"Let Him Come Down Here"
It had been a long, hot, frustrating day for many people, only now, at this late hour, was the hustle and bustle of the day beginning to fade away.
The small Judean village was badly overcrowded as many times its normal number of inhabitants had gathered to register, and be counted, at the whim of a foreign emperor.
The cool evening breeze was a blessed relief from the sweltering heat of the sun that the people had had to endure. All day they had queued to be met by some petty Roman official, who questioned them, noting down their answers on roll after roll of official parchment.
With the fall of darkness a multitude of small fires sprung up in the hills and fields that surrounded the village as yet more people arrived to be counted the next day, whilst others waited for the sunrise to begin their long weary journey home.
The few inns had long since filled forcing many to prepare for a night out under the stars, or, indeed, anywhere that they might find shelter, wrapped only in the blankets and cloaks that they had brought with them to ward of the chill of the night.
Slowly peace settled upon the land as children snuggled up to their mothers and rested, in the quiet solitude of sleep.
Around the campfires men sat, some in silent contemplation as they stared into the flickering flames, some talked quietly amongst themselves, reflecting on the latest news from around the country, brought by the many strangers here for the census.
By one small fire sat such a group of men, all lost in their own thoughts, a slight chill had cooled their bones, so they sat with cloaks over their shoulders as wordlessly a skin of cheap wine passed slowly from hand to hand.
The night was still, hushed; the only noise that of the cattle lowing in a nearby stable and the muttered prayers of a young priest whom had joined them by the fire.
"Hey, boy, what's that you're praying about?" The voice which broke the silence was, like its owner, old and worn. He sat with his back propped up against a smooth, convenient rock, but as he spoke he lent forward and the light from the fire exposed a battered face, worn and weathered by some 70 summers. His beard and bushy eyebrows were almost pure white, wrinkles deeply lined his face and hands, but the eyes were bright and they now stared fixedly at the priest who had come to an abrupt halt at the interruption.
The others, gathered around the fire, jolted from their reverie, looked up, first to the old man, and then they turned to the priest to await his reply.
The young man did not raise his head, "I pray to the one true God, the God of our Fathers" he replied.
"Well son, I figured that, I asked you what you were praying, not who to."
The priest brought his head up until his eyes locked with the old man sat opposite, "I was praying that the Lord would have mercy upon us and help us in our distress. That He would restore our people, and bring us relief from our enemies."
The old man laughed sadly and shook his head from side to side. "Do you not believe in our God?" asked the priest in a shocked voice.
"Didn't say that boy, didn't say anything at all. But I ask you this, where is He then? I say to you if He does exist He doesn't work hard at letting us know it, and there's even less evidence that he cares for us now is there?"
"But the Scripture says..." blurted out the young man "The Scriptures! Forget what is written, if there is a God LET HIM COME DOWN HERE WHERE WE LIVE. Let Him live in this filthy place where we live.
Let Him smell the stink; let Him feel the poverty, let Him know pain.
Let Him see the hunger....................Let him FEEL the hunger.
Let Him know what it is like to eke out an existence in wretched poverty.
Let Him see a friend die, feel the agony of loss, the unfairness of death.
Let Him know what it is to watch a little child die and see it taken from its mother's arms for burial.
Let Him see our diseases, the twisted feet, the sockets of blind eyes.
Let this God of yours be hated, jeered, cheated, robbed!
Let Him lose everything that HE owns at the hands of the wicked.
Let Him be dragged before a court as was I, and let Him discover, firsthand, how unjust justice really is.
The old mans vehemence grew as he continued.
"And sin! He is so interested in whether I sin or not,............let Him feel my temptation.
Let Him experience my weaknesses; THEN...THEN let Him see how it feels about all the rules and commands He has put on me...rules I cannot live up to, yet if I cannot," The old man snorted, "He will not want me any more." Let Him feel what I feel, here in this miserable, aching, decaying body of mine.
And..... then..... let..... Him..... Die! Yes let Him die the way that I will probably die, like most wanders do, Out here alone Uncared for, Forsaken, Forgotten.
If He wants to impress me then let HIM BECOME LIKE ME. Then maybe, maybe, I will believe in your God...BUT NOT UNTIL THEN."
The old mans anger died as suddenly as it had begun, his head dropped and his body rocked in time to the silent sobs that wracked his aged frame.
The young priest continued to stare at the old man but his eyes did not see him, perhaps they looked beyond to the truth of his words.
The crowd which had gathered at the sound of the raised voice slowly melted away to their own fires, and their own lives, carrying within them the hopes and fears common to all mankind.
And as they settled down, alone with their own thoughts, each man an island in a storm tossed sea, the silence of the night once more descended upon them all. The stillness broken only by the cry of a new born babe.
Duncan Griffiths ("Not all the tale is mine the concept and some of the paragraphs come from a book called The Divine Romance by Gene Edwards)