Little Eli

Author’s Note: Sorry! I missed my usual Sunday post due to family obligations. I was going to wait till next Sunday to post this, but I decided Ehh. I’ll just post it now. So, here you go:

Eli had been named for one of the great prophets of old – Elias. His mother had hoped that God would give him a glorious destiny and her child would be remembered in time unforgotten.

So far that glorious destiny had not manifested itself. He was just Eli, the youngest and smallest shepherd of his father’s clan.

He tried so hard to prove himself, to show that, great destiny or not, he had worth. But his oldest brother teased him and tousled his head covering out of place. “Little Eli. You will never grow into Elias. You’ll always be Little Eli. Little Eli.”

His taunts made Eli feel as if he were smaller than a hearth cricket.

Then, one night…

He sat out in the fields watching the sheep. It wasn’t an easy job. There were always one or two spring lambs that would try to explore what lay beyond the flock’s safety. He couldn’t remember how many thorn-laced brambles he had crawled through in his short life. It was one too many, he knew that for certain.

He burrowed deeper into his layers of clothes. That was the problem with watching at night. The nights were almost always too cold.

“Hey, Little Eli. Are you asleep?”

“No. I’m awake.”

“Hey, Little Eli. Are you watching your sheep?”

“Yes, I am watching.”

“Hey, Little Eli. My sheep are better than your sheep.”

He pulled his head covering lower.

“Our father gave you all the runts and rejects.”

“Because he knew that they are smarter than the other sheep.” Eli smirked at his brother. “It takes a smart shepherd to keep the runts safe and out of harm’s reach.”

“Pah.”

“Ha! You have nothing to say to that, do you?”

“Nothing that should be said.”

Eli looked up at the sky. Ten thousand dots of light amidst the midnight blue. “It is a beautiful night. So silent. So bright.”

“I can’t argue on that. Ah! Little Eli! Look!”

Eli followed his brother’s point and quickly rose to his feet.

A stranger dressed in unfamiliar robes walked amidst their flock.

Eli grabbed his shepherd crook and ran down the hill. “If you stretch your hand to any of my flock, I’ll—”

The stranger raised his arms and his robes turned into purest daylight.

Eli tripped and fell. He stayed on the ground – his face covered by his hands.

“Fear not.” said the stranger in a voice as beautiful as a newborn lamb’s first cry. “Behold, I bring you tidings of great joy that shall be to all the people. For, this day, is born to you a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord, in the city of David. This shall be a sign unto you: You shall find the infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger.”

Eli raised his head. He could barely look upon their visitor – so bright was his clothing, so beautiful his countenance. Yet, he didn’t want to look away.

Suddenly, a whole multitude appeared full of brightness and great glory. It was so many more than he knew to count.

They sang out in clean, pure voices, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men of good will.” It was one sentence  and fifteen simple words, but the sublime perfection of their music made it sound like eternity.

Their song ended both too soon and too late and Eli longed for more. But they disappeared as flames snuffed out – swiftly, suddenly gone.

The last one disappeared.

Eli sat in the new darkness too awestruck to speak.

His brother approached him and knelt beside him. “Did you see that too? I wasn’t dreaming it, was I?”

Eli looked up at him. “If so, I dreamed it too.” He stood. “Go. Gather the others. Let’s journey to Bethlehem.”

“But how will we know the way? How will we find the child?”

“God will provide.”

***

A new star appeared in the sky. One as beautiful as their visitor had been. Eli followed it and lead his clan to a small stable.

It wasn’t gold gilded and their visitors were not there. Just a man and a woman and a child. A newborn babe asleep in the manger.

Eli stepped forward. “May I see the child?”

The woman looked up at her husband.

“We mean you no harm. Angels came amidst our flock tonight and spoke of this place and of this child.”

“Then.” she said. “Come and see Him. My son. My dearly beloved one.”

Eli approached the manger and looked down at Him.

He was to all appearances no different to any other child of Galilee. But Eli thought of the angels’ words and he understood. “This child is the long awaited one.” He knelt in humble adoration.

His brother came and knelt as well, along with the rest of their clan.

“Glory to God in the highest.” said Eli.

“And peace to men of good will.” said his brother.

“And blessed is His mighty name.” said Mary, the child’s mother.

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