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From the Kitchen Table


A Christmas Story - About Christmas

by Peg Luksik
 

There are more Christmas stories on television this year than ever — and they don't even mention the fact that Christmas happened because a Child was born. So I decided to write a Christmas story that was actually about Christmas. I hope you enjoy it.

I Believe It was the centurion's last duty station. In less than a month, he could return to Rome and his family. On this Friday, he had been assigned to the execution detail. It was an unpleasant duty, but at least it was quiet.
So he was shocked at the mob coming up the hill, screaming and shouting at a Man who looked like he would not live to receive his final punishment. The centurion quickly had his men form a circle around the execution site, blocking the approach of the crowd once the man had arrived.

The soldiers performed their duty, and the cross was raised. As the centurion looked up into the face of the Man on the cross something seemed familiar. He quickly turned away.

Then a woman approached, supported by a young fellow and two female companions. The young one asked the guards if the group might approach the cross. The centurion heard the guard refuse, saying that there was no room. He turned at the words, and the woman's eyes found his.

And suddenly he was three decades younger, standing in a raucous inn in a town called Bethlehem. He had been a new recruit then, and had been so excited to go to a distant land to conduct the Emperor's census. The excitement had been short-lived. The tiny village had no entertainment, so the soldiers had taken over the courtyard of the inn, drinking and carousing into the wee hours every night. He had never been a big drinker, so he usually sat by the wall until it got quiet enough to sleep.

He had been sitting there when he noticed the innkeeper open the door that night. A young man stood in the doorway, gesturing back into the street. The soldier looked where the man pointed, and saw a woman sitting on the back of a donkey. Her condition was unmistakable.

The innkeeper took one glance, paled, and firmly told the man that there was no room for him or his wife. The soldier saw the wife's eyes as the innkeeper began to close the door. He had expected to see anger and fear and disappointment in those eyes, but instead they smiled at her husband with love and trust and serenity.

He couldn't believe those eyes.

After a few minutes, he stood and slipped out the door into the empty street. He began walking the streets, starting at one end of the village and working his way toward the other.

That was when he saw the group of shepherds. They all seemed to be looking up and listening to something. The soldier quietly fell in behind them.
They walked to the outskirts of the town, and began entering a stable.

The soldier moved toward the door, and stopped. There was the woman. She was just laying a newborn Child into a manger.

The soldier didn't know how she knew that he was there but she turned and smiled at him, inviting him with her eyes. And suddenly he, a tough new centurion, was afraid. He knew that if he entered that stable, he would never be the same. He began to back away silently.

Her eyes sadly watched him leave.

He had never seen her again — until now. She was standing in front of his guard, trying to reach the Man on the Cross.

The old centurion ordered the guard to let the woman and her companions into the circle. He followed her to the foot of the cross, standing quietly just behind her.

She turned and gazed at him with the same invitation in her eyes, the invitation that he had seen over 30 years before. This time he accepted it, and looked fully into the face of the Son she had followed.
It had taken him over 30 years, but he realized that he had finally entered the stable where Love was born.

"Truly, this is the son of God," he said.

Merry Christmas!


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