Once again I was stunned by what I had read. Were all these scrolls going to be stories like this? What had I found? Was this genuine – or was one of my friends playing a joke on me, burying a jar in my garden where I would be bound to find it at some stage? Yet Benjamin had been moved by the documents. They had touched him in some strange way that I was yet to understand. Perhaps I doubted the documents’ authenticity because I was holding a typed copy, rather than the original parchment scrolls. I tried to imagine myself easing this scroll out of the jar, taking care as I opened it up and, in some miraculous way, reading it in its original form.
A surge of excitement swept through me. In my imagination, I could see the girl, the woman I suppose she would have been, telling her story to a scribe who wrote it down. Over the course of two thousand years it would have been preserved by members of the early church, maybe re-written as the parchment aged and wore; maybe translated over time. Was it possible the legend of Osmond was true and he had buried this clay jar deep under my garden a thousand years ago?
Could it really be true? I knew that Scripture had been re-written by various scribes over the years, and translated too, but this document that I held in my hand was not Scripture. It was a simple account by a servant girl of the time she met Jesus; for although she never named him, it would be obvious to many of her readers that she was telling the Christmas story and hinting at later events. Even as a baby he had showed his love for her. That was something I could not get my head around. How could a baby show love – unless …? No, I dismissed the possibility that there was anything supernatural about this baby. It must have been the girl’s imagination.
The story had unsettled me. I looked at Benjamin’s note, urging me to read the stories again and again, and I turned back the pages and re-read them, paying attention to each sentence.
Somewhere, deep inside me, in a place I had not previously known existed, I became aware of a yearning to know a love such as Anna had felt when the man looked at her, all those years later in the streets of Jerusalem.
I brushed aside the feeling and tossed the pages onto the low table in front of me, dismissing them as a hoax. It must have been one of my friends playing a joke on me; but my rational mind asked why they would they do that to me when I really had no interest in religion at all?
The question was not difficult to answer. They would not. There was no need to do it. But deeper questions then required an answer.
What was this story? Who was this baby? The pages lay before me. I picked them up and, for a third time, read them again, this time concentrating on each sentence so that I would not miss anything. I still did not know what it meant; and by now I felt too tired to think any more. Placing them back with the others, I turned out the lights and went to bed, where I lay, mulling over what I had read.
‘Benjamin,’ I said, ‘I have a lot of questions,’ and with that I turned over and fell asleep.
What a cheerful girl Anna must have been! Full of energy, going the extra mile – she had a kind heart. She was supported by her Daniel all her life. What a joy to have a life-long partner. This was something I have missed out on – and you have not yet found.
As for the love of the child! What love is this? How could she recognize such love in a child so young? I don’t know if you have ever seen a new-born child, but their eyes do not focus – and yet this child looked at her – and loved her. I wonder how my life would have been had I known such love?
It was not easy to know how to arrange the stories so I have placed them where I think they fit best, and now we look at four young men who have a friend.