“I give you peace,” the watchman said to Joseph and the Beth-Dagonite. “Here are people looking for a child born this night, whom they are to know by finding Him in swaddling-clothes and lying in a manger.”
For a moment the face of the stolid Nazarene was moved; turning away, he said, “The child is here.”
They were led to one of the mangers, and there the child was. The lantern was brought, and the shepherds stood by mute. The little one made no sign; it was as others just born.
“Where is the mother?” asked the watchman.
One of the women took the baby, and went to Mary, lying near, and put it in her arms. Then the bystanders collected about the two.
“It is the Christ!” said a shepherd at last.
“The Christ!” they all repeated, falling upon their knees in worship. One of them repeated several times over- “It is the Lord, and His glory is above the earth and heaven.”
And the simple men, never doubting, kissed the hem of the mother’s robe, and with joyful faces departed. In the khan, to all the people aroused and pressing about them, they told their story; and through the town, and all the way back to the marah, they chanted the refrain of the angels, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good-will towards men!”
The story went abroad, confirmed by the light so generally seen; and the next day, and for days thereafter, the cave was visited by curious crowds, of whom some believed, though the greater part laughed and mocked.
THE WISE MEN ARRIVE AT JERUSALEM.
THE eleventh day after the birth of the child in the cave, about mid-afternoon, the three wise men approached Jerusalem by the road from Shechem. After crossing Brook Cedron, they met many people, of whom none failed to stop and look after them curiously.
Judea was of necessity an international thoroughfare; a narrow ridge, raised, apparently, by the pressure of the desert on the east, and the sea on the west, was all she could claim to be; over the ridge, however, nature had stretched the line of trade between the east and the south; and that was her wealth. In other words, the riches of Jerusalem were the tolls she levied on passing commerce. Nowhere else, consequently, unless in Rome, was there such constant assemblage of so many people of so many different nations; in no other city was a stranger less strange to the residents than within her walls and purlieus. And yet these three men excited the wonder of all whom they met on the way to the gates.
A child belonging to some women sitting by the roadside opposite the Tombs of the Kings saw the party coming; immediately it clapped its hands, and cried, “Look, look! What pretty bells! What big camels!”
The bells were silver; the camels, as we have seen, were of unusual size and whiteness, and moved with singular stateliness; the trappings told of the desert and of long journeys thereon, and also of ample means in possession of the owners, who sat under the little canopies exactly as they appeared at the rendezvous beyond the Jebel. Yet it was not the bells or the camels, or their furniture, or the demeanour of the riders, that were so wonderful; it was the question put by the man who rode foremost of the three.