The one Christmas story that never grows old is the one that started them all — the one about the birth of our Lord. Register file photo

The story that never grows old

By  Ian Hunter, Catholic Register Special
  • December 20, 2015

Christmas poems and stories, like “The Night Before Christmas” or “The Gift of the Magi,” are remarkable in the way they enchant young people from generation to generation. But there is one Christmas story that never grows stale, that is fresh to all ages and places, to young and old, to men and women. Here is how it goes.

In days now far, far gone, Israel was surrounded on all sides by enemies, torn by violence, and there in Israel a young girl, Mary by name, pledged to a man named Joseph, heard a voice, as she thought from an angel, that told her that she would conceive and bear a son. This child would be no ordinary child. He would be a king, people would call him the Son of the Highest, and of His kingdom there would be no end. And Mary, shaken and frightened, said: “Let it happen to me as you say.”

And in those days there went out a decree from the occupying power, from mighty Caesar Augustus in Rome, that every man must return to the town of his birth to be registered.

So Mary, with Joseph, her intended husband, left the city of Nazareth and journeyed to Joseph’s birthplace which was called the city of David, Bethlehem.

And while the couple were in Bethlehem the time came for Mary’s delivery, for she was then great with child.

They searched for a place but, finding none, Mary gave birth in a stable because there was no room in the inn.

Now in that same region there were shepherds, keeping watch over flocks of sheep in the night. Suddenly light shone around them, and they heard an unworldly voice, and they were terrified. The voice said to them: “Fear not! Behold I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people: For to you this day is born in the city of David a Saviour, Christ the Lord.”

And suddenly all the stars of the night sky seemed to sing together, in a way not heard since the dawn of creation, and the refrain in the shepherds’ ears was: “Glory to God in the highest and on Earth peace, goodwill, towards men.”

Picking themselves up, the shepherds said: “We should go to Bethlehem and see what this strange thing is.” And so they went, and they found a stable, and there was Mary and Joseph and, what they really sought — a baby wrapped in blankets lying in a manger. When they had seen the baby, they went back out into the night, stopping everyone they met to relate what had happened this strange night. But in the stable Mary remained cuddling her child and marvelling at all that happened, pondering what it might mean.

Later, when the excitement of the birth was over, three magi from an Eastern Kingdom glimpsed a bright star in the night sky and followed it, until they came to Jerusalem where they inquired after the newborn King. King Herod soon got wind of their presence, sensed a rival and consulted cronies and hangers- on as to just who might be a rival king and where He might be found. In Bethlehem in Judea, Herod was told, for this was what the ancient prophecies foretold. So Herod called in the Eastern magi and told them to go to Bethlehem, find the child-king, and then to report back “so that I too may go and worship Him.”

The magi followed the star and came to the place of the child. They dismounted, went in and there they found Him. They bowed their heads before the child and worshipped Him, just as countless worshippers have gone on doing through every succeeding century. And they presented the child with gifts fit for a king: gold, frankincense and myrrh.

Then, being warned in a dream to steer clear of Herod, they decided not to return to Jerusalem but went home instead another way.

And just as the Angel had told Mary, her child was called Emmanuel; He was called that then and He is still called that name today; Emmanuel — “God is with us.”

This is the story that enables the greeting — Merry Christmas!

(Hunter is Professor Emeritus in the Faculty of Law at Western University.)

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Great work here

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