother of the Messiah. Rebekah saw the young child in the manger and marveled at how small and innocent he looked. She had never thought about the Messiah coming to earth as a tiny baby.
“Mary, I’m sorry that we don’t have a gift for you and the baby. We rushed here and didn’t have time to figure out a suitable gift.” Esther sheepishly said. At that moment, Rebekah had a sudden idea. She knew of a gift they could give to Mary, Joseph and their baby, which would be more precious than any other gift she could think of.
“Mary,” Rebekah proclaimed, “I’d like you to keep Imhotep as a gift for your newborn baby. He can keep the baby warm by sleeping at his feet, and he’ll be great at keeping the baby safe from mice and snakes. You’ll need that protection in this small cave.”
“Rebekah, that’s very kind of you,” Mary remarked, “but I can’t take your pet from you. I know how much you love Imhotep.” Mary looked down at Imhotep as the cat peered into the manger, curiously watching her sleeping child.
“I do love Imhotep,” Rebekah agreed, “but I insist. Your baby is the king that we’ve all been waiting for, and a king deserves the best gift possible. Imhotep’s name makes him the perfect gift for the Messiah. His name means ‘the bringer of peace’ and the Messiah will bring peace to all of our people.”
Mary smiled as she looked at Rebekah. She glanced over to Joseph, who was nodding his head. They both could tell that Rebekah was not going to change her mind. Mary reached out and lifted Imhotep into the manger, setting him at the end by her baby’s feet. Imhotep curled his body up in the manger and rested there quietly. “Thank you,” Mary said, with heartfelt sincerity. “Imhotep will be well cared for, and will be a great protector and friend for my child.”
Rebekah looked up at her parents and together they repeated what the heavenly host had said out in the field,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests!”
Emma looked up at her father. “That was a great story, Dad! Did you make that up yourself?”
Her father replied, “I have studied quite a bit about what life was like back in Jesus time, but yes, I did come up with it on my own.”
“Can you tell us more about Imhotep?” Ethan asked. He seemed to really enjoy the story, but he would also do anything to avoid bedtime.
“Maybe next Christmas.” his father told him, with a wink of his eye. And they all headed off for a good night’s sleep.