Christmas traditions are important, they are our children’s memories. I don’t remember what gifts I received when a child, but I’ll always remember the people that spent holidays with me and the things that we did together. Every Christmas Eve when it is time for all good little girls and boys to be in bed, I read three stories to my children.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas is first,
That mean ol’ Grinch is really the worst.
He stole all the Who’s pudding and presents with glee,
Then he went back and stuffed up their tree.
The Who’s celebrated Christmas when the Grinch thought they shouldn’t
Stop Christmas from coming, why even a mean ol’ nasty Grinch couldn’t
Next, “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” gets read.
With the children nestled all snug in their beds,
Visions of presents dancing in their heads
When, what to their curious eyes should appear.
The television newsman announcing Santa’s sleigh is almost here.
When it is time for the last story to be read.
Heads go down on pillows and the children are tucked into bed.
My favorite story is about Joseph and his Mrs.
Now it’s time for, “The Very First Christmas”.
The Very First Christmas by Grandma Pat
Long ago in the town of Nazareth in the land of Galilee, lived a young girl. She was like most young girls of her time. Her days were spent helping her family. Caring for her younger brothers and sisters, cooking, weaving and sewing were things that she learned how to do well. She went to church, school and played with her many friends. I bet she even liked to ride horses.
When she was a teenager she met a young man and fell in love with him. Oh, how she wanted to be with him. He was kind to her and his eyes danced whenever she caught him looking at her. He was gentle to her and respectful of her. She thought of him all of the time, and he of her. They loved each other and wanted to be married. They were Mary and Joseph and they were betrothed which is almost like being married but, not quite.
Then, one evening while Mary was alone an Angel came to her and said, “O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at this and wondered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be. And the Angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High and of his kingdom there will be no end.” And, Mary said to the Angel, “How can this be, since I have no husband?” And the Angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you: therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.”
Mary was scared and afraid. What if after she told Joseph about God’s baby, Joseph wouldn’t love her anymore? Would her family send her away, as was the custom in those times? Frightened yet, trusting her faith in God, Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your will.” And the Angel went away from her.
Mary told Joseph of the Angel’s visit.
Joseph didn’t know who the baby’s father was and didn’t want to wed Mary if she had loved another fellow. Oh, how Mary’s news of the baby to come hurt him. So, Joseph who was still very much in love with Mary, and was unwilling to bring shame to her, decided to call off their marriage and leave her quietly.
As he considered this, behold, an Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for baby is of the Holy Spirit. She will have a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” Joseph went ahead and married his beloved Mary.
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled. This was the first census. A census is when a government counts all of its citizens. All went to be counted each to his own city. And so Joseph and Mary went from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem to be counted, because that’s where Joseph had originally come from.
It was a long trip and Mary was about to have her baby. For many days they walked together through the desert hills and valleys, sometimes Mary rode on their small gray donkey. Mary tired easily and Joseph worried about her, afraid that the baby would come before they could reach Bethlehem. At night Mary and Joseph would sleep outdoors and have a campfire. Laying there together in the dark looking up at the stars and seeing a star sent by God just for them, a beacon calling them to Bethlehem.
Finally they reached Bethlehem the city was so busy. The marketplace was packed. There were so many people that Joseph could hardly take a step without bumping into someone. After all the time spent alone traveling through the desert the noise of the city was overwhelming. Everywhere within the kaleidoscope of colors were people shouting to sell something or buy something and animals bellowing in protest at the confusion in of the marketplace.
The first business that had to be attended to was getting counted for the census. After making a few inquiries, Joseph found out where they needed to go. The line was long and the wind was becoming cold, Mary was so quiet and still on the donkey, that Joseph feared that something was wrong with her. Mary wrapped tightly in a warm cloak sat on the little gray donkey’s back and patiently waited for the hours to go by. Dreaming of finding a warm room with a soft bed in which she could rest. Her time had come and she knew that her son was to be born soon.
After Joseph finished with the census taker, they again ventured into the milling throngs of people brought to Bethlehem for the same reasons they had been. Realizing that Mary’s baby was about to be born, Joseph frantically began asking for help in finding a room for the night. Inn after inn, tavern after tavern, home after home, Joseph tried them all. Everywhere Mary and Joseph went the answer was the same, “There is no room!” He tried to explain about Mary and how the baby was about to be born, but the answer was always the same, “There is no room!” Tired, desperate and discouraged with Mary in tears Joseph tried one last inn.
When the innkeeper saw Joseph’s concern for his young bride and Mary’s obvious distress, the gentleman showed mercy and led them away from the bustle of a busy Bethlehem at night to a small stable. There in a stall out of the wind and in from the cold, sweet smell of fresh hay and gentle sounds of tired animals, in that small stable illuminated by the yellow mellow glow of lantern light, Mary gave birth to God’s Son. She named him Jesus, then laid him in the manager, for he had no crib for a bed. Mary smiled at Joseph and him at her and then, Mary slept.
Shepherds in the fields outside of Bethlehem were trying to sleep too, only they were awakened by the most extraordinary sound. It was a choir of Angels from heaven and they were exclaiming the news that God’s Son had been born that very night in Bethlehem. The shepherds were transfixed, they stood there in the purple night, bathed in silver starlight, surrounded by a sea white sheep and heard Angels from heaven singing to them. They decided to hurry to Bethlehem to see this babe, the one that made the heavens resound with song.
When the shepherds got to the stable they knew softness. The softness in a new mother’s eyes as she gazes on the miracle that is her baby. The softness in Joseph’s eyes as they rested on his beloved Mary and her new son. The softness in all of the shepherds hearts as they gazed on the little innocent baby – the Son of God. There and then, the shepherds knew that they had witnessed the greatest story that would ever be told and retold.
The story of the first Christmas isn’t quite finished just yet. I haven’t told you about the presents.
In due time after the birth of Jesus, three Wise Men from the east saw the Christ star. They knew that the star was a message put into the heavens to announce a great event, perhaps the birth of a great king. So they decided to travel to where the star’s trail led and seek the answer to its mystery.
The Wise Men in a great caravan consisting of many men, camels, horses and donkeys crossed the desert following the star’s bright light. Night after night they followed the star until they came to Bethlehem. There right beneath the star’s unearthly glow was the stable– adobe, plain, humble. Bringing gifts of gold, incense and myrrh (a very expensive perfume) the Wise Men entered the stable. When they saw baby Jesus, they fell onto their knees and worshipped him. Then they gave him their gifts, just because they loved him.
On Christmas Eve Santa will bring us presents just because he loves us. The greatest Christmas gift of all is the story of the Very First Christmas, because God gave us the gift of baby Jesus, just because he loves us.
“For God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten Son Jesus Christ, so that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” John 3:16