Several years ago, our InScribe bloggers wrote compelling fictional stories of a person involved in Jesus’ death and resurrection. These stories became the core of our 2021 anthology Easter Stories and More.
Judging by the popularity of that concept, we’re reintroducing the fictional theme for Christmas, each of us writing part of the story of Jesus’ birth from the perspective of one of the characters.
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The Governor’s Dream
Palestine is in chaos. Judea lies heavy under the foot of Rome. Caesar Augustus has required a census, and everyone had to register in their ancestral city. My Jews, these troublesome people, complained that this was just another tax grab for the Emperor. Violent uprisings and revolts exploded all over the province. They grumbled that they’d have to walk for days through this bitter winter to reach their far-away cities.
Was there ever a governor as troubled as I? I Quirinius, Governor of the Jews—and all of Syria. I, too, was in chaos as I trained census takers, managed all the paperwork and tried to quell the violence in the most unexpected places. Why couldn't Rome have asked them to register in their own towns? It would have been so much easier.
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And now I sleep, a troubled sleep.
I see masses of people crisscrossing the country like ants disturbed from their ant hill. Donkeys. People loaded with food and provisions. Even a pregnant woman full term! In the darkness of night, cities are congested. Towns are crowded. Bethlehem is overflowing.
Watch dogs bark. The travellers jostle for rooms. People with short tempers shout and swear. Doors slam. “No room. No room! No room!!” Someone shakes me and demands I give them room.
“Wake up, Quirinius!” My wife is shaking me. “You’re having a bad dream. Why are you shouting, ‘No room! I can’t give them room!’?”
My thoughts begin to clear, and I try to understand what this dream means. Who is this pregnant woman? Why are so many people heading to Bethlehem - a small nondescript city? Why can no one give her a room? Even I would have let her sleep in my winter home.
“Go back to sleep,” my wife urges. “The census will soon be over and you can get back to governing in peace.”
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I toss and turn and eventually fall asleep.
I see a dark stable, but a holy light begins to glow. Cows moo and an infant sleeps. What indignity that this infant was born in a stable, of all places!
The night begins to grow bright. A messenger in flight hovers over shepherds outside Bethlehem. The shepherds fall to the ground, terrified. I hear them exclaim, “An angel! An angel! We're dead!”
The messenger touches me and his command reverberates in my ears. “Fear not! Rise up! Rise up! For he is come!”
My wife is standing over me. “Quirinius! Quirinius! You’re shouting again, ‘Why should I rise up? Come out! Come out!’”
My body is shuddering. I'm dripping with perspiration. My bed covers lie all twisted on the floor. As my wife picks them up and straightens them out, she laments, “This census is really getting to you like nothing else has. I’ll bring you tea so you can go back to sleep—peacefully this time."
I change my clothes. As the tea and my wife's presence soothe me, I ask, “Why did my dream continue? What can all of this mean?”
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I fall asleep again. I dream.
A bright star lights up the sky, brighter than any star I’ve ever seen. I see a Temple. A cross. An empty tomb. A melodic harp. A great choir sings, “Glory to God in the highest!” It’s a most beautiful song. “Good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people!” The voices continue towards a crescendo, joined by millions of singers, “He is Holy. He has come. Rise up! Rise up!”
I awaken. Early morning sunlight streams into my room. My wife is no longer beside me. She has gone to sleep in another room.
Something has changed. The God of this Judea has told me to rise up. Peace floods me. Although I don’t understand what it all means, I know the Holy One has come to me.
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This story was inspired by the song, “A Governor’s Dream,” by Roger Whittaker (1936- ), and is based on Luke’s reference to Jesus’ birth during the time of Quirinius, Governor of Syria. I first heard “A Governor’s Dream” at a Roger Whittaker concert when he was at the height of his popularity in the 1970s. It still brings emotion as I replay it during the Christmas season. Listen to the song here.