Friday, December 20, 2019

Christmas Countdown Book Blitz Day 15

“Who were THOSE shepherds, and why were they so favored?” That one question stirred the imagination of author Michael I. Judson and led to the creation of Lost Shepherd, the fictional backstory of the first witnesses to the birth of the precious Babe of Bethlehem. After you read Lost Shepherd, watch for his answers to other compelling questions (his next books!)

When he’s not writing, he has a large family to love, gardens to grow, fun places to see, ancestors to discover, and even chickens to raise! He also has a full-time job that occupies the bulk of his waking hours. Though still a few years off, retirement beckons with aspirations of writing (with all the fun imagining and discovery that goes with it) becoming his full-time pursuit.

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Just who were the shepherds that were singled out from among earth's inhabitants to hear the angelic announcement of Christ's birth? What made them so special, or what uniquely qualified them to be His first witnesses? The Bible tells us very little about them. Now there is an answer!
Eleazar grows up awash in a culture of shepherding, but not among ordinary sheep. No, the flocks he and his companions tend are destined for sacrifice on the altar of the great temple at Jerusalem. Like his fathers before him, his life's work fuels the faith of a nation that tirelessly awaits the signs of their long-foretold Messiah. But unforeseen circumstances lead Eleazar away from his purposeful existence and onto a path of doubt and life-altering decisions that threaten to destroy both his faith and his future. Only the miraculous power of the Christ Child can reclaim him and restore to him to a life of hope and peace—and to an understanding of his importance as a shepherd in Israel.
Lost Shepherd is a tale of real hope and redemption, of faith lost and reclaimed. Let the story transport you back in time as you discover anew the timeless healing power found only in the Savior Jesus Christ.

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Following the evening meal, Miriam and Eleazar would clear and wash the dishes and Jacob and Simeon would retire to a grove of gnarled olive trees behind the shepherd’s home to catch up on news from around the region. On this particular occasion, Jacob was especially keen on hearing Simeon’s take on the fate of one, Cornelius, a self-proclaimed prophet who had foolishly rushed Herod’s chariot as it passed, loudly proclaiming that the coming of Israel’s Deliverer was imminent.
“What do you think happened to him?” Simeon queried in return.
“Well he didn’t commit a crime that I’m aware of.”
“Perhaps not,” Simeon replied, “but he couldn’t have been much of a student of history, either.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, he must not have remembered the failings of Herod’s father Antipater, whose leniency with the so-called Jewish rebellion earned him nothing but grief. It’s certain that Herod himself has not forgotten that lesson, judging from the way he has silenced every other threat to his rule.”
“So are you saying that Cornelius was imprisoned by Herod?”
“If he was, he should count himself blessed. Others committing lesser crimes have met with far greater consequences.”
Puzzled, Jacob commented: “Surely Herod is not as cruel as you say. After all, he re-built and maintains the temple and keeps Rome from further intruding into our way of life.”
“Be not deceived, old friend,” said the wise Levite. “Herod does only that which serves his own purposes. His pretended allegiance to Rome is no more real than his pretended affection for the Jews. What serves Herod is all that matters, and he is particularly wary of any mention of a successor. I fear in his mind he actually believes he will live and rule forever.”
“Hence the strong reaction to any mention of the Messiah,” Jacob accurately surmised.
“Now you’re beginning to understand—and you’re beginning to see why there have been such concessions made by Joazar ben Boethus, the high priest, and the rest of the temple elders. Herod is slowly making over all of Jerusalem in his own image.”
“But what of their faith?” Jacob questioned. “Surely the temple elders would not compromise where it really matters.”
“My friend, sometimes one must do what is required to survive. A temple of stone gives more hope to more people than one that exists only in memory. Besides, many yet find great fulfillment in worshipping there. I must admit, however, that I sorely miss the open conversations we once enjoyed on the subject of the Messiah. My how faith was strengthened when we could openly testify to one another of our feelings and impressions!”
“Well, Simeon, you are free to speak of your feelings here,” Jacob responded, sympathetically. “Tell me all about your thoughts of the Messiah and his coming. There are none here but a lowly shepherd and these olive trees to hear your confession.”
“None but a lowly shepherd, some olive trees and a curious, nine-year-old, would-be shepherd boy, you mean!”
With that, Eleazar sheepishly stepped out from behind the tree where he had been hiding.
“Ah, I wondered why the lights in the house hadn’t dimmed,” said Jacob, casting a disappointed look in the direction of Miriam’s flickering lamp. “I suppose it doesn’t matter. What’s done is done, but mind you, young man, it is exceedingly bad form to eavesdrop on a private conversation. I expect you to apologize to Simeon and then head straight to your bed.”
“Oh don’t be so hard on the lad,” Simeon pleaded. “He owes me nothing. After all, he’s nearly old enough to join the other shepherds. If you can entrust him with that responsibility, I think he should be entitled to a bit of adult conversation.”
“All in good time, my friend. All in good time. For now, what this almost-shepherd needs is sleep.”
With that, young Eleazar was escorted to bed. Deciding he too was in need of rest, Simeon excused himself for the night.

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