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by Josephus Pugh
In the days of the Roman Empire there was a young man named Abner who fled from a tyrannical local government and hid himself in a small village of a foreign country. He took shelter with a family of three, themselves also refugees, and worked with them doing repairs and manual labor for the other villagers. He lived quietly with them for a week. They shared what little they had but did not speak of their pasts. Then, on the seventh day, as they reclined to supper, his hosts encouraged Abner to tell his tale. After a moment’s hesitation, he began . . . . “I was a soldier in the service of my king. I lived comfortably and I was respected by my peers and the people. I had a captain I admired and a young girl whom I loved. I had everything that a young man could wish for. Then one day we received terrible news. The king had heard of a baby, born in a village of his kingdom who, rumor had it, had a claim to the throne. The king was livid. He had a son of his own and would not allow any rivalry in his kingdom. Since no one had certain word of the identity of this child, there was no way to distinguish him from any other boy in the town. We were given orders . . . ” At this point, Abner shook his head and clenched his teeth. His host placed a hand on his shoulder and he continued.
“We were given orders to ride to the town and kill . . . every baby boy . . . every one. I rode with my company on the way in anguish. I am not very religious man but I believe in the God of my people.” “I couldn’t do it. So when my captain said that guards would need to be posted at the town exits, I volunteered, seeing a chance to slip away. Some of our company and myself broke off from the main force and I managed to get separated from my companions long enough to hide myself unnoticed.” His voice was almost a whisper now, his eyes on the floor. “When the others were out of sight, I rode off. I abandoned my company, my oath and my king. I cannot . . . I cannot serve a king who kills babies. I fled. I rode without stopping until I reached the desert. Eventually I found myself here. I heard your accent and knew you were also foreigners. It was foolish of me but I wanted some company, so I approached you.” “If I ever go back, I will be put to death. I will spend the rest of my life in exile.” At this point the wife of his host began to sob loudly, clutching her own boy who was only a toddler himself. Abner blushed and hung his head. “I’m sorry; I should not tell such tales in the presence of a young mother.” “You misunderstand,” His host assured Abner, his eyes moist as well. “She weeps with joy at your tale. Here we see the wisdom and kindness of the Lord revealed. You alone of all your company refused to seek the child, and now you alone of your company have found Him. You deserted your earthly king because you honor your Heavenly King, and now He welcomes you. For this is the child sought by Herod. The angel of the Lord has spoken
to his mother and to me, saying that this child is the Messiah of the Jews, and of all the people whom the Lord shall call.” With that, Mary placed the boy in Abner’s lap, and his tears fell upon the boy’s tunic.