Wednesday, December 24, 2014

#64 The First Christmas

This is a story you have heard before, but perhaps you have not heard it told the way you will hear it now.

Once upon a time in a land far away there was a beautiful princess. But this princess did not live in a palace, only in a humble house in a small village. In the days of her ancestors, her kingdom had been conquered by another nation, and then another, and then another. Five times over, her kingdom was taken into bondage, and now was only an unimportant province of a vast and cruel empire. And yet, she was of the ancient royal line, and a princess. Perhaps she knew the secret, perhaps her grandmother had whispered it to her once, you are a princess, in hiding, and one day your kingdom will rise again.

One day a messenger came to this princess, crying hail, a greeting that would be echoed to her name by untold lips through the coming ages. Fear not, Mary, he said, and told her that she would bear a son, and that to this child the ancient kingdom would be restored. Startled, confused, Mary asked how this was to be, as she was not yet married. The messenger told her that the child she was to bear would be a miracle, unlike any child that had yet come into the world.

In this tiny village where Mary lived there was a man named Joseph, a prince, the heir to the ancient, much conquered, but never forgotten kingdom. He was engaged to Mary, but when he knew she was going to have a child he was deeply troubled. He must have felt a sting of betrayal, and great sorrow. It was his right to call for a public trial and execution, but gentle Joseph desired mercy. He thought to privately end his engagement to Mary. But then another messenger came, in a dream, and told him to take Mary as his wife, for the miracle that grew within her was the Son of God, and would sit upon the ancient throne of his ancestors.

As the time for the child to be born drew near, Mary and Joseph were ordered by the rulers of the land to return to their ancestral home and be counted for taxation. They made their way to Bethlehem, the birthplace of the ancient king from which Mary and Joseph descended. When they arrived, the city was so crowded they had to stay in a stable, and it was there that the child was born.

Mary and Joseph might have wondered why, if this baby was so important that angels had visited both of them to announce his coming, why he must be born in such a humble and rude place. But then as they rested, weary from the birth, relieved at the coming of their new beloved son, a small band of shepherds entered the stable. They had a story to tell! Angels! Angels had come to the fields and told the shepherds they would find the baby wrapped in swathing clothes and laid in a manger! For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior which is Christ the Lord! Glory to God, Peace on Earth, Good will to men!

And so heaven was still mindful of Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus on that night in Bethlehem, a third witness of angels had come to bear testimony that this baby was the Son of God in the flesh, and would be King over all the earth.

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