Gabriel stood at attention in the manger doorway, his sword in his hand. The man took the woman's arm and led her to the entrance. "Welcome, beloved of God," Gabriel thought, "your work is about to begin."
"That's the last one," said Link, the taller of the two strangers.
"I hope so," said his partner, "the couple is almost here."
The men looked strangely out of place. Their crisp white outer garments, glistening like pure snow on a bright winter day, were a stark contrast to the dirty surroundings of the stable.
"Can you think of anything else we need to do?" The smaller stranger, called Strom, sounded almost pre-occupied as he wandered through the barn-like structure. He moved slowly and methodically, looking up and down, behind the wooden tools and crude furnishings. Using his sword, he carefully poked through the hay, crawling around the animals who seemed oblivious to his presence.
"We've done everything we were assigned to do," said Link, "I still can't figure out why this place was chosen for the birth. We could lead them to a nice warm room in the lodge next door. But who am I to question Him?" When Link said "Him," the was a change in his voice, as an air of solemnity confirmed that the He referred to was someone very special.
"The same question has been going through my mind. Such a lowly beginning. When I think of the Son stooping..." Strom paused mid-sentence, aware of some movement by the cattle stall.
"Look at that; did you see something move over there?"
The two moved toward the corner of the stable only to discover a cat chasing a mouse. Link looked up at Strom, his face breaking into the broad grin he was noted for. "I think you've been working too hard, my friend."
"I guess I'm a little jumpy, but this place must be properly cleansed and prepared for the event."
Peering through an opening in the outer wall, the two caught a glimpse of a stranger at the door of the Inn. There was no moon tonight, but the man still looked as if he were standing under a lamp. A brilliant star had recently appeared, providing enough light for them to make out the solitary form.
"Is that him?" asked Strom.
"No, I have only seen the man once, but that isn't the one we're waiting for. Besides, he will have his wife with him."
The stranger walked into the lodge, leaving the two staring at an empty doorway. "It looks as if he's been given that warm room." Link sounded perplexed. "The couple will have to come out here now. Why couldn't they have been brought here earlier?"
"There you go wondering again." said Strom. "No matter why they are coming to this place, at least it's clean."
Both smiled at the seeming irony. Amidst the sights and smells of the stable, the idea of cleanliness was silly. But clean it was, in the spiritual realm, as these two had removed every demonic being lying in wait for the holy couple.
"You have no authority to hold me like this!" cried the spiteful voice from outside the manger, "I have rights too, you know!"
"Silence!" Strom yelled, "or we will take you before the throne right now!" As an angel, he knew the threat would bring immediate silence from the one tied up. The cleansing was a lot easier than he had expected. Most of the activity by these satanic emissaries had been focused around some of the finer homes in the city. Confirmation had been sent throughout the dark realms that the prophecy concerning Bethlehem was about to be fulfilled. The Messiah was coming.
These fallen spirits had arrived from satanic principalities and powers all over the known world. They had come together to defeat, or at least disrupt, the Messiah's coming. Both angels knew these dark messengers were under a lot of pressure to spoil God's plan at any cost. Watching the behavior of the town's people, who were short-tempered and tense in recent days, they knew the demons were working overtime, and had transferred their frustrations to those around.
Link looked over at Strom who had just seated himself on a milking stool. The smell of the fresh hay was a sweet reminder him of the other times the two of them had been in similar situations. They had followed Abraham and his family on their journey from Ur, worked with Moses in his wilderness shepherding, guarded David as a young boy while he was tending sheep, and served Ezekiel and the elders of Israel while they were in exile. Yet he knew that no other event in their service of the Lord could ever compare to this occurrence. Tonight would be a night of destiny.
Shouting in the city streets brought Link back to reality. "The census has certainly brought in a lot of confusion," he said. "The demons are having trouble keeping track of everybody. They seem to be ...
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