Fontanini Limited Editions
65187, First Limited Edition (1992)
The water made splashing noises as urns reached into the village well to provide the precious elixir that kept alive the village’s citizens. But the well was more than just a dispenser of life; it was the center of the community, too. Women came there to exchange news at its walls: an engagement broken; a parent’s anguish; exotic tales of traveling merchants.
Among the women appearing each day was Ariel, the virtuous wife of Judah. Theirs was a joyous union, and the two wanted children from their first days together. With the seasons came fresh water to the wellspring, but despite their daily prayer no baby for Ariel. The sight of sweet infants lovingly held by mothers and grandmothers upset Ariel so much, she began to draw water in the late hours of each day, long after a child might be brought to the well.
It was on such a late winter evening that she brought her urn to the silent square. Tying her jar to a sturdy length of rope, she lowered the vessel down, listening for the sound of the water. So great was her concentration that Ariel was shocked to look up from her task to find a gnarled, old woman.
How frightening the woman looked! Black clothing. A face that barely peeked from the fold of her head cover. But, the words the old one spoke were sweet. “Please, my child, will you give me water? I have come very far.” Ariel’s heart beat wildly. Who was this creature? From where did she come? Sensing her fear, the stranger smiled sweetly, melting the young woman’s heart. Ariel filled the jar quickly, removed her head scarf, and bathed the woman’s face tenderly. She gave her water to drink from her hands.
“I will tell you something to reward your kindness,” the wizened woman confided. “A child, unlike any other, will be born tonight in the City of David.” Ariel did not understand the old one’s comment, but gazed tenderly into her eyes.
“You too will receive a gift you have long sought from God. I have come to be sure you are ready and ask that you remember me, for I am your Tikvah.” Tikvah, Ariel thought, closing her eyes. It was the word for hope. When her eyes opened a moment later the old one was gone.
Ariel came to the well often over the next months. She came with the mothers and she greeted the grandmothers sweetly. But never again did she see the old woman whose late winter prophecy was indeed a gift of God.
By summer’s end, a child was born to Ariel and her beloved husband.
Throughout her days, Ariel knew that the spirit of the old woman dwelled at the well. Thus she brought her precious son Tikvah there each day so that they might stop a moment after their water was drawn to remember the old woman. The child born in the City of David. And God’s wondrous miracle.
Jeshua and Adin
65245, Second Limited Edition (1993)
A son was born to Jeshua and his wife Sarai on a bright Spring morning in Bethlehem. Looking into his face, the two marveled at his trusting eyes and soft smile. Adin was the most serene baby either had ever seen.
“How content he is,” Sarai’s mother crooned, holding her grandson in her arms one evening. “When does he cry?”
“He does not cry, mother,” Sarai answered, dipping dates and nuts into honey. “He is this quiet from morning to night.” Sarai did not see her mother’s brow crease as she left the house, walking purposefully to Jeshua as he tended the sheep.
“Does Adin cry much, my son-in-law?” she queried innocently.
“He is an angel,” Jeshua replied, kissing Adin’s head. “I tell Sarai we should have no more children. We have a perfect one.” He turned his attention to a lamb bounding away from the flock, not wanting her to see that he, too, worried about the little one’s silence.
The boy turned a year old the following Spring, yet nothing was said about Adin’s silence.
A wondrous star appeared in the winter sky of Adin’s second year of life. Angels spread joyous news that a child had been born in the inn’s stable. Soon people from across the Holy Land traveled far distances to see the Child for themselves.
Sarai wanted to take her son to the inn. If the miracle was true, perhaps God would smile down upon her silent Adin. But she dared not go. To travel the short distance would mean talking to her husband about her worries.
Jeshua, too, heard of the miracle. But he could not broach the subject of taking Adin to the inn either. How would he explain his mission to Sarai? Fortunately, God spoke to Jeshua in a dream. The young father arose, gathering his son into his arms. They wer half way across the village before Adin awoke.
"Let’s finish the walk our special way!” Jeshua whispered to Adin. He hoisted the little boy onto his shoulders just as the two approached the stable’s opening. “We must be quiet,” Jeshua said. In an instant, he realized what he had said. A shudder ran down the father’s back. A single tear touch his cheek.
Adin hugged his father’s neck with all of his might. He leaned forward putting his mouth against Jeshua’s ear. At first Jeshua thought the wind had called him. Then he realized that Adin had said “Don’t cry, Papa.”
Abigail and Peter
65274, Third Limited Edition (1994)
Abigail’s parents decided she would be sent to her grandfather’s house in Bethlehem when she turned thirteen. Her bright mind needed more than their remote farm could offer. Further, Grandfather Peter could no longer deliver the bread he baked. Abigail’s youth would be a blessing to him.
Forgetting her homesickness, she worked hard from the moment she arrived, scurrying from house to house, particularly on Sabbath eve. One busy day, her bread basket was almost knocked down by several boys racing from the Bethlehem inn. “What are you doing?” she gasped.
“Forgive me,” one replied, quite out of breath. “We wanted to see Him,” the boy explained. “The Child. In the stable behind the inn. Haven’t you heard? They say he is the long-awaited Messiah.”
How could Abigail not see for herself? Finding a window, she peeked in to see a man, a woman and a glowing light. The silence made Abigail catch her breath. She could hardly wait to tell Grandpa and was taken aback by his angered reaction. “I have no time, Abigail. Many say a Messiah has come…all manner of men claim the title. If you believe them you spend your life making pilgrimages. Get back to work.”
But Abigail could not forget the glow. She returned to the window daily as she made deliveries, but did not mention the inn until one dark night when she heard her grandfather crying. How frail he looked. How alone. She walked silently to him and hugged him. He told Abigail how much she reminded him of his beloved wife.
“I am so grateful to have you here,” he said. “At first I thought, what do I need with a child around? I didn’t want to be disturbed. Now I realize you are a gift to me in my old age. Forgive me for being so angry. My life has completely changed since you arrived. How can I thank the Lord for bringing us together, Abi?”
Abigail knew the time had come to share with Grandpa the miracle that lived in her heart.
“I think I know,” she replied. She filled her basket with fresh loaves and covered her head with a cloth. Handing Grandpa his walking stick, she kissed his cheek.
“There are some miracles that cannot be denied,” she said softly, leading the way out. “Come. Let us give thanks for each other.”
65281, Fourth Limited Edition (1995)
“Gabriela!” family members shouted. “Get up… Papa says the end of the world has come!” She struggled to her feet and rubbed her eyes. But the blinding light forced her to shield them as she stumbled outdoors.
Everyone was outside. Transfixed, neighbors huddled in the chill, pointing at the enormous star.
Next morning, Bethlehem buzzed with speculation. On her way to the town market, Gabriela stopped each time news was offered. The rabbis said the star was a sign. The midwives called it a miracle. Both were correct as gossips spread the word of a child’s birth in their very own inn stable.
Gabriela and her family knew this child was the long-awaited Messiah. Each of them began making gifts. What could Gabriela offer? The best gifts of fruit and beads, pottery and oil, sheepskins and perfumes had been chosen by family and friends.
“Go to the stable, Gabriela,” her mother advised. “God will counsel you when you see the Baby.” Hurrying there, she peeked in, marveling at the hush despite many comings and goings. She watched as each pilgrim bowed, offering food and trinkets.
Gabriela glanced at the father in his simple brown robe… then at the mother, so sweet and young. Unable to take her eyes off Mary’s face, Gabriela decided upon her gift that very moment.
Making her way home, Gabriela stopped at each house along the way. At every door she asked for a single thread and was not denied by anyone. By the time she reached her house, her arm was filled with threads in colors too numerous to count: purples, reds, yellows, earthy browns. No two threads were the same hue.
Working feverishly, Gabriela wove a cloth in colors of the rainbow. It had multicolored fringe peeking from each end and was knotted so securely, it promised many years of use. All who saw it were enchanted.
Returning to the stable, Gabriela knelt before the Child in His makeshift cradle with her offering. She looked into His face and offered thanks for His coming. Then she turned to the mother.
“He has so many gifts and you have none,” she whispered. Then she presented the splendid cloth to Mary. “May this wrap you in a rainbow and keep you and the Child warm… no matter where you may travel.”
65288, Fifth Limited Edition (1996)
Though it was night, the star was too bright to allow sleep… even if the kings could have stilled their hearts. Each was anxious to set off into the darkness, for the star delivered news that the Messiah had, at last, been born. Traveling by night, their separate journeys continued until the Magi met at a crossroads. They greeted each other like long-lost brothers, with warmth and good will. On that night three camps became one. The kings vowed to travel together in God’s care until their mission, seeing the Holy One, had been accomplished.
Servants of the kings, happy to see their masters overjoyed, were fearful at the same time. Danger lurked everywhere. Bandits and thieves were commonplace, and the kings carried precious cargo… gifts for the Child… as they entered a world of fearless marauders, familiar with every inch of the land and every hiding place!
Unfortunately, everyone’s worst fear came to pass: A band of thieves circled the encampment. Quietly, they helped themselves to the jewels, gold, frankincense and myrrh packed into saddle bags. They would have made off with the treasures had a loud ram’s horn not sounded, shattering the silence. Men sprang from their tents, weapons in hand, to behold a mighty angel, standing in the sunlight. “I am Raphael,” he proclaimed.
The bandits cried out, dropped their spoils, and raced for surrounding hills as fast as the craggy ground would permit. Raphael shouted as they fled: “God sent me to make sure these pilgrims travel to Bethlehem under His protection!” Again, he blew his shofar as if to warn the running thieves they had better keep going and not return.
The three kings started to kneel before the angel, but Raphael would not permit it. “It is I who should be kneeling before you,” he said graciously. “You risk everything to obey your hearts… to travel so far to worship and adore the new Savior.” Raphael turned slightly to address everyone in the camp. “You have not known of my presence until this time, but I have been with you since you came together at the crossroads. Travel in peace as you continue your holy journey!” Raphael smiled as he lifted his shofar one final time to pay tribute to the Magi and their mission. “I will not leave you until you reach the Newborn King.”
65214, Sixth Limited Edition (1997)
Judah drew an arm across his sweaty brow as he paused from his tiring task. There was till a wide swath of golden wheat remaining to be cut. His task would not be complete until he reached the rocky boundary wall that marked one end of his family’s holdings.
He scanned the sky, looking for thunderheads. Rains the week before had finished ripening the crop—now it was essential to get it harvested before further storms spoiled the grain in the field.
There was another reason for urgency. Bethlehem was to be one of the census sites in the fall. Soldiers and travelers crowding into the town would increase the demand for bread. Their crop should fetch a good price.
But before the grain could be ground into flour, it had to be cut, tied into sheaves and then taken to the threshing floor. The kernels were then separated from the stalks by trampling them under the feet of oxen or beating them with sticks. The last step was to winnow out the stalks by using a threshing fork (a type of pitchfork) to toss the grain into the air so the wind carried away the chaff.
Judah was not afraid of the work that lay ahead. He liked the ordered life of a farmer—days and seasons merging into one another. Bending down, Judah gathered a bunch of stalks in his left hand and cut them with the sickle in his right hand. A distant voice caused him to straighten up again. Coming toward him was his oldest brothers, Obediah.
“How goes it?” the elder asked when he was within earshot. “I’m nearly finished with my section.” He turned a critical eye on Judah’s clearing. “Mind you go over your portion again when you’re through. We need every bit of grain to bring to the market. This census is a great opportunity.”
“It is, brother, but have you forgotten what the Scriptures say about leaving some for the poor?” Judah pointed to the road running past the field, where a small knot of people had stood. Since daybreak they waited for the harvesters to finish so they could glean the leftovers.
“And have you forgotten the amount of debt we carry of this land?” Obediah’s voice was harsh. “If we don’t pay it, we’ll wind up just like them. I don’t think that’s what Scripture wants. I know I’m not going to let it happen if I have anything to say about it.”
Shaking his fist at the onlookers, Obediah shouted, “Move along, all of you! Find some other farmer’s field to pick—you won’t get anything here.” His angry words and gestures drove the little group away.
"Obediah!” Judah caught his brother’s arm. “Yes, we carry debt on this land. The fact that we could borrow money at all is the work of the Almighty. It’s only fair to return His favor to us.”
“You there!” Judah called after a boy of twelve or thirteen. “What did you eat for your last meal?”
The boy looked frightened. “Me, sir? Why, a slice of bread and two dates, sir.”
"When did you eat?”
“Nothing so far, sir.”
Judah shook his head. “You see, Obediah?”
“Boy, come back at sunset,” his brother said gruffly. “Ask for Judah—he’ll show you where you can glean.”
“Thank you, sir!” said the boy, turning to go.
"Thank you, brother,” said Judah.
75505, Seventh Limited Edition (1998)
Humans are not the only ones helped by angels. God oversees the needs of all His creation, including the animals. The angel Celeste was one of the chosen few who could communicate with the birds of the air and the beasts of the field.
She first developed her special gift when she came to Earth one day and spied an overturned nest at the base of a storm-lashed tree. A fledgling dove survived; its family had not. “Poor thing!” murmured Celeste. “There’s no one to teach you to fly.” A thought occurred to her. “Except me.”
For many days Celeste brought food to the ivory-colored bird, speaking gently, moving slowly, until the dove would take the seed from her hand. When there was a relationship of trust, Celeste began the flying lessons. She would take the bird to a low branch and reward it whenever it imitated her actions. In this way they progressed from flapping wings to short glides. The day of the dove’s first full flight was a thrilling one for Celeste. Together they soared and dipped, curved and banked, riding the currents of the wind.
From that day on the dove would not leave Celeste. It perched on her arm and cooed contently while she stroked the feathers that were so soft, yet so strong. When Celeste lifted her arm high, the dove knew that was the signal for a companion flight. They traveled great distances, delighting in the views of miniature buildings and fields beneath them. People, if they took any notice at all, saw only the dove.
It was marvelous sight they saw one winter night in a rural village. Celeste received an assignment to the angelic choir celebrating the birth of God’s Son. As she took up her position outside the stable of the inn, her dove flew to meet her, swooping and looping in joy.
“Look!” cried the shepherds. “A sign of peace on earth—just as the angels say.” Hovering above them, Celeste’s smile was as bright as a star.
Tiras and Lena
65290, Eighth Limited Edition (1999)
The road to Bethlehem seemed long and boring to Tiras and Lena. The two children rode in a wagon drawn by a donkey as their parents walked beside them. Finally, they passed through the town gate and reached the inn. As their parents stood in line to talk to the innkeeper, the children hopped out and began to play.
“Tiras, catch!” called the young girl as she tossed a small leather ball at her brother.
“Now you catch me, Lena!” laughed the boy as he ran off with the ball. Tiras sped right into David, the innkeeper’s nephew, and nearly knocked him over.
“Whoa, little one. It’s very busy at the inn today. Can you and your sister find another game to play so you won’t get hurt?” David asked.
“Why don’t you play with us,” begged Lena, “or take us to the stable to visit all the animals there?”
“I have another idea,” David said. “Some very special toys were left at the inn by a friend. Stay here, and I’ll bring them as soon as I can.”
In a short time David reappeared, smiling and holding something behind his back. “Would you like to play music?” he asked the children as he presented them with a small wood flute and a pair of cymbals. “Yes, yes!” they shouted.
David showed them how to play the instruments. Tiras sang his favorite song and chimed along with the cymbals. Lena blew into the flute, finding different notes as she covered the holes with her fingers. Their enthusiasm spread to the crowd, who tapped their feet and cheered them on. When the children stopped playing, their audience applauded.
“Thank you for letting us play your instruments!” Tiras smiled as he handed the flute and cymbals back to David. The young man smiled back. “I think my friend would be happy if you kept them as a memento of the time you came to Bethlehem and stayed at our inn.”
65242, Ninth Limited Edition (2000)
Rehearsal was going well. “Wonderful,” boomed the baritones. “Counselor,” added the altos. “The Mighty God,” intoned the tenors. “The Everlasting Father,” followed the sopranos. But as all the voices blended into the final line, “The Prince of Peace,” Erela’s ears detected one small voice that was barely audible. Looking in that direction, she saw a young angel whose face was red with embarrassment.
After the notes died away, Erela told the assembly, “That is all for today. You were excellent. Be back at the same time tomorrow.” As she gathered up her music, a soft voice timidly called her name. It was Rayna, the young angel, holding back her tears with great effort.
“Erela, please excuse me from the choir. I can’t sing,” said Rayna, hanging her head. “I’ll spoil the celebration of the Savior’s birth.”
“No, you won’t,” insisted Erela. “I have great faith in you. You just need some extra practice, that’s all. ‘The Prince of Peace’—now you try it.” The young angel repeated the phrase.
“You almost have it,” encouraged Erela. “One more—like this.” Her pupil followed her lead, this time in a clear, strong voice and note-perfect.
“Marvelous!” beamed Erela. “Now just repeat that to yourself over and over. Come back before rehearsal tomorrow and show me how well you’re doing.”
Rayna returned the next day, full of confidence. She gave a flawless performance both before and during rehearsal. Erela continued to work with her in special sessions, for the time of the grand performance was almost at hand.
When the great day arrived, the atmosphere was electric. How many millennia had gone by with the promise of a Messiah! Now the hour had come at last. God’s Son was to be born on earth, bringing with Him a message of love and acceptance for everyone.
Eyes shining, Erela took her place in front of the choir. Rank upon rank of seraphim and cherubim, principalities and powers, stretched into the highest reaches of heaven. With a special smile for one young angel, Erela raised her arms high, signaling for the celestial concert to begin.
“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder. And his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”(A)
A Isaiah 9:6
Levana and Barak
65246, Tenth Limited Edition (2001)
Esau and his wife Levana awoke as the sun peeked through their window. “This is the day that the Lord has made,” Levana sang softly. “Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (A)
Smiling, Esau arose. “I must feed and water the animals in the stable,” he explained to his wife. “I’ll be back soon.” Looking around their tiny home, Levana called, “Barak, where are you?”
A giggle sounded from the next room. “I’m not here, mama,” spoke a little voice. “Maybe I am outside.” Levana jumped into the doorway and swept her laughing son into her arms. “Hiding from me, are you?” she asked. “Come on, let’s get breakfast ready for your father.”
Esau returned a short while later. “You won’t believe it!” he exclaimed. “The Inn is packed with people. And a man and his wife stayed in the stable last night, and she gave birth to a baby boy!”
“I want to see the baby,” yelled Barak. “Let’s go now, mama!” The excited child raced to the door.
“Barak, we should let the baby and his mother rest,” Levana explained gently. “Besides, there are so many people in Bethlehem for the Census, I am afraid we will both be trampled if we set foot outside.”
The young wife kept busy all morning with her household duties, but her energetic son needed constant attention. Finally, Levana gave in. “Will you be happy if we take a walk to the stable?” she asked. “We’ll look in on the mother and baby, but you must be very quiet.”
Mother and son walked the short distance from their home to the stable behind the Inn. When they arrived, the noise of the city faded away to a peaceful hum. Before Levana could stop him, Barak ran over to the woman who was kneeling next to the manger.
“May I see the baby?” he asked, suddenly shy. The woman nodded, and Barak leaned over the manger and touched the baby’s hand.
Levana’s heart went out to this mother and her newborn son. Why, this stable made her own little home seem like a palace in comparison! “My name is Levana. Are you in need of food, blankets, anything I can help with?” she asked. “My husband is the stable hand here—simply call for Esau and he will be at your service.”
“I am Mary. Thank you for your kind offer,” replied the woman with a smile. “Everyone has been so generous to us. We will think of the people of Bethlehem forever as our friends.”
“So shall we,” Levana replied. And the two mothers watched as their sons also became friends.
A Psalm 118:24
Ednah with Grandchild
65243, Eleventh Limited Edition (2002)
“Hush now, hush,” Ednah cooed to the fussy baby on her lap. “You have been given milk and plenty of love. Give your mama a chance to rest.”
Ednah glanced over at her daughter, sleeping on a pallet of wool blankets. Just two years before, Ednah celebrated with her village as her eldest child was given in marriage. Recently the young woman had given birth to her first child, the granddaughter who nestled in Ednah’s lap.
The baby snuggled closer to Ednah and looked up at her, responding to the sound of her grandmother’s voice.
“We will have such fun together!” Ednah continued. “Every morning, you will come with your mother and me to draw water from the well in Bethlehem’s town square. When you are old enough, you will help to make the bread. Of course, if you are anything like your mother, you will get more grain on the floor than the millstone, but that is how you learn. I will make you a little broom from the palm fronds, and you will sweep the floors clean.”
The baby waved her arms, and Ednah hugged her.
“Then you will learn the second most important skill for a woman. I will give you a spindle and a tuft of wool, and teach you how to spin. Don’t worry, it takes a while to learn,” said Ednah with a laugh. “It took your mother several years to spin a perfect even thread, but now she is considered to be one of the best spinners in Bethlehem.”
“Weaving comes next. Once you can bake bread, spin a fine thread and weave it into a tunic, you have the essential skills you will need as a woman and wife.”
Ednah continued, “As our Scripture says, ‘Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies… she seeks wool and flax, and willingly works with her hands. She is like the merchant ships, she brings her food from afar. She also rises while it is yet night, and provides food for her household.” (A)
Ednah’s daughter awoke from her nap hearing the end of this touching story. Sitting up, she said, “Mother, may this be true of my child: ‘Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: ‘Many daughters have done well, but you excel them all.’” (B)
“Amen, daughter,” replied Ednah.
A Proverbs 31:10-15
B Proverbs 31:28-29
65252, Twelfth Limited Edition (2003)
Rhoda grew up in a family of shepherds in the peaceful hills above Bethlehem. As a child she played among the lambs, brushing their curly, white fleece. Every morning she and her brother Ephraim herded the sheep out into the hills for their daily feast of grass and plants.
Rhoda and Ephraim loved their flock, and they took their responsibilities seriously. The sheep’s fleece was shorn twice each year and sold to the townspeople. Women spun the fleece into yarn that became clothing, tents, rugs, and blankets. Sheep also provided milk that was made into cheese. The animals themselves were so valuable that they were often traded for other goods.
Rhoda’s father had tended flocks for his entire life. He knew everything about keeping them healthy and happy.
“These gentle, helpless creatures need our constant guidance,” Rhoda’s father explained to his son and daughter. “If not watched, they can quickly become separated from the flock. Then they are in danger of being caught by a wolf or bear. Their slender legs are easily sprained and broken. That’s why I am so pleased with your shepherding skills, Rhoda. When the shearing starts in the morning, you will be in charge of the lambs.”
Rhoda’s face glowed with pride. The lambs’ wool from the first shearing was taken as an offering of thanksgiving to the temple. This was a true honor.
The next morning, Rhoda and her father went to the sheepfold to begin the shearing. Rhoda picked up the first lamb, but he squirmed in her hands.
“Puff, be still!” she whispered to the little animal, and he calmed down at the sound of her voice. “I will tell you a story that happened just night.”
“Father, Ephraim and I were resting in our tent when a magnificent star appeared in the sky. It was so bright that it seemed like day. Then we heard singing from Heaven. A voice told us not to be afraid, because a Savior was born right here in Bethlehem.” By the time Rhoda’s story ended, the lamb was shorn, and the girl lowered him to the ground.
“Father, I had a thought this morning,” said Rhoda. “The first shearing is reserved for the temple, so let’s take the second shearing to Bethlehem and offer it to the Savior. His mother must be a blessed woman, and I would like to give her the best gift we have to offer.”
“You are truly generous of heart,” Rhoda’s father replied. “As soon as the next lamb is shorn, you may take your gift to Bethlehem.”
Papa and Misham
65253, Thirteenth Limited Edition (2004)
A teary-eyed Misham ran across the field where his father was tending to the flocks. He held a tired and disheveled little lamb. Sobbing, the child fell into his father’s arms.
“Misham, what is wrong? Why are you crying?” asked the boy’s concerned father.
“Oh Papa, I was in the field over the hill when I heard a noise,” replied Misham. “This little lamb was tangled in the bushes. She was bleating and struggling to get out. She was so afraid, Papa. I finally got her untangled. But I am worried that she may be hurt, so I brought her to you.”
The man took the little lamb and held her close to him. With expert hands, he gently examined the wooly legs and body. Soothing the frightened animal, he said, “She is not hurt, Misham. What a soft heart you have to care for this little lamb. She is just frightened. But, now that you have rescued her, she is safe.”
“Remember when you got lost in the dark and you Mama and I looked for you all night?” his father continued. “What did I tell you when I found you?”
“You told me that you would never let anything hurt me, and that God watches over us all when we are in danger,” Misham replied.
“Well, it is the same with the sheep,” his father said. “Shepherds care for their sheep and protect them from danger. God protects us like we protect our sheep. In the Bible King David wrote, ‘The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; he leadth me beside the still waters… I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” (A)
“So God protects me like this little lamb?” Misham whispered. Pulling Misham up onto his lap, his father said, “Yes, my son. He is the great Shepherd who shields us all from harm.”
Smiling, the father patted his son on the head and handed back the little animal. “This lamb is your responsibility now, Misham. Someday, you will make a great shepherd and a wonderful father. I am so proud to have a son like you.” Beaming, Misham ran off to give his new friend some water and tender loving care.
A Psalm 23:1-4
Darah and Grace
65267, Fourteenth Limited Edition (2005)
Grace was Darah’s only daughter and her constant companion. Her husband, Papa, and their son Misham were shepherds and spend a great deal of time outdoors with the flock, that left Darah and Grace to tend to the home and hearth. Each day began with a walk to the town well. While they filled their large jugs with water, they would meet other women and girls from the village and would catch up on the events of the day. Their walk back gave them plenty of time to talk and in doing so the pair became very close. Once they returned home it was time to bake bread for the family meal. This was very hard work and required several hours. Once that was completed their attention was focused on spinning the wool sheared from the sheep into thread and then on weaving that thread into cloth. After spending time spinning and weaving, Darah and Grace would begin preparing the evening meal. Typically, the family would gather around a large pot of vegetable stew. They would take turns dipping the bread baked earlier in the day into the pot. The meal would conclude with fruit, and figs were Grace’s favorite.
One evening Darah, Grace, Papa, and Misham were all quite eager to sit down to the evening meal. Papa and Misham had heard from the shepherds who watched the flocks through the night about angels who had appeared and announced the birth of the Messiah. Darah and Grace had heard at the well a story about an extraordinary baby born in a stable under a brilliant star. After sharing their news, Darah wondered aloud if what they had heard were parts of the same story. It was decided that the next day Darah and Grace would find out more about this baby born in a stable and Papa and Misham would learn as much as they could about what the shepherds had seen and heard. As each of them learned more of the story their excitement grew, and by the next evening’s meal all were eager to sit together as a family to discuss what had happened.
As they dined and talked, Grace suggested that they should welcome the new baby with gifts. The little girl’s kindness and thoughtfulness made Darah very proud. She hugged her and said, “that is a wonderful idea.” The family was very excited at the thought of visiting the stable behind the inn and they decided each of them would bring a gift. Darah would bring an urn of cool clear water, Papa would bring a walking stick, Misham would offer his favorite cloak and Grace would bring a basket of figs. Together the family walked to the stable behind the inn. They placed their gifts before the Holy Family and stood for a moment in front of the Baby Jesus. They realized that the stories were not exaggerated and that this was the Savior they had hoped and prayed would come.
Ava and Lea
57523, Fifteenth Limited Edition (2006)
At the time of the Roman census more than 2000 years ago, droves of pilgrims returned to their hometowns to be counted. The influx was so dramatic the family who ran the Bethlehem inn found themselves having to accommodate twice the number of guests they normally hosted.
To help with the crowd, the innkeeper’s entire family was recruited to work; including their youngest children, Lea and Ava. The pair felt very grown up to be given such responsibility, but they reverted to curious children when they heard someone say their father had agreed to lodge a pregnant couple in the inn’s stable.
“I want to see who doesn’t mind sleeping with the animals,” Lea insisted, so when night fell, they went to investigate. Adventurous Ava lead the way, sure her footsteps couldn’t be heard- until she ran into a bearded man in the darkness. “Excuse me sir,” she said, “we were just going to the stable, and…”
That man smiled and beckoned the pair. “Would you like to see Him?” They nodded- though they had no clue what they had been being invited to see. When they reached the object of his attention, they were shocked to find a baby napping in their manger.
“Where did he come from?” Ava asked. Joseph explained how he and Mary traveled with their donkey to Bethlehem and came to rest in the stable. Lea was beaming with excitement. “Let’s go tell Mama. A new baby, born in our stable!” The girls briskly walked back to the inn to share the exciting news with their parents.
After telling this magnificent story to not only their parents, but to all of the inn guests as well, Ava and Lea thought it would be a good idea to bring the newborn and His family a gift. The girls found two baskets in the kitchen, and filled them with various fruits and vegetables that were for the inn’s guests to enjoy in the morning.
As they presented their gifts to the bearded man and his new family in the stable, they noticed that they were no longer alone in their offering. Villagers, travelers from the inn, and even the stable’s animal inhabitants were all approaching the stable to pay homage to the newborn and his family.
The baby’s mother called to the girls, and thanked them for their generous gifts of food. “Would you like to hold him?” the mother asked.
“Can we really? Oh yes, please,” cried the girls.
The mother laid the newborn across the girls’ laps as they sat on the stable floor. The girls were truly blessed this day, as their act of kindness resulted in an unexpected moment that would live in their hearts forever.
65254, Sixteenth Limited Edition (2007)
Naamah (NAY-ah-mah) was a delightful young girl growing up in Bethlehem at the time of Jesus’ birth. Whenever she traveled to the community well, she carried both a water jug and a small clay bowl tucked in the pocket of her robes. It was her custom to provide water to Bethlehem’s stray cats and dogs as she walked home from the well. She was a kind and caring child who always remembered that even the least of these creatures was fashioned by God. When she had time she would play with the animals and had a special name for each one. On the days she encountered many thirsty cats and dogs along the way, Naamah was often surprised to discover she still had enough water to meet her family’s needs when she arrived home. She was grateful and remembered the teachings that God does provide. Celia was one of God’s angels who also had a special place in her heart for animals and she watched over Naamah. It was Celia who made sure that Naamah’s jug had enough water for her family regardless of the number of animals helped as she made her way home. As time went on Naamah’s cats and dogs became her constant companions not just on trips back and forth to the well but everywhere she went.
One day when Naamah and her furry friends were in the marketplace she came upon her friend Felix. Felix was famous for having stories to tell and his latest was more fantastic than ever. Felix had met Mary and Joseph a day earlier and heard about the angel that had foretold the birth of Mary’s baby. Today in the marketplace Felix heard stories from everyone—stories of a brilliant star in the sky, of angels appearing to shepherds and of a Savior’s birth. Felix was certain all the stories were true and had told Naamah about his visit to see the Newborn King. Upon hearing Felix’s tales Naamah was unsure whether or not she should believe him. Felix had been known to exaggerate a time or two, but something about what he said touched Naamah’s heart and she knew she had to see this baby. On her way to the stable, Naamah wasn’t sure what to expect and was grateful for the comfort of her animal companions. As she neared the stable she worried that her pets might disturb the baby, but she quickly discovered that the quiet peace that seemed to be enfolding everyone visiting the stable was also having a soothing influence on her animals. When it was finally Naamah’s turn to come before the manger, she and her animals cautiously came forward. Looking into the baby’s eyes, Naamah felt deep in her soul God’s love for all his creation and knew without a doubt that this truly was the Savior.
65230, Seventeenth Limited Edition (2008)
"Sometimes, I wish we had named you “The Inventor,” Josiah’s mother often told her second son after he had fashioned some new object and brought it to her for approval. She loved this boy very much but was often afraid that his strange ideas would land him in trouble as he grew to manhood.
Josiah’s creations were many! He figured out how to fashion the clay tablets young boys used for schooling in half the time they normally took by using less water and drying them on rooftops. He was the first in the village to apply the idea of large, underground grain storage jars to his family compound, and soon, Josiah had requests from many families in the village to place these jars into their yards. His popularity might have been happily enjoyed by both Josiah and his family were it not for the fact that all of these ideas were getting in the way of his upbringing!
Young Josiah was training to be a tax collector. It was the job his father held, and eldest boys were expected to follow along in their father’s professions. And to add to this confusion, Josiah also loved music. Sometimes more than anything else. So his spare time was spent perfecting “the ideal instrument.” Needless to say, his days and nights were filled from sunup to sundown. And he enjoyed all of it.
One evening, with his father’s tax rounds behind him and no requests for help with neighboring silo construction to hamper him, Josiah took out his favorite pipe and began to play. The bladder of a recently slaughtered sheep lay drying on the floor of the compound and it suddenly dawned on him that the skin was just what he needed to complete his project.
He knew he should check with his mother, but the evening was so mild and his desire to make this new instrument was so urgent, that he simply appropriated the bladder and with sinew and bone, he laced up the instrument and installed the two wood pipes.
The night shone brightly over the courtyard as Josiah completed the instrument. As he was about to try it for the very first time, a wonderful bright star burst into the night sky from nowhere. The star seemed a brilliant miracle, appearing just as his quest to complete the perfect musical instrument was accomplished. As if to salute the star, Josiah took a very deep breath and pushed life into the instrument. It sang loudly and sweetly into the air on that spectacular night.
65240, Eighteenth Limited Edition (2009)
Although Nathaniel was a quiet man, often preferring the company of animals to that of people, he was well known for what many considered to be an extraordinary gift. Nathaniel was blessed with the ability to help animals in need.
From the time he was a child, it seemed injured animals found him of their own accord. Just as the animals somehow knew how to find him, Nathaniel also somehow knew how to help them. In time, townspeople began to bring to him their animals that had fallen ill and those that had been injured. Sometimes Nathaniel would bind an animal's injured limb. Other times he would gather specific plants and brew a kind of tea for the animals to consume as a medicine of sorts.
One morning a young lamb appeared on Nathaniel's doorstep. Seemingly abandoned by his mother, the lamb was in desperate need of food and warmth. Small and feverish, this lamb, unlike other lambs, had no interest in running and jumping. Nathaniel took him into his home and began nursing him back to health. In time the lamb grew but he remained listless. Nathaniel began taking the lamb with him everywhere hoping to encourage this lamb to run, jump and play.
One night long after he had gone to bed but long before sunrise, Nathaniel was awakened by the sounds of a calf and donkey. Carrying around the ill lamb had become such a habit that even in his half-asleep state he instinctively picked up the lamb. The calf and donkey kept up the noise until Nathaniel came out of his home. After a few minutes, Nathaniel guessed that they wanted him to follow them. So having faith in his animals, Nathaniel followed then through the streets of Bethlehem. Soon Nathaniel and his trio of animal friends reached the stable behind the Inn. Nathaniel assumed that there must be an animal inside that needed his help but there were no sounds of distress coming from the stable. With more nudging from his calf and donkey, Nathaniel went inside. There he found Mary, Joseph and Baby Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. Surrounded by the animals in the stable, Nathaniel realized that not only were the animals not in distress but that they were the most contented and peaceful animals he had ever encountered. Shepherds and their flocks had arrived at the stable before Nathaniel and they were sharing tales of what they had seen and heard in the fields. Blessed with gift of faith, Nathaniel knew that this baby was indeed the Christ Child foretold by the prophets. Nathaniel bowed down before the Baby Jesus and suddenly he could feel illness leaving his cherished lamb. In that moment, the lamb leapt from Nathaniel's arms and he too bowed his head in homage to the Newborn King.
65270, Nineteenth Limited Edition (2010)
Shamir was from a family of shepherds living outside Bethlehem. Making their homes in tents, Shamir and his family traveled the hills and valleys surrounding Bethlehem, leading their flock to pasture and water. Shamir's role was to stand guard over the herd to protect it from robbers and wild animals. Wolves, jackals, leopards and venomous snakes were threats to the flock. Shamir's keen eye and quick reflexes make him an ideal guardian. He could see the slightest movement and before the predator could move further, Shamir could release an arrow that always found its target.
Shortly before the birth of Jesus, Shamir's family and their flocks were struggling to survive. Summer wasn't yet over, food was scarce and the usual sources of water were almost entirely dry. It was decided Shamir would be sent out to find food. Because religious law limited the animals that could be consumed, Shamir would have to find deer or antelope that could feed his family.
Day after day in the hours before dawn until long after sunset, Shamir hunted and each day he would return with nothing. Tirelessly he kept at the task always praying for help and guidance. One night when it seemed as though the stars were show how glowing more brightly, Shamir decided he would continue hunting through the night. Finally far from camp, Shamir found what he had been seeking-- a herd of deer grazing in the waning moonlight. Shamir silently pulled an arrove from his quiver, aimed at the largest buck and released the arrow. It found its target but the entire herd bolted when the arrow struck. Now Shamir began the task of tracking. Well into the morning, Shamir found the slain animal and prepared it for the journey back to his camp. On his way back, he realized that during the night he had passed through a lust pasture with a brook gently flowing through it. Much to his surprise, Shamir recognized it was here where the deer were grazing. Shamir was so focusd on his target he had not even noticed. He paused to take a drink of the fresh clean water and was amazed at what he had discovered. Shamir knew that he had found more than merely food to feed his family, but rather the perfect location for his family's new camp. It was afternoon before he arrived home, but oddly enough it seemed that his entire family was also arriving home from another journey at the very same time. Their demeanor was not that of a group struggling for survival, but rather that a joyful crowd filled with hope and wonder. Shamir's family told him of the angels that had appeared to them and how they had gone to Bethlehem to see the Savior the angels had foretold. They reported that everything was just as the angels had promised. They described how at the stable they had stood before the Baby Jesus and that at that moment they knew in their hearts that their hardship was over. Shamir knew this to be true as well; and as the family prepared the feast, Shamir told them of all he had discovered.
65271, Twentieth Limited Edition (2011)
Benaiah was one of Bethlehem's brick layers. In biblical times, the brick layers were responsible for building and for making the bricks themselves. Benaiah's bricks were made from mud mixed with chopped straw and individually molded in a form shaped like a box without a top. He would prepare the mold with dry earth and then work the mud and straw mixture into it. The mold would them be turned over, and the dry earth that coated the inside would allow the brick to slide out of the box. The resultying brick would then be left in the sun to dry. Typically making the bricks took longer than building with them, but Benaiah enjoyed the entire process. The repetitive nature of the task allowed him time to think about what the bricks would build. Once a structure was built, Benaiah would finish the inner walls with a smooth coat of clay or plaster. Afterwarrds, Benaiah would return to maintain the interior walls and the structure as needed.
Bethlehem at the time of the Census was a busy place, and the busiest place in all of Bethlehem was the inn. Having helped to build the inn and its stable, Benaiah was happy that so many people were going to make it their temporary home during the Census. The innkeeper had Benaiah busy ensuring the sun-dried brick structures were kept to the highest of standards. Benaiah was a skilled craftsman, and his talents were easy to see in all that he built. The brickwork in the stable was just as precise and beautiful as the work he had completed in the inn. Day after day Benaiah returned to the inn and the stable making sure that both would meet the innkeeper's standards and would be ready for all the guests and the animals.
As Benaiah was returning to the inn and its stable for a last time before bringing the projects to completion, he encountered a large froup of shepherds also making their way to Bethlehem's inn. This surprised Benaiah because shepherds rarely came inside Bethlehem's walls and instead preferred the open green pastures favored by their charges. But there they were with large numbers of sheep all purposefully striding toward Bethlehem's inn. Benaiah caught up to the groupto ask where they were going. He could hardly believe the story they told of angels and of the Savior lying in a manger. Most amazing to him of all, was that this Newborn King was to be found at the inn's stable--the very stable were Benaiah had been working. When they arrived, the stable was already crowded with those who had heard the Good News. It was no longer the quiet refuge occupied by only Benaiah and the animals, but rather a humble home for a Newborn King. While others knelt before the Baby Jesus and presented him with gifts--food, music, hand-made treasures and more--Benaiah looked around the stable and knew that his gift had already been given. It was all around them and had provided the Savior with shelter from the moment of his birth.
65272, Twenty-First Limited Edition (2012)
Cyrus, the only child in a family of merchants, had no interest in trade goods, but rather in the caravan's animals. When they stopped for the night, Cyrus always made sure the camels had the best care. The newborn camels were his favorite because they were often as playful as puppies.
As camels grew, they were given light loads to help train them. Cyrus' favorite camel didn't like to carry his small cargo. Once the camel-master was settling the animals for the nigh, Cyrus' favorite ran off into the darkness as soon as his burden was removed. Knowing the calf could be vulnerable to predators, Cyrus hugged the calf and looked around, he realized it was a very dark night. It was a new moon, and cloud had hidden the stars. Cyrus and his camel were utterly lost. He tried to find his way back, but he could not. Ginally when he was too tired to go a step further, he curled up with his camel and fell sound asleep.
A the caravan, Cyrus' family was looking for him. The caravan didn't move for days while they searched. Eventually, his family had to give up the search, and with broken hearts, they moved forward. Cyrus' father focused on selling his wares and tryin to accept the loss of his son. Through tears, Cyrus' mother refused to give up hope. She prayed almost constantly that her son would be returned. Cyrus kept looking too, but without success. His life travelings had taught him well, and he was able to survive, but despite his best efforts he remained lost. One night Cyrus and his camel curled up together at an oasis and fell fast asleep. Cyrus awoke to the sound of animals, scents of cook fires and the gentle voice of a traveler from far away. He opened his eyes to see King Balthazar. Cyrus told him his story, and Bathazar welcomed him to his caravan. Together they continued on to Bethlehem. Cyrus was enchanted by the King's tales, and Balthazar looked upon Cyrus as a cherished grandson. Although Cyrus still missed his parents terribly, the King's caravan was an adventure, and it was only as he closed his eyes to sleep that sadness would come.
Since caravans carried news from place to place in addition to their wares, Cyrus' family quickly beard the stories of the Newborn Savior. Bethlehem was a tiny town where they had never need, but when they heard the news, it was decided that they heard the news, it was decided that they too would travel to see the Baby Jesus. Cyrus' family reached Bethelehem's stable and presented the Holy Family with a treasure trove of their wares. Before the manger, Cyrus' mother prayed that her son might be returned to her. WHen she stood to leave, there was a great excitement within the stable. Wise Men from the East had arrived and were coming to see the Christ Child. But Cyrus' mother never saw the Kings in all their finery. As soon she turned, her eyes found the little boy trailing behind them, and in that moment she realized that her prayers had been answered.