Part III: The Birth
“That is quite the dream, young man,” commented Carlton. “I am intrigued, as a collector. What else did this soldier tell you about these nails at the birth of Christ?”
Thomas took a deep breath and glanced at his dad for reassurance.
“It is ok, son. Mr. O’Leary and I are quite interested. Tell us what Marcus told you.”
Thomas apologized because he didn’t remember the exact words of the guard, but he would tell them about what the man had explained.
Photo Credit: bugie.de via photopin cc
When Marcus had been very young, just in his first year as a guard, he was told that he was to go Bethlehem at the directions of Herod, a close friend to Augustus. He was supposed to kill all of the children in Bethlehem that were younger than two years old.
While in Bethlehem his commanding officer told him to search out everywhere that any child had been born. As he went through the small village he came to a house owned by an unmarried man. In years past the man had taken in travelers using the upstairs rooms of his house as an inn.
Downstairs the innkeeper kept his few sheep and other animals. Sometimes when there were several travelers, and the inn was filled, the man would let people sleep among the animals.
Marcus asked the innkeeper if any children had been living in the house in the past two years.
“Yes,” replied the older man. “Two years ago a strange thing happened here. A couple arrived one evening while the inn was filled with all that I had room for. I was quite honored because among my guests were three noblemen from the east countries.
At first I sent the couple away because I lacked room for them upstairs. But when I saw that the woman was in travail with child I offered to let them sleep among the sheep and the oxen in the lower chamber.
During the night I heard noise coming from below and realized that the woman was giving birth. The moon and the skies were very bright that night. A guide star had been seen in the heavens for many days, but that night it seemed to be directly overhead.
I cautiously crawled down to where the animals were stabled and saw the young mother holding her newborn baby. I quickly rushed to the hearth and added wood to the dying embers to bring warmth and more light to the room.
While bringing the fire to life I heard gentle knocking at the door. The husband made his way quickly to the door for fear that the knocking might cause the baby to cry. I was quite surprised to see a group of shepherds gathered outside.”
Thomas stopped his story to look at his father and then Mr. O’Leary. He could sense from their smiles that they were eager to hear what would happen next.
“Thomas, I have heard this story before but please continue? As a man who has spent his life collecting religious symbols I never tire of hearing it.”
Thomas shared more of what Marcus had explained to him.
The shepherds claimed that while admiring the brightness of the evening sky an angel came to them and told them to come and witness the birth of a special child that would one day be the King of Israel. Their curiosity made them leave one boy behind to watch over the sheep while the men made their way to the inn.
When they arrived and came in, each of them began to exclaim that they were very surprised to actually find the baby. Even though the messenger had proclaimed to be an angel they had been somewhat doubtful.
In the middle of the activity caused by the animals, shepherds, innkeeper, and the new family the three noblemen of the east were awoken from their sleep. They came down from the upper loft and gathered around the small feeding trough where the baby had been placed to rest.
When they heard the story of the shepherds, told for a second time, the group gathered around the small child.
“This is the child whom we have sought on our journey,” proclaimed one of the men!
“Yes, the visions which we had were true as foretold,” said another.
“Shall I retrieve them,” asked the third? The others quickly agreed with him.
Thomas then told how each of the noblemen presented their gifts to the Child to shouts of Hallelujah by the others in the room. Yet, the child’s mother remained quietly watchful of the baby.
Thomas went on to explain what Marcus had told him about the visit with the innkeeper.
“The owner of the house told my companion and me to look around. That since that night the inn had fallen into disrepair and his animals had died or run off.
He pointed to the old feeding trough in the corner. It had fallen apart and lay among other ruble piled out of the way.
My fellow soldier went to the corner and pushed the trough to the side with disgust. “So, this is where the child was born that causes me to have to walk across all of Judea,” he shouted! “Some manger this is now!” Then he bent down and began tearing the wood apart even further. Gradually he pulled four nails from the slabs of wood.
“These are difficult to come by. The Centurion will be happy with these,” he announced. Looking at the innkeeper with a threatening grin he asked if the man knew where the family had gone to after leaving.
“According to one of the noblemen they encouraged the family to go with them back to the east countries. However, the father, his name was Joseph, said that an angel had told them to go into Egypt.”
As we were about to leave my companion glanced at the fireplace which had long ago fallen apart. On the ground close-by he noticed one more nail, larger than the others. He picked it up and placed it in his pouch with the other four.”
Then the young boy explained to his father and the collector that Marcus had told him a lot more, but that those same nails that held Christ during his death had also held him during his birth.
“Five Nails In The Mantle Piece” is a four-part story by Adirondack native and author William Way, Jr. Stay tuned for the conclusion!