When government troops attacked the town where rebels had their headquarters, an unwed couple escaped to the young man’s ancestral village up in the hills. The trip was rough and as they arrived at nightfall the young mother went into labor. An old woman in the village cut the umbilical cord with a shaft of razor sharp bamboo and wrapped the baby boy in a clean cloth and put the mother and the baby to bed next to a hot fire.
Now, in the middle of the night three older boys keeping watch over a pile of newly harvested rice out on the hillside were awakened as they slept curled up next to their water buffalo. They trembled in terror at the sight of a radiant being hovering over their threshing floor, for these lads were deathly afraid of ghosts and they had a few dirty secrets so they were certainly unready to have their karma calculated that night. But the divine being said, “Don’t be afraid. Go down to the village and find the couple in Grandmother’s hut. Their baby will bring immense joy to you.” And just then, as they told it, the earth and sky were full of music giving praise to God. So with the kind of euphoria that an escape from death can bring, the boys went and found it was just as the angel had said.
In those days three itinerant monks were making their way through the hills, camping at night in abandoned temples or cremation grounds. People in the village took rice out to the travelers and had their fortunes told. The couple brought their new born child to be blessed. The oldest monk tied white cotton strings around the baby’s wrists to secure its spirit and chanted a blessing. Then the youngest monk spoke secretly to the young father. “Be warned,” he said. “Troops are coming this way.”
Even though the month of sequestration by a hot fire was not over, that night the young family left the village and crossed the river into the next country where they sought refuge.
This recurring story may be taking a slightly different form near you.
M E R R Y C H R I S T M A S
Rev. Dr. Kenneth Dobson posts his weekly reflections on this blog.