A Christmas Story by Bill Baxter, DTM.
ROMAN CENTURION: "Grab him! He's one of them!"
NARRATOR: ....Yelled a Roman Centurion who was pointing to Old Jeremy, a shepherd who journeyed all the way to Rome, because he knew "The Big Fisherman", called Peter, was going to be there. He had always wanted to meet the Big Fisherman. But when he had arrived in Rome, he found it totally engulfed in flames. Now you can bet that it was the crazed Emperor Nero who had set that fire. And he strove to put the blame on all the Christians throughout the Empire. And that is why the soldiers were chasing Old Jeremy.
In attempts to elude the Roman Soldiers, Old Jeremy made his way through the streets of the burning city, which reeked with the stench of Emperor Nero's Madness. Then he sprained his ankle, and couldn't get up! He looked up, and saw a large burning beam descending down upon him!
OLD JEREMY: "AAAHHH!"
NARRATOR: But just before the beam landed on him, Old Jeremy felt a pair of hands pulling him out of the way in the nick of time. They were Phineas and Bartholamew, two Christians who were also on the run from the Roman Soldiers. They put Old Jeremy in the back of their wagon, and then headed for the outskirts of the burning city, with the Roman Army in hot pursuit. Just before they reached the edge of the city, Bartholomew was able to light a torch. While they were riding through a field of very dry brush, with the Roman Army still chasing them, Bartholomew dispatched the torch into the dry brush, which quickly caught fire, and stopped the Roman Horses dead in their tracks. And soit was, that Phineas and Bartholamew were able to lose the Roman Army, and they took Old Jeremy to their secret hiding place.
As it turned out, Nero's scheme, to have the burning of Rome placed on the Christians throughout the empire , worked all too well. Christains were being caught and executed by the dozens, either by cruxifiction, or by being fed to the lions in the arena. The Christians who weren't caught were forced to live in caves well outside the city, and they had to go out and hunt for food and water, without being caught by Roman Soldiers. One day, when it was Old Jeremy's turn to go out and find food and water, he finally got to see Peter, the Big Fisherman. When He saw the Big Fisherman, however, he was dead--crucified upside down. This was indeed a very dark time for Christians throughout The Roman Empire.
But despite these terrible times, the Cave Dwelling Christians were able to find a lot of joy in their lives. Most of that joy came from the Christians sitting around the fire, sharing with each other, stories about their personal walks with Jesus The Savior. And then one cold evening, a few months later, on the Eve of the Savior's Birthday, Old Jeremy got up and began to play his lyre and sing, and tell his story, about the first time he had met the Savior, 67 years earlier, in that little town called Bethlehem.
OLD JEREMY: [sings]
City of the Great King,
Born of Mary there,
In a manger bare
'Twas the Savior, Christ the King."
" I first met our Lord many years before the Big Fisherman. It all started long ago, right outside the Town of Bethlehem. I was but a small child, learning the family trade of being a shepherd from my father, who learned it from his father. On the evening of our Lord's birth, we had to work an extra long shift, well into the hours of the late night. When I asked my father why we had to so late, he assured me that it was just part of the trade of being a shepherd. But what it was, was this. Caesar Augustus had called for a census of the children of Israel. Each of the Children of Israel had to report to his place of origin for the census. So that night, the streets of Bethlehem were crowded. There was not enough food or lodgings for the hungary and weary travelers. So that night, wolves were the least of our worries. We had to be on the look-out for wolves in men's and women's garments looking for a free lamb chop dinner. But things were so dark out in that field, we could hardly see a thing."
"But then, all of a sudden, everything got bright! And standing right there in front of us was an Angel of the Lord. I was so frightened, I ran behind my father and grabbed on to the back of his leg. Of course, he was pretty frightened too, because I could feel his knees knocking! In fact all the shepherds out in the field were scared out of there wits, until the Angel of the Lord began to speak:"
ANGEL: "Fear not!"
OLD JEREMY: "...The Angel said."
ANGEL: "...For I bring you tidings of great joy! For unto you is born this day, in the City of David, a Savior, who is Christ the King. And this will be a sign unto you. You will find the Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, and lying in a manger."
OLD JEREMY: "Then suddenly, the whole sky lit up, and there were hungreds of Angels everywhere! I they all sang..."
ANGELIC CHOIR: "....Glory be to God in the Highest. And on Earth, peace, and goodwill towards men".
OLD JEREMY: "Afterwards, we journeyed to the town of Bethlehem to see this for ourselves. When we got there, we found the Baby Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes, and lying in a manger, just as the Angel had said. And so, we bowed down and worshiped the Newborn King. And there was a bright light shinning from that stable, just like the one out in the field when the Angel appeared to us. And that light has been shinning in my heart ever since. God bless all God's Children!"