Please enjoy part four of this Christmas story in four installments, my gift to you and your family.
Our story so far: A mysterious little boy in purple is, at once, helping separate groups of children, dressed in red, black, white and yellow, find their way through a treacherous forest during a snowstorm. Suddenly, each group enters a quiet clearing, where they are met by what appears to be an angel, who tells them they can't trust the boy in purple.
The children in black suddenly began to be very confused. Earlier, when they had eaten the apples and bread from the little boy's pack, the food seemed to be sweet and fresh. But now, all of them were sick to their stomachs at the thought of what they had eaten.
The angel smiled yet again. He talked at length to the children until all of their feelings toward the little boy in purple had changed. He now seemed to them to be nothing more than a troublemaker, and perhaps the source of all of the cold and hunger they had felt for all of the time they had been in the forest. As they thought on these things, they began to get so very angry at him. Suddenly, they turned toward him, and if you could have seen the looks on their faces, you would have been frightened for the little boy. I believe that they, even good children that they were, were going to harm that little boy that they now regarded as the source of all their problems.
But then a voice spoke up, soft but strong. It was Kylie, and as she spoke, she was looking up at the angel. "Where were you?" she asked. "Why, what do you mean, child?" he responded. "You weren't out there with us," she said, "but the little boy in purple was."
Suddenly, it seemed as if a fog was lifting from everyone's mind. The next one to speak was Ashtyn, who said, "What's my name?" The angel began to stammer a bit, "Uh, ah, well ..." to which she replied while pointing at the boy in purple, "When I couldn't even remember who I was or where I came from, he knew my name."
Hunter said, "What's up with the bridge? You said that this is your forest and that you tend to it with the greatest of care, so why did we all nearly get killed trying to cross over that pitiful bridge?"
"And for that matter," said Avery, "I've been trying to figure out where I've heard your voice before, and now I remember. Your voice was the one from the water, telling me that it was safe and just to let go and drop in. I don't trust you, not even a little bit."
All during the time that the angel and the children had been talking, the little boy in purple had stood silently by, not opening his mouth. Finally, he spoke. "You've had your chance, and you've lost. Come to me, all of you."
With no hesitation, every child came to him and crowded in behind him. They were young, but they were not foolish. Something about this angel was far from angelic, and everything about the boy was somehow just right.
There was a moment of silence, and then the angel spoke yet again. But this time, his voice was low and threatening. "It's not that simple, and you know it," he said to the boy in purple. "These children heard me call to them, and they all came into my forest willingly."
In a flash, each child remembered hearing the voice of this dark angel who now stood before them, calling them into his forest. Each had chosen willingly to come, and the moment that he or she had stepped into the forest, they could no longer remember where they came from or where they needed to get back to.
"You are correct," said the little boy in purple, "they did come out here willingly. And I have come out here willingly to take them back."
Suddenly, the angel lunged at the little boy in purple, who was still standing in front of the other children. But the little boy in purple did not flinch, duck or blink at the charging dark angel. He simply held out one small hand, and the dark angel fell from the air and landed at his feet, with his face on the ground, as if he were worshiping this small child. The children behind him could see the back of his outstretched hand. They would have expected to see a smooth, tiny, unblemished hand, the hand of a child who has seen nothing harder than long days of play. But instead, they saw a mark, as if that tiny hand had been driven through with a sharp object and never completely healed.
After what seemed like hours but was really only seconds, the man turned and spoke to them. No, I didn't accidentally use the wrong word; I actually meant to say "the man." For the little boy in purple was gone, and in his place was a man in purple, the kindest-looking man any of them had ever seen. The dark angel behind him was still bowed with his face to the ground as if he could not move.
"You never should have come out here, into this forest," he said. He was scolding them, but it sounded to these children like the sweetest words ever spoken. He continued, "I watched over you the entire way. The destroyer wanted you to die out in his domain, but I loved you, and I have come for you. You have chosen me over him. And now I ask, will you follow me anywhere, anywhere at all?"
In less than a second, every child had bowed before him and given him their promise to follow him anywhere. And then, suddenly, a light began to shine around them, so very bright that they all had to shut their eyes tight against it. When each of them finally opened their eyes, the sunlight was streaming in his or her window, they were all in their own beds, in their own homes, and each one awoke singing the exact same song: "Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world. Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight, Jesus loves the little children of the world."
Bo Wagner is pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church of Mooresboro, North Carolina, a widely traveled evangelist and the author of several books available on Amazon and at wordofhismouth.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.