Prodigal Son’s Christmas
“How long has it been since?” The prodigal son thought as he stroked his index finger. The pale circular indention, left by his ring, had disappeared as it blended with the color of his skin.
“A year!!!? It would be the longest in his recollection since the first time he left his father’s house.” He scratched his chin that was covered by a beard that had grown thick and long enough to almost cover his face.
He let out a deep desperate sigh as he collapsed on the ground. He lay motionless, except for the slow heaving of his breast, but it was not out of exhaustion from walking: it was something deeper and more burdensome within his soul.
Why did he find himself more distant to his father –physically and spiritually– every time he escaped for a more adventurous and dangerous life? Strangely, no matter what he did, where he went and how destitute he became, there was that inner tug pulling him up and walking his way back to his father’s house.
But where was he? His surroundings looked totally unfamiliar. Through constant episodes of leaving his father and going back, he developed other ‘skills’ that made him familiar and confident with dark places and unnamed companions whom he sought out far from his father’s house.
They taught him which places would allow him the greatest enjoyment and pleasures. He learned to choose them well in order not to drain his resources. Moreover, he learned to adapt other customs and traditions so he could fall back on them, find some sort of employment in case he ran low of money.
In short, he could and would survive.
Through these years, however, another realization grew within him: survival was not enough! Surviving was getting to be rather tiring and meaningless. He couldn’t explain why and what was in his father’s house that made his tired body drag itself back home.
As he sluggishly sat himself up, he shuddered before a now unfamiliar terrain. He looked up to the stars trying to get some bearing. A stray cold wind blew the desert dust stinging his eyes.
He covered them and before falling unconscious he could only whisper the words, “Father, forgive me! I am lost!”
* * *
He dreamt of the first time he returned to his father. He felt his strong embrace and how the servants offered him water while others cleaned the dust from his face, his arms and feet. It felt so real!
“Wake up, man!” A man’s voice interrupted his dream.
He felt someone wiping his face, hands and arms with a moist towel.
“Am I home?” He wondered. But his senses said otherwise. Instead, there was the strong scent of earth, dried hay, animals moaning and a crackling fire.
He opened his eyes and saw the man rinsing a towel. This man, although towering above the average height, had a very gentle look.
“I was gathering some firewood and I saw you lying in the middle of the field,” the man replied.
“What is your name,” the prodigal son asked.
“My name is Joseph. What is yours?”
“I’m afraid I cannot now recall the name my father gave me,” he said shamefully.
“May I perhaps call you Leloshem (unnamed in Hebrew), then?” Joseph laughed.
“Shem, for short would do,” the man somehow regained his humor.
“Come, have something. It seems you have not eaten for days.”
A child’s cooing suddenly fills the air.
“Joseph, give him the mantle to keep him warmer!” A woman said.
Shem had not noticed that a few yards from the fire was a woman nursing her child.
“She is Mary, my wife,” Joseph draped the mantle over Shem’s shoulders.
“Thank you, thank you, but…,” Shem stopped as he felt something strangely comforting.
Shem looked down and saw his feet wearing a new set of sandals.
“I had a spare of sandals. I use these ones for my work and the ones you have are the ones I seldom use at home,” Joseph said.
“No, no…you can’t possibly give them away. You see, I was heading home but got a bit lost.”
“You can have them,” Mary said. “My husband skillfully makes sandals like I would make pita bread.”
“Get closer to the fire, Shem,” Joseph said.
Shem slowly moved towards the glowing flames. He felt warmer and his spirits became more serene and happy.
“Where are you from?” Joseph asked.
“I can’t seem to recall either, I’m sorry,” Shem felt ashamed.
“A man who forgets his name and origin is indeed unfortunate, but rest now and recover from your journey. Tomorrow may bring everything back!” Joseph reassured him.
Shem intensely looked at the dancing flames. How he wished that that soft light could make him recall anything.
The child cooed again. He looked at the mother and child huddled in the corner of the cave. What a warm and peaceful scene. His own mother must have nursed him in the same way, but not in such a desolate place as this. But Mary, totally oblivious to the surroundings, simply hummed softly for Her son.
Shem and Mary’s eyes suddenly crossed. Shem tried to look away but Mary unexpectedly asked, “Shem, would you like to hold the Child?”
Without knowing why, he stood up and approached Mary and took the Child. The Child opened His eyes and slowly observed him. The boy started clinging to his tattered clothes and started pulling randomly.
He wanted to kiss the Child but felt he was not fit and worthy.
“What is His name?” Shem asked as he gave Mary the Child back.
“His name is Jesus,” Mary said.
As Mary took the baby, the Child’s caught some the loose clumps of wool in Shem’s clothes. As She cuddled Jesus, Shem saw His tiny hand holding on to a small ball of wool. Jesus’ little hand let go of the wool that fell to the ground with the jingling sound!
Shem picked up the clump and realized something was tangled within.
It was a ring!
It was his lost ring, now found!
The ring reflected the fire’s gentle flames and Shem could now read something etched on it: his name!
* * *
“My son! My son! My son!” An old man’s voice trembled.
The prodigal son woke up and realized he was in his father’s embrace.
“You have come back!” His father was clearly overjoyed with tears.
“Yes, father. Forgive me…!”
“Son, you are still wearing the ring I gave you,” his father wept as he covered him with kisses.
“Yes, father, I have come home because I was lost and I was found by Jesus, Mary and Joseph!”