by Curtis Peter van Gorder
illustrations by Sabine
As the Moravian missionary, David Zeisberger (1721-1808), and his ever-present Native American friend, Wasamapah (“he who runs back and forth”) were entering the local heavenly library, a glowing Spiritgram notice on the bulletin board caught David’s attention. He pulled it down and the “paper” became activated. It read:
* * * SPIRITGRAM SIGNATURE VERIFICATION * * *
* * * Status: Good Signature from Valid Key
* * * Signer: HL <email@example.com>
* * * BEGIN SPIRITGRAM DECRYPTED/VERIFIED MESSAGE * * *
Note to Heaven’s Library HQ from HL Earth,
Calling all authors,
I pray this note finds you well—and enjoying Heaven. Thank you very much for your faithful contributions over the years, through the stories that you’ve been willing to send down to our channels. They’ve been a wonderful blessing.
We’ve been looking at the potential for Christmas stories this year. It’s pretty early in the year to begin thinking “Christmas,” but due to the many stages that are involved in the preparation for each story, we try to plan our Christmas material well in advance so that it reaches on time. We got to thinking that maybe some of you had some ideas for a Christmas story for this year too.
There are many ways that the story could relate to a Christmas—past, present, or future—and it would be nice to use an original twist. The story could be anywhere from 7-9,000 words, and we would need it by the beginning of September, so that it has time to go through the text and art stages before being laid out and then published.
Thanks so much! Looking forward to hearing from you!
We love you and are praying for you!
The HL Earth Team
* * * END SPIRITGRAM DECRYPTED/VERIFIED MESSAGE * * *
David turned to Wasamapah and asked, “I pray thee, good brother, what thinkest thou of this message?”
“Big chance for our Christmas story!” answered Wasamapah, smiling and nodding his head.
“Yes, brother. A wonderful story it is! It must be told!”
“Brave who kill deer must share it with tribe!” Wasamapah added.
David reread the message more carefully. “They need the story by the beginning of September in Earth Time. Knowest thou what the Earth date is at this juncture?”
“It is harvest time for corn.”
“August? Can such a task be accomplished in due season?”
“David, remember the watchword. Revelations 10:5 and 6—’Angel swear, in Heaven time shall be no more.’ We find a way.”
Watchword: A signal that is agreed upon—a password or countersign. It is a military term, and one may wonder that the peaceful Brethren of Herrnhut decided to use it. [Herrnhut was the Moravian community at Count Zizendorf’s estate. The practice of the watchword continued throughout the Moravian history and is still in use today.]
The early Moravians desired to remain at peace with others if at all possible, but they laid great stress on the fact that they were soldiers of Christ who warred against Satan and all his hosts. In this sense they regarded themselves as a “warrior congregation,” and during foreign mission work the concept of using a password to identify each other took on added meaning.
The battle against sin was a daily conflict. Their watchword then, was more than a theme for the day. They used the password to identify one another in the same way that a password is used in military camps. And the early Brethren testified that as the watchword was discussed and its meaning applied to their own lives in various services and in casual conversations, it became apparent as to who was “one with them in spirit” and who was not.
Selection of the watchwords, which are chosen by lot from a large collection of texts that had been selected from the Old Testament, is a practice that continues today.
David was deep in meditation. “He promiseth that there is time for every purpose under Heaven, so how much more shall there be a performance of such things in heavenly places where we now abide.”
“Creator make everything beautiful in His time,” said Wasamapah.
“Right then, let us enquire of the librarian as to how to expedite our cause.”
They walked through the entranceway into the library. Above its doors was displayed the verse,
Isa. 30:8: Now go, write it before them in a table, and note it in a book, that it may be for the time to come forever and ever.
They approached the desk, where a tall African woman in a bright green dress was busy checking in returned books.
David got her attention. “Excuse me, sister Ezeife, I was noticing the Spiritgram on the board, which clarified the need for a Christmas story for their readership. As thou mayest be aware, we have a wonderful story of praise concerning the incident with the Christmas trombones. Couldst thou give us some pertinent information as to how we may fulfill this request and expedite our cause?”
“Oh, Brother David, that I would be happy to be doing. But first you must be giving your sister a kiss of peace.”
Kiss of Peace: In the Early Church, the kiss of peace appears to have been the recognized ritual to express brotherly affection and trust. The Moravian custom was an effort to restore this ancient rite. In time, the literal kiss was replaced by the extending of the right hand of fellowship.
Ezeife’s body freely traversed through the counter that stood between them to embrace David in a warm hug, and then planted a kiss on his cheek.
Wasamapah next held out his hands to receive the same.
The Spirit of love filled them with a wave of energy that brought joy to their hearts.
In that moment of unity, their thoughts were freely shared and without further explanation, Ezeife understood their request and had received an answer.
“I know you have a good story, but unfortunately, we have a huge backlog, almost 11 Earth years to be more exact, of brethren who also wish for their story to be told on Earth. The channels are limited. It will take a miracle … but you know that is what we do best. …” Her face brightened. “It could be done if…”
“If…?” David queried.
“How can I explain it? Let me see … I was just reading about it somewhere.”
Ezeife spent a few moments rummaging through her stack of books until she victoriously pulled one out entitled Anomalies of Time Projection. “Here it is.”
Cases have been documented of common items being the vehicle for a spiritual experience akin to time travel, howbeit short in duration. This process is a Spontaneous Entropic Vortex Trigger (SEVT) Transmission which progressively subsumes and incorporates its environment into arrangements of information from another time continuum.
David and Wasamapah looked at each other blankly. Wasamapah shook his head.
“White man’s language has too many turns like dance of snake. Not run straight like a river.”
Ezeife laughed. “I know what you mean—I struggled with it myself. Let me boil it down for you. You see, it seems there have been cases where information or a message of some kind has been transmitted through a crack in time. Maybe this book will explain it better.”
Ezeife pulled the red volume down from the “Top Ten” bookshelf. It opened of its own accord to “The Green Door,” and she read,
The next thing I remember we were being questioned by this group of scientists on earth. One of the scientists said, “You know, I was working on a project during the war, on something to do with Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and time lapse or time warp, sort of like a ‘déjà vu’ thing, where two strata of time had developed a crack and one sort of slipped a little over the other one.”
The theory that he had was that if you could find such a crack in the dimension of time, it would be possible to slip out of time and out of this dimension into another one. So he was saying, “Well, I think it’s possible. You could possibly have had such an experience, that you’ve managed to find the crack or the overlap,” he called it overlap, “this slippage which you found, that place where you got through into another world of time or space or timelessness or some other dimension.
“It’s theoretically possible. I thought I’d found such a spot, but I never could prove it. I was afraid to go in. But it’s possible that you found the spot.” He must have really found the place, or thought he found it, but was afraid to try it or go in. But anyhow, I remember the last thing he said was that he had found this was true and he believed it, and we had apparently found the way.”
David looked at her with curiosity. “That is a vivid vision indeed, but what does this have to do with us getting our Christmas story through to Heaven’s Library before the Earth deadline?”
“You see that time tower over there?”
“Can a brave miss a mosquito when it is on his nose?” Wasamapah quipped.
Ezeife laughed. “No, he can’t. The Sentinel will give you more information and help ‘expedite your cause,’ but basically that is the portal through which you can send a short message back in time. Perhaps with the Sentinel’s help you could find that crack in time.”
“Ah. Like the green door in red book! … What color this crack in time?”
“I am not sure. But if you manage to send something back in time to one of the channels, they may pick it up, and it may be the catalyst that will create the vacuum to receive your story. Understand?”
“The meaning is somewhat obscured by the constraints of our reasoning,” said David. “But as our cause is just and our hearts pure, all shall doubtless be revealed according to His will.”
“Brave not always know end of trail at beginning, but must take first step if he want to get there,” Wasamapah said sagaciously*. [*sagaciously: wisely and with good judgment]
“Brothers, let me help you with this. You’ll need to type in your request on that computer.” Ezeife pointed to a screen on a nearby desk, and handed David an address. “This is where you need to send your request. Any TTTs (time-trigger transmissions) need authorization from Second Level Security. We wouldn’t want any upsets in the time continuum, now would we?”
They both shook their heads, mystified.
David slowly typed in their request for security clearance and a few moments later a code appeared on the screen.
“Excellent!” Ezeife exclaimed. “It looks like your request has been approved. Now take this key and hold it up to the screen. The computer will embed your clearance code in it, and you’ll need to deliver it to the Sentinel.”
As David held up the key, it began to glow and changed from dark blue to vibrant red. As soon as the dialog box appeared to confirm the successful transmission, David and Wasamapah arose to leave, thanking Ezeife profusely.
The Time Transmission Portal towered above them in the distance with swirls of prismatic light and energy spiraling around it. There were no windows, and only one large door marked its entrance. David and Wasamapah walked up the golden stairs to the portal. There was a bell with a sign above it: “RING ONCE FOR TIME SENTINEL.”
They did so, and a beautiful chime echoed. The door opened and disappeared into the structure that enclosed it.
There before them stood the long-haired Time Sentinel. Though he was a large and strong man, he exuded calm kindness.
David introduced himself. “I am David Zeisberger, Moravian missionary from the 1700s ET [Earth Time], and this is my brother, Wasamapah. … Couldst thou be so gracious as to tell us thy name?” David asked meekly.
“I am Time.
I live my rhyme.
No matter what you do
To many or to few,
I march on.
To some I crawl,
To some I fly,
But I never lie.
Ever onward I speed.
In a million ticks, I travel 11½ days.
In a billion ticks, I journey nearly 32 years.
In 500 billion ticks I voyage close to 16,000 years.”
“Pardon me. … Art thou named Time, then?”
“Name is Lawrence. As you probably guessed, I am the Time Sentinel. My job is to check IDs and help run the equipment. Poetry is a kind of sideline for me. In fact, I am working on one to read on the poetry hill. I am not so sure of the last line, though.
“‘At my back I always hear
Time’s winged chariot hurrying near.
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.’”
He added, “It is the word ‘deserts’ which bothers me.”
“It does sound somewhat gloomy,” said David.
“Perhaps it should be forests of vast eternity, or jungles of vast eternity … or maybe meadows? What do you think?”
“‘Meadows’ does sound more pleasant.”
“Thanks, right. Well, what can I do for you? Do you have an ID?”
David handed Lawrence his key which he swiped through his scanner and studied the screen for a minute.
“Everything looks in order. Tell me what you need and I’ll see what I can do for you.”
“We need to beam our story to a channel on Earth, but we can’t make the cutoff date.”
“We need to plant a seed, and get the idea for the story to begin its course in another time prior to the backlog.”
The Time Sentinel thought for a moment and said, “I see what you mean, of course—big bottle, little neck. There are always openings, though.”
“But we understand that there are some uncertainties that could hinder the message being received?”
“Oh, all kinds, all kinds. … But that’s what makes life exciting! Let’s pray this one through.”
After a few moments of quiet, David commented, “The librarian, Ezeife, mentioned something about a SEVT?”
“Of course, of course. Do you have the message to be transmitted?”
David and Wasamapah consulted with each other for some time. David pulled a piece of paper from his pocket and read quickly:
It was the year 1755 in frontier northeastern America. At the foot of the Blue Mountains, where the Lehigh River meets the Creek with Many Bends, was a little Pennsylvania town named Bethlehem.
Many of the people who lived in Bethlehem were Moravians. The Moravians loved God, they loved peace, and they loved music.
Outside the town lived the Delaware Indians. The Delaware fished in the Lehigh. They built their wigwams by the Creek with Many Bends. They hunted in the Blue Mountains. The Delaware loved peace too.
The Moravians were like one big family.
They called each other “Brother” and “Sister” and…
At first Lawrence had listened with a bemused grin, but he now waved his hands. “Woah, friend. I don’t think you’ve read the sign.”
“‘Ring once for Time Sentinel’?” Wasamapah asked, puzzled.
“No, the one above my desk.” He pointed and the two visitors looked up.
“MESSAGES LIMITED TO EIGHT LETTERS, PLUS AN EXPERIENCE FILE ATTACHMENT. TOTAL MAY NOT EXCEED EIGHT PRAYERBYTES.”
Lawrence continued. “Like the bard says,
‘Day is day, night is night, and time is time.
Were there nothing but to waste night but day, and time.
Since brevity is the soul of wit, and tediousness tires the soul, therefore be brief.’”
David looked puzzled and a little discouraged.
“Brave bring down large bear with small arrowhead, David,” Wasamapah said with a reassuring smile.
“As always, thou speakest wisdom, brother. But what letters shall we use?”
“Begging you gentlemen’s pardon,” Lawrence countered, “‘Christmas’ is nine letters!”
“Look, look, let’s use a little method here, gentlemen. A dwarf on a giant’s shoulders sees the further of the two. We need to pick the word that is the most likely to arouse interest. … It’s up to you, of course, but methinks the catchiest word in your message is ‘frontier.’”
“That does sound catchy,” David agreed, “but would anyone get the connection? It seems unlikely.”
Lawrence was beaming.
“Ahhh, that’s where the experience file comes in, David. Let’s get right in the action—hooks ‘em every time. A chase scene is always an excellent choice to grab the channel’s attention. Does your story have a chase scene in it?”
David and Wasamapah talked with each other and then shared their idea with Lawrence.
“Perfect. We type. We attach experience file. We search for time strata crack to open up approximately 11 years in the channel’s past. Searching … searching … searching. Found. We transmit—check. And finished.”
Lawrence got up to leave. “That’s about the alpha and omega of it.”
“But can’t we expedite the process any?” David asked.
“Aye, you can trust the Master Programmer—and put in a prayer reminder every now and then.”
Lawrence ushered the two out of the Time Transmission Portal onto the golden steps and bid them farewell. “I hope it all works out for your story. Look, why don’t you both accompany me to the poetry hill?” Lawrence could tell from their reaction that wasn’t going to happen. “Or not. Anyways, I must go now. ‘Parting is such sweet sorrow’ and all. There is a reading happening soon at the Hill that I just can’t miss. I’m locking up for a while.”
* * *
(Channel’s notebook, December 1995:)
It happened on my way to a Christmas show at a retirement home.
I can’t explain why, but when I spotted a discarded food wrapper on the street with the label FRONTIER embossed on its cover, it happened. Bushes sprung back and whacked me in the face as I sprinted through the forest, but my adrenalin was pumping so hard I didn’t even notice. I was reliving an Indian’s frantic escape. I had to put distance between me and them. But who was “I”? Who were “they”?
I feel there is a story here, but what is it? I feel missionaries, traders, Indians. … Missionaries to Indians. But which missionaries? Which Indians? Which time period? I feel the tingle! There is a story here trying to get through! What is it?
* * *
(Channel’s notebook, September 2006:)
1755 – Central Pennsylvania, American colonies
Bushes spring back and sting my face as I sprint through the forest, but my heart is pumping so I don’t even notice. Have to put distance between them and me. I think better when I run.
I, Wasamapah, am on a mission. I must reach Bethlehem to warn. I sat in the war council of the Delaware and Shawnee when they decided to attack the Moravian settlement at Bethlehem. I must run and warn them. Alas, there are so few good men of peace in our land.
Three other unconverted Delaware braves knew I had become a messenger for the Moravians. When they saw that I had gone, they knew of my mission to warn the Brethren. They hunt me like deer to prevent me from accomplishing it.
As I run, I remember the first Moravian I met—David Zeisberger. We called him the Blackcoat with White Heart. He came to us as a friend. He sat with us and watched. He learned our language, and we loved him for this and made him our brother. He tell us many things. Mostly, he tell us of Jesus Christ, Who came to Earth by great miracle.
On this Great Day—the first Christmas—Jesus born of flesh mother and Father of Heaven. Born in barn with animals to show His love for the poor and lowly. Great medicine men from far come to bring precious gifts to Him, because they know what a great thing He will do. Herod, chief of land, try to kill Him as child, because he is jealous of Jesus’ power and what great things He will do. But Herod’s power like dust to the wind of Jesus’ power. Heavenly Father protected His Son, and He escaped like a bird from the trap.
When Jesus grow up, He do great magic because He have the power from heavenly Father. Though He multiplied loaves and fishes, and made lame walk, and did only good for His tribe, His tribe reject Him and kill Him. But because He Son of Creator of all, death cannot hold Him down in the earth. He live again. So we believers may also live.
David and I talk about many things. He listen; I talk. I listen; he talk. We become friends and I follow him. His God, now my God.
I must push my legs and lungs to see how much they can give me. I need their strength now. I ask for God’s power to help me to run for Him. I ask to fly like eagle, to run and not faint as He promised.
I often run on this trail. Uphill, downhill, through the underbrush, over fallen logs, across stony ground, and in swamps—I speed like arrow over and through them.
I hear the war whoop. It is my pursuers coming closer. Thirty kilometers to go. Sweat is raining from my face. My face and neck are swollen until the blood is ready to burst. Still I run and run, but no slower. Twenty-five kilometers still to go. I now at top of hills. I pause for rest, and I think of the war council I have just seen. I hear many voices speak, but voice of war stronger than voice of peace.
“Why do we attack Moravians? They have paid for their land. They have welcomed us in their towns—unlike settler towns,” said one.
The second voice said, “The white man wants to push us from our land till we have nothing. They do not think we are any better than an animal that they kill. We must do the same to them. As in the past, the strongest tribe remains.”
The third voice said, “But I have friends with them.”
The fourth said, “No rain. We have no corn. Fur trappers take our animals. We hunger and our babies have nothing—even their mother’s milk has dried up! We should attack and take their grain. It is the grain that they have grown on our land!”
The fifth voice said, “Only by making peace can we live. There are too many white men now, and we are too few.”
The chief said, “Yes, made few and weak by the rum their traders give us and that you drink.”
The sixth voice said, “We drink rum to forget our misery at what has been stolen from us.”
The chief urged caution. “The white settlers’ guns speak very loud. Maybe Moravians will not hurt us, but their brothers will come and kill us when they hear we attack.”
An emissary from another tribe said mockingly, “You are weak. You have let the white man take all you have. The Moravians are not your friends. They only pretend to be. If you attack Moravians, the French will stand with you. They also have many guns that speak loudly. The French have promised the return of all the land that was stolen from us by the white man. What do the Moravians promise us? Only a beautiful garden in the sky when we die. If you are men, take what is yours now!”
European attitudes toward Native Americans: As a rule, most of the Native American tribes tended to favor the French who enjoyed a reputation for conducting business more fairly than the English-speaking colonists. Another factor is that the French were more likely to develop trade relations with Native Americans than to attempt to settle permanently on their lands. On the other hand, English colonists were more land hungry than the French traders, since many of them hoped to establish new lives as farmers.
Generally, the English-speaking colonists believed that the native people were inferior, almost subhuman, whereas the French and Spanish commonly believed in living among and trading with the native populations, rather than driving them from their land. Thus, intermarriage and shared cultures prevailed among the French and Spanish settlements, while warfare was more common in the English settlements. [Sources: Encarta and The Heritage Center]
His speech roused the camp in a war whoop that echoed through the valley. After much talk, it was decided to attack the Moravian settlement at Bethlehem on their Great Day—the day that they called Christmas. They would be having a feast on that day and would not be ready for an attack.
At the moment I see the Delaware who are chasing me. They also see me. I see them shake their fist at me and yell. They follow my path closer now. I must not think, only run faster. Hour after hour, I keep up my pace. Sometimes I see my pursuers crossing the open country behind me.
I pass the ashen ruins of barns and houses of the white settlers who have already been attacked.
I try to not to think, but the thoughts come anyways. I think of the time that white settlers attack our tribe and make us run away. My wife and daughter were killed then, only my son Weeko lived. We come to Delaware and they take us in. But I have learned from David not to hate my enemies but to love them.
Once, losing sight of my pursuers, I thought they stopped following. I throw myself on the ground. My limbs shake like leaves in tree blown by wind. My chest heaves up and down. I could have just given up and slept. Just then, the wind carried their yell to my ears. They were still after me, and much nearer than before.
I must start again. I can no longer run so fast. I stumble and weave like brave filled with rum. Over and over, I trip on small roots in my way and fall on my head. Fifteen kilometers to run. Ten kilometers. The flaming shield of the afternoon sun sinks behind the treetops. Five kilometers. I see the settlement in front of me. I run till I fall exhausted but victorious at the community house steps. My pursuers sink back into the forest from where they had come.
I gasped out an explanation, “The Delaware and Shawnee are coming to attack you, in three days—on the Great Day!”
“Thank you, Wasamapah.” The bishop who received me urged me to go to the Indian house to rest and take food for my strength.
This I was happy to do. While I am resting, you can read parts of the journal of one of the Moravian boys. Most Moravians kept a journal. It is a priceless treasure that they share with others in the future.
* * *
Journal of Thomas Wackneckt
June 24, 1753
On our origins and our travels to the New World
I am a Moravian.
Moravia is the land between Bohemia and Slovakia [in the area now known as the Czech Republic]. My father, Joshua, is a preacher. He came to Bethlehem because he desired to find a land where his family would be free to live the way they believed the Lord wanted them to—in peace. He wished to escape the unjust persecution of those who maligned our new faith. He also wished to share this faith with the natives who had never heard the wonderful story of Jesus, and had never had a chance to receive such a gift as eternal life in Heaven.
My father was on the first pioneer team that traveled from Moravia to the New World by a boat called The Catherine.
First, he had to travel very far across land and sea from Moravia to London from where the boat was to sail. He left my mother behind in Moravia, so that he could go ahead of her and pioneer the land. On the first voyage, many married men left their wives behind because they didn’t know what it would be like where they were going.
I was born on a cold stormy night with just a midwife there to help my mother. Every time a child is born, there is a song dedicated to that child. The song dedicated to me was:
Morning Star, O, cheering sight!
‘Ere thou cam’st how dark the night.
Trumpets blew and the voices of children and adults singing rang out of the little village when I was born.
Once my father had sent us a message and confirmed that it was safe, my mother and I set out from our little Moravian village overland through Germany and France. From France we boarded a boat that took us to Cowes, which is on the Isle of Wight off the south coast of England, where the second voyage of believers would leave in a boat called The Little Strength.
I was the only infant aboard at the time, and I was actually the first Moravian child to make the voyage to the New World. I must have kept my mother very busy because we sailed for two months and she had to protect me from wandering off and falling over the side of the boat into the raging sea. Sometimes she would tie a rope around my waist in order to be certain that I would not stray far away.
Sometimes she would point out creatures that we saw in the sea. Dolphins, whales, sharks, and others that we knew not the names of, but they were all God’s creatures and we knew that they would not harm us.
When I became old enough to understand, my mother told me many things that had occurred while we traveled overland from Moravia to Calais, on the boat to Cowes, and the one that took us to New York.
She told me that on one occasion, we ran into a big storm, and all the women were inside their cabins praying for God’s protection. The waves towered above us like mountains and tossed our vessel so suddenly that it seemed there would be no escape.
While the storm lasted the men and youths had to stay on deck and keep the ship secure. When one of our masts fell, it broke off half of the captain’s wheel, making it very difficult to steer. It also broke some railing off the side of our vessel. Our captain was a Moravian and a God-fearing man. He was very brave, and though the ship’s wheel was almost impossible to use, he found a way to mend it so that he could steer through the storm.
When we arrived at New York, my father was there to greet us. My mother was so relieved that by the providence of God we had finally arrived unharmed.
The journey by foot to Bethlehem was arduous for many, because we were already tired from the two-month voyage overland from Moravia to the Atlantic ports, then another two months on the ship.
My mother was fortunate because she was given a horse to travel on because she carried me. I sat in front of her and she tied me to her so that when I slept I wouldn’t fall off. The way was very hard because our group often had very little food to eat. The weather conditions were sometimes very harsh as the winter was setting in. Sometimes we had to keep traveling in the chilling rain.
December 21st, 1754
On our adventures and contacts with the Native Indians.
I am now 10 years old.
My father took me with him to meet the Delaware Indians at their camp. I was instructed in the language and customs of these people. Here are some words that I learned:
My Savior—We wu la ten a mo ha lid
Our Comforter—Wech uw li la wem quenk
It refreshes, cheers me—We wi la wi hil la lil
I bow down—Ne mi gi hil laan
It has the right taste—Nen na wi po quot
I made friends with one Delaware Indian boy named Weeko who was nine years old. His father, Wasamapah, was the very first Moravian convert. He was a runner to carry messages for the tribe. He then took a new Christian name that we called him by—John. Weeko never did call him that name because he still called him Pap (Father).
For some of his tribe it was funny to call him by the strange foreign name he had been given. But John seemed to like it and everyone got used to it. The first time I visited the Delaware camp, while my father and John were talking together, I went over to Weeko who seemed afraid and I gave him a colored stone that I had in my pouch. I knew we were going to be friends. Then my father saw that I was trying to be friends with him, but that we didn’t understand each other’s language, so he suggested I show him some of my toys. He said that I could try and communicate using simple signs. I did and it worked. After that, I always came with my father whenever he would go to the Indian settlement.
I started to learn more of the Delaware language, and we were able to communicate more easily. Weeko also started to learn our language, but I think I learned his language faster than he did mine because I was always visiting Weeko in his village.
We would sometimes exchange our clothes for a day, he would be dressed like a Moravian, and I would be dressed as a native. I remember thinking how funny and different his clothes felt—funny, but in a good way.
Sometimes now, when my father takes John down to the river where it’s quiet and teaches him about Jesus, we boys join them.
A while ago, we had a special project going on at the river. My father had chosen just the right tree and had dragged it onto the bank of the river. He gave us our own tools, which included a stone chisel and an axe that John had taught us how to make from a very hard stone called “flint.” We used a hammer to knock the chisel into the wood, and we began slowly carving and chiseling out our own canoe.
It seemed to take us such a long time to carve out this log.
When we’d finally finished, Father gave us some wooden paddles. He had been secretly carving them out as a surprise for us for when we’d finish the canoe. It was big enough for the two of us and my dog to fit in. I named my dog “Flint,” because his fur is black like the stone. Flint likes to sit at the bow and feel the wind.
There is a little space at the stern of the canoe for all the fish that we mean to catch.
I told Weeko that singing was an important part of a Moravian’s life. I taught him some of my songs and he taught me some of his. I think we scared away some fish when we were singing, and that is why we only caught a few. But we’re just as happy singing as we are eating fish.
To us, music is as important as reading, writing, and arithmetic. We have songs for all occasions. The women sing spinning songs while they spin wool. The missionaries sing travel songs as they venture forth to new lands such as the islands of the Caribbean, the western coast of Africa, and the jungles of South America. Farmers sing songs as they plant and as they harvest—when they go out into the fields and when they return home. Shepherds sing songs as they tend their flocks. Fishermen even have a song that they sing quietly when they are fishing and loudly when they are returning home.
Even the night watchman sings the hours. Outside our house in Bethlehem, I sometimes hear the watchman sing a short song on the hour, every hour.
Past eight o’clock, Oh, Bethlehem, do thou ponder.
Eight souls in Noah’s Ark were living yonder.
‘Tis nine o’clock, ye Brethren.
Hear it striking.
Keep hearts and houses clean to our Savior’s liking.
Now Brethren, hear!
The clock is ten and passing,
Now rest, such as wait for Christ’s embracing.
We all learn to sing in the choir or play an instrument. I am learning to play the trombone. It requires much perseverance to learn an instrument. Especially one that requires such expenditure of breath as does the trombone. I learned from Weeko that the Delaware also love music. This is something we have in common.
They usually sing during celebrations—when a baby is born, when a young brave kills his first meal, when the tribe has a victory, when the rains fall after a long season of dryness, or when they gather around the campfire and pray to the Great Spirit. These are the times when they sing and play music.
Weeko plays on a small drum that his father made for him. It’s made out of wood with deerskin stretched across the top, and he beats it with a special stick. There are strings attached to the drum and on the strings are colorful beads that his mother had made out of clay. When he twists the handle of the drum from left to right, it makes the strings of beads hit the drum and make a noise. I’ve tried to teach Weeko to play my trombone, but he much prefers to beat his drum in rhythm to what I play.
Weeko and I are best of friends. His dad once said, “You two boys are like feathers from the same eagle.”
Sometimes Weeko comes to our fields and helps with the planting, plowing, and harvesting. My father gave us some tools to help harvest the field.
Once, the Moravian village sent ten men, along with bags of seeds and a plow, and showed the Delaware how to plant and take care of their own crops. They knew how to grow corn, but we brought them many new seeds that they had never seen before. Tomatoes, pumpkins, onions, potatoes, grapes, and different kinds of fruits—these were all new to them at first but were soon welcome because they gave them strength.
[End of journal of Thomas Wackneckt]
* * *
The governor’s representative in Bethlehem met with the Moravian leaders and warned them, “You should all leave! It is not safe for you to stay here any more.”
“Leave our homes to be burned? Where will we go? Many settlers from the surrounding settlements have come here looking for shelter against the natives’ attacks. We have turned none away who have asked for our assistance. Sleds have just arrived with 300 children from the surrounding countryside. What will they do if we tell them we are leaving?” asked one of the elders.
“Not have Christmas in Bethlehem?” asked another. “Our town was named after the town of Christ’s birth. Surely, Christmas must be celebrated here!”
Bishop Spangenberg bowed his head, “Let us seek divine guidance and lean not unto our own understanding. For His ways are higher than our ways, and His thoughts than our thoughts.”
After several moments of silent prayer, a brother drew a verse from a box of collected promises and read, “Psalm 91:2, I will say of the Lord, [He is] my refuge and my fortress: my God; in Him will I trust.”
They took a vote, made a decision and Bishop Spangenberg spoke for the assembly. “We will stay. Bethlehem will watch and pray!”
Tall log watchtowers and a firm stockade surrounded the settlement. Watchmen kept watch diligently on the wall. They carried rifles, which they hoped they would never have to use against their Delaware and Shawnee brothers.
The men boarded up the windows for protection against arrows that might shower down on them, and the women kept the children busy and away from worry by preparing for the traditional Christmas Surprise.
For the Moravian Brethren, the Christmas Surprise is more than just a manger scene. They use a whole room to house the story of the birth of Jesus. Boys gather bark, pine boughs, sticks, moss, and unusual rocks for the stable and surrounding scene. Sawdust gathered from the carpentry shop becomes deserts over which the wise men travel on camels. Stars hanging in a midnight blue curtain sky twinkle over figures carved from wood and sheep fashioned from the spun wool. Of course, in the center stands the manger where Jesus lies, surrounded by Joseph, Mary, the shepherds, and all the animals. Above it hover angels announcing His birth.
Because only a few people are allowed in the room to prepare it, the children eagerly await the day when the doors are opened and the wonder of the Christmas Surprise is revealed.
The children knew little of the danger that they faced. Even though the adults did not know if the children would ever enjoy the Christmas Surprise, they proceeded as if it were a normal Christmas. The watchword for the day was 2 Cor.6:10, “As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.”
Usually, there was much singing and music on Christmas Eve, but on this evening, the bishop ordered constant prayer and quiet. He told everyone that only the trombone choir would announce the dawning of Christmas Day, while everyone else would spend the night steadfast in prayer.
“Let all of our hearts be lifted up in praise for Christ’s birth at the sound of the trombones,” the bishop said.
It was now night and the moon hung like a lantern in the sky. Now and then, the shadows of the Indians preparing to attack could be seen crouching on the snow-covered riverbank or scurrying between trees and bushes in the moonlight.
Meanwhile the clock in the bell tower rang out the hour and the watchman chanted his rhyme.
The clock is three! The blessed three do merit
The best of praise from body, soul, and spirit.
A hush hung over the town for the next hour as the prayers for protection sped heavenwards. The bell striking four in the bell tower broke the stillness. For the Indians hiding behind the mill dam, it was their signal to attack. They waited for their leader to give that signal.
Suddenly, instead of the sound of battle, an unearthly sound cut through the air. It was clear, strong and beautiful yet vibrant and piercing. Thomas was playing a Christmas chorale with his trombone choir on top of the chapel roof.
The Indians stopped and listened, they had never heard a sound like it before. It seemed to them to come from the sky as the voice of the Moravians’ God talking to them. Not knowing what to do against such a great spirit, their leader lowered his tomahawk. Running toward him was a brave.
“What is this sound?” the leader asked him.
The brave looked toward the heavens.
“It is the voice of the Great Spirit!” he shouted.
“What does He tell us?”
“He is telling you to do His children here no harm.”
The brave continued his flight across the dam and into the forest. The strange voice of the Moravians’ God continued. This sound was more frightening to them than the warning shots that had been fired at them.
“Surely, Great Spirit watches over this place,” the leader said.
Some of the Indians remembered the kindness that the Moravians had shown them and they were ashamed that war was now in their hearts. Fearing for what judgments would fall on them, they turned and ran back into the forest to put as much distance as they could between them and the Great Spirit Voice that sounded from the sky.
No one inside Bethlehem knew of what had happened and still waited for the attack until the bell struck six and the watchman sang,
The clock is six and I go off my station.
Now Brethren, watch yourselves for your salvation.
As on the first Christmas, a lone star shone in the sky, and with the sunrise over the snowy hills came the hope that they had been saved from attack. Smoke rose from the chimneys of all the homes in Bethlehem. It was the beginning of a new Christmas.
Those who had spent the whole night in prayer vigil sang a song of thanksgiving. Their prayers had been heard. After breakfast, everyone hurried to the chapel. The children clamored at the door to be the first one to see the Christmas Surprise. A key turned in the lock and the door swung open revealing the wonders of the Christmas Surprise.
The rowdy children became quiet as they entered the candlelit room. They walked up to admire the scene and to see it better.
“Look,” one of the children said, “baby Jesus is smiling!”
“And Mary and Joseph are smiling, too!” another added.
“I told you it would be wonderful!” one child said to another.
For a few moments, they were transported back into time to the first Christmas. There was baby Jesus wrapped in strips of cloth in the animals’ food trough. The carved animal figures came to life and the moss-covered rocks and sticks transformed into the real stable of Christ’s birth. The candle that shone as their Christmas star became the real star of Bethlehem.
The vision was but for a few moments, and the children were back in their own Bethlehem.
Joshua, Thomas’ father, gathered the children around him. “Would you like me to tell you the story of the first Christmas Surprise?”
Using the figures in the scene before him, Joshua told the story.
“Mary was a young girl who loved God. One day, the angel Gabriel came to Mary and said…”
After the story, a lovefeast was held with all the refugee children. Sugar buns were passed around by the women while the men carried trays and offered mugs of peppermint tea to each child. Christmas songs were sung by a choir as the children ate.
Lovefeast: A service instituted by the Moravian Church in 1727. In the middle of the 18th century it served both as a social gathering and as a happy religious service, offering the members of the Bethlehem congregation one of the few opportunities for relaxation. A lovefeast could be observed by groups within the church fellowship or by the entire congregation.
Thomas was there, too. He smiled when they sang the same song that had been dedicated to him at his birth.
Morning Star, O cheering sight!
‘Ere Thou cam’st how dark the night.
Then each child was given a wooly sheep toy, a luscious red apple, and one of the colorfully illustrated verse cards that hung on the evergreen boughs.
Bishop Spangenberg came and spoke. “These gifts remind us of the greatest and most wonderful gift of all, when the Savior gave Himself to us.”
The bishop lit the first candle, and soon more than 250 candles were shining and filling the room with their sweet beeswax smell.
“May our hearts burn as brightly toward the Child Jesus as these candles. May each of us be a light to the world!”
Everyone sang “Today We Celebrate the Birth,” and the lovefeast ended with each person giving everyone around them a hug and a kiss of peace.
In the next few days, everyone wondered why the Indians had not attacked.
“Maybe it was because they knew our town was well guarded,” said one.
“It must have been the strong watchtowers and stockade that we built,” said another.
“Well, whatever it was, we thank God that the Indians didn’t attack us. Let’s hope they will never try.”
After a joyful Christmas season, life returned to its usual rhythm of hard work and simple pleasures. The Indians never did attack again.
* * *
In the early spring when the mountain trails were clear for the runners, Wasamapah returned to Bethlehem from the Delaware village and had a strange story to tell.
He told how, just before dawn on Christmas morning, he was awoken from a dream, where God had told him to run back to his village at once. On his way he had met the war party of the Delaware and Shawnee. He knew not what to say to them until the words came to his mouth. The warriors did not recognize Wasamapah. In the dim light they could only make out his warrior tattoos, which were made before he had become a Christian. He had wanted to remove them but could not. Now they had served a greater purpose and convinced the warriors that he was one of them.
The mystery had been solved. The prayers of those who’d interceded for the town’s protection brought about a wondrous miracle on the Christmas of 1755 in Bethlehem. It was a Moravian Indian and the sound of the Christmas Praise trombones that saved the town from destruction.
* * *
“Did you see the latest Heaven’s Library publication?” David asked his friend.
“Yes, brother. I think it is time for a lovefeast. We must celebrate!”
“Good idea, let’s tell everyone about it. Let’s make sure to invite Thomas and Weeko, and Lawrence, and of course, Ezeife.”
“Oh, yes!” Wasamapah exclaimed.
“What’s that noise?” David suddenly asked.
“Sounds like the trombone choir!”
“Sounds like they’ve already begun the celebration!”
Outside their apartment, there were many people singing and playing instruments. The Moravians and Indians from Heaven had gathered at David’s house to sing and have a lovefeast to celebrate the publication of their story. Dancing and rejoicing echoed far into the distance.
Ezeife appeared at the door and gave everyone a hug. “I just came to congratulate you. I see it worked. And you made the deadline!”
“Many braves hunt deer together,” Wasamapah said with a smile.
“Yes, we must give credit to all of our friends, and in particular the Time Sentinel, Mr. Lawrence.”
“Nay, but give praise to the Most High alone!” Lawrence said as he also entered. “That Light Whose smile kindles the universe, that Beauty in Which all things work and move.”
* * *
On Earth, the channel happily typed his last few lines.
“Honey, the story is done. Let’s celebrate! Merry Christmas!”
“But it’s still September.”
“That’s okay—let’s start celebrating early this year!”
End of Transmission.