Malachi was the fifth son of Hadar the Shepherd. Being the fifth son meant he got lots of quality time with the sheep. Bbeing on the road between Bethlehem and Jerusalem meant that Malachi had a lot of opportunities to see rich merchants driving their camels loaded with find goods and clothing headed for the markets of Alexandria and Damascus. These merchants all had slaves to take care of their needs and were tended by beautiful servant girls. It was enough to get a teenager daydreaming for hours, especially when there were sheep to tend to.
Malachi shook the latest daydream away as he noticed his older brother Jaden yelling at him. “Father wants you to watch the sheep tonight.”
“I watched them last night, and the night before!”
“Then you shouldn’t have been born last!”
Jaden walked away and Malachi just felt the anger at his lot in life. Being the youngest was hard. He was given all the nasty jobs to do, and he never got enough sleep. There were times when one of his brothers would eat his share of dinner and he would have to go hungry. Oh to be a merchant and get away from this drab life of sheep.
Malachi walked to his tent. He paused at the entry to the tent and looked at the road. There was a man leading a donkey with a woman on it. This was no merchant, just another traveler. He shook his head and walked into his tent and fell into his bedroll. He might as well get some sleep before his shift with the sheep starts.
It felt like just a moment had passed when his closest brother Jore woke him. “C’mon, we have sheep to watch.” Malachi struggled to wake up and Jore pushed some warm fresh bread into his hand. “Here I got this from mother before Jaden got to it.” Malachi tore off a piece of bread and pushed it into his mouth. The warm bread was incredible and it brought Malachi back to life.
“I’ll go with you to watch the sheep. I can’t stand to around Jaden any more.”
Malachi nodded his thanks and grabbed his staff. It was going to be long and cold tonight, and there was just a sliver of a moon to start the night, so it was going to be very dark.
Jore led the way to where the sheep were bedding down. The sun was already down and the final red rays of the sunset were bleeding away. The sheep were all together in a knot with a couple of the rams walking around the ewes and the lambs making sure all was well. Malachi and Jore were there mostly to keep thieves away. The four legged kind or the two legged kind. Since the family stayed close to the road, it was not uncommon to find a lamb missing in the morning and fresh meat roasting on a stranger’s fire a mile away. Jore walked to the other end of the sheep and stood leaning against his staff. Malachi adopted the same posture and let his mind wander.
Malachi must have nodded off because he became aware of somebody shaking his shoulder. “You must be real tired to fall asleep standing up!” Malachi shook his head and it finally registered this was his jerk older brother Jaden, come to mock him.
“At least I’m doing something, not giving orders and eating other people’s dinner!”
“Easy Malachi, I’m not here to argue. Look around and listen.” Malachi did what Jaden asked and looked over the sheep. He could see their lighter color amidst the dark grey of this dark night. What took a moment to sink in was how quiet everything was.
“I’ve never seen them this quiet. It’s almost like they are waiting for something.”
“I think you are right.”
“I think so too,” Jore said as he walked up.
Suddenly a bright light appeared next to the three brothers, it was the shape and likeness of a man, but much larger, he must have been twice as tall. This stranger was dressed in white and glowed like the sun. The brothers were terrified and fell face first on the ground, trembling.
“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Then the stranger suddenly disappeared, and the night seemed darker than before. Malachi peeked out and saw that he was alone with the sheep and Jore.
“Did you see that?,” Jore asked.
“I didn’t if you didn’t,” Malachi said.
“I didn’t see anything, but I still almost wet myself.”
“Quiet you two.” Jaden paused, “the sheep haven’t stirred. Let’s go see what is happening in town.”
Malachi sneered at his brother, “the gates will be closed, we will never get inside.”
Jaden looked at the city walls and noticed the gate was open. “Look for yourself. I’m going to Bethlehem.” The three brothers walked along the road to the city gates to find them open and abandoned. There were torches lit, but nobody standing guard.
The three brothers walked through the gates and walked into the city, turning left then right, then left again. They never discussed the path to take, but they all felt the need to walk that way. They found a stable with a man and woman, Malachi thinking these were the ones he saw before, and the woman looking at the baby, in cloths, lying in a manger. Malachi paused. This was exactly as the angel had described. He took a deep breath and then started to hear singing. He looked around and didn’t see anybody, but glanced upward, there against the backdrop of the milky way were hundreds if not thousands of angels singing to this baby.
The brothers, eyes wide with terror and awe walked up to the manger. “His name is Jesus,” said the man. Malachi found himself on his knees praising this child. He felt in his heart that the world had changed with this one single, simple child being born. “Lord...” Malachi said.
“Lord? This is just another babe. I’ve seen enough!” Exclaimed Jore, and he left, going back to the sheep.
“This can’t be. This can’t happen. The angels, the light...” Jaden could not make sense of what was happening.
“The star,” a strange voice said.
Malachi and Jaden turned to see three kings, wearing robes of splendor, leading camels, loaded with packages. Looking beyond these three, Malachi saw a whole camel train of servants, tents and belongings.
“What star?” Jaden wondered.
“That one,” one of the kings pointed to the east and there surely was a bright star, pulsing in the night. Now that the brothers could see it, there was no mistaking the supernatural start of this young life.
“This babe has been foretold to be the Messiah, the King of the Jews. We are here to honor him. Have you come to honor him as well?” Jaden and Malachi looked at each other.
Jaden was opening his mouth and closing it, he could not decide what to say.
“Yes, we will honor him, love him, and serve him, with the rest of our days.” Malachi turned and knelt before the child, “I swear upon my mother, I will serve you to the end of my days.”