For The Fount Account this week, I want to share a story from a book of Christmas stories. I hope you enjoy it! – Pastor Glen
When the star appeared in the sky on the first Christmas night, four wise men from the East set off on the long journey to Bethlehem. But only three arrived in time to see the baby Jesus. The fourth was too late. Yet he was the kindest, bravest and wisest of them all. His name was Artaban.
Each of the wise men packed precious gifts for Jesus. The other three had gold, frankincense and myrrh. Artaban took three beautiful jewels; a ruby, a sapphire and a diamond.
They set off at midnight and travelled without stopping. But as the sun rose, they saw a man lying beside the road. Artaban got off his camel and knelt beside the man, but the others hurried on.
The man told Artaban that robbers had stabbed him and taken all his money. Artaban lifted the man onto his camel, and took him to an inn. He gave the innkeeper the ruby and asked him to care for the man. Then he climbed onto his camel and rode off, travelling as quickly as he could.
The next day, late in the afternoon, Artaban saw a woman sitting by the side of a road, holding a tiny baby. The woman was dressed in rags, and both she and her baby were shivering.
Artaban stopped and got off his camel. The woman told him that her husband had died just after their baby was born, and since she had no money, the landlord had thrown her out of her cottage.
Artaban lifted the woman and her baby on to his camel, and led them to a nearby town. It was now almost dark, so they spent that night at an inn. The following day, Artaban looked for a place where the woman and her baby could live. At last he found a white cottage for sale. With a heavy heart, he gave the owner the sapphire. Now he only had the diamond to give to Jesus. But when he took the woman and her baby to the cottage, her joy was so great, that Artaban felt happy, said goodbye, and continued on his journey.
At last he arrived in Bethlehem. But to his horror, he found soldiers striding from house to house, with blood on their swords. The people told him that King Herod had given orders that every boy under the age of two should be killed.
Artaban rushed to find the richest merchant in town. He gave him his diamond in exchange for gold coins, and then ran around Bethlehem paying each soldier a gold coin to stop killing baby boys. He told families to hurry from the city before King Herod found out. When every family had left, Artaban himself road off as fast as he could – knowing that if King Herod ever found him, he would be executed.
Thirty years later, when Artaban was a very old man, he heard stories of a man called Jesus who had been born in Bethlehem, and was not attracting great crowds with his teaching and healing. Artaban knew that this must have been the Jesus whom he had tried to visit all those years ago. He decided to make the journey once again and offer Jesus a jewel, as he had tried to do before. He sold all his possessions, and bought a huge white pearl.
Once again, he came to Bethlehem. But he was told that Jesus was now in Jerusalem. Just outside Jerusalem, he saw a crowd lining the road. To his horror, they told him that Jesus was about to be crucified.
Then he saw Jesus, followed by three men, all carrying heavy crosses. He held up his pearl, eager to give it to Jesus. But one of the men saw it and cried out that he was innocent of the crimes for which he was being punished. He said that if he died, his wife and children would have no one to support them. He begged Artaban to use that pearl to buy his freedom.
Artaban looked at Jesus, and Jesus smiled and nodded. Artaban offered the pearl to the officer in charge of the prisoners. And the innocent man was set free.
So Artaban never gave any jewels to Jesus. But when Jesus smiled and nodded to him, he knew that in truth all his jewels had been given to Jesus – because whenever we serve those in need, we serve Jesus. And as he watched the crucifixion of Jesus, he learned something else. Just as he had paid for that prisoner’s freedom with his pearl, so Jesus paid for the freedom of every person in the world by his death.
From Treasury of Christmas Stories for Family, compiled by Robert Van de Weyer, copyright 1994 by Hunt & Thorpe, Nashville, Tennessee.