Thursday, December 18, 2008

A Christmas Story for My Children

You've no doubt heard the story of Santa Claus and his flying reindeer; the story of Frosty the Snowman, or the Grinch who stole Christmas. You've probably seen Snow Miser, Heat Miser, and the Abominable Snow Monster on television. I bet you can't even imagine Christmas without a visit from the spirits and Mister Scrooge.

But have you ever heard the most wonderful Christmas story of all?

Over two thousand years ago, long before you, or Mommy, or Daddy were even born, there was a very special birth of a very special baby.

Long, long ago, in a little village in a land called Nazareth, there lived a man named Joseph, and a woman named Mary, the woman he loved. Joseph and Mary were making plans to be married, when one day, Gabriel, God's chief angel, made a special visit to Mary.

"Good morning, Mary," the angel said, "Do not be afraid." Mary was shaking at the unexpected visit. "Don't be afraid, Mary. God has sent me to tell you that He has a wonderful surprise for you. You are soon to be the mother of a special baby boy."

"But how," Mary asked, "Joseph and I have not yet married?"

"God chose you, Mary, for a very special purpose. You will be the mother of His Son. You will name Him Jesus."

"I am ready to serve my God," Mary said. "Let it be so."

The angel, Gabriel, left.

Mary rushed out into town and told her cousin Elizabeth, who was also going to have a baby. Mary stayed with her cousin for three months. While Mary was with her cousin, the angel Gabriel visited Joseph in a dream.

"Joseph," Gabriel said, "it is okay for you and Mary to be married. The baby she is expecting is the Son of God. You will name him Jesus, which means 'God Saves'." When Joseph woke up from his dream, he rushed off to Mary, and they became husband and wife.

The king at that time was a man named Caesar, and he wanted to know how many people lived in his kingdom. King Caesar ordered every man to travel to his family's home town, families and all. Joseph took his new wife Mary and left for Nazareth, where they could be counted as members of the family of David.

While they were there, Mary told Joseph, "It's time. The baby is ready." Joseph took Mary to every hotel in town looking for a room, but they were all full because of the people who had come to town to be counted. With no place else to stay, Joseph and Mary stopped at a stable where they were given a place to sleep with the animals.

As they stayed in the stable, Joseph comforted Mary as her baby, Jesus, was born. Mary wrapped her baby in a blanket and laid him in a manger in the stable.

There were shepherds camping in the neighborhood, watching over their sheep, when the angel Gabriel came to them, and they were afraid. "Don't be afraid," Gabriel said. "God sent me to tell you of a wonderful event, a very special event for everyone in the world." The shepherds watched in wonder as the angel Gabriel continued. "A Savior has been born -- the Son of God. You will find him, the baby, wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger in a stable."

When Gabriel finished, thousands of angels from Heaven joined him, singing, "Glory to God, and peace to everyone on earth." 

As Gabriel and the other angels left them and returned to Heaven, the shepherds talked it over and decided that they wanted to go see the baby Jesus. They started running and didn't stop until they found Joseph and Mary and their new born baby lying in the manger in the stable.

Others also came to see the new baby Jesus -- the Son of God -- bringing gifts to give to Him. A young boy who had no gifts to bring came to see the baby with his drum, and played music for the baby. They found their way to the baby by following a star in the sky -- the brightest, highest star in the sky, shone right over the stable where Jesus was born.

Today, over two thousand years later, we still celebrate that wonderful night -- the night that Jesus was born -- by throwing the biggest birthday party of all: Christmas. Like the angels did so long ago, we sing songs for Jesus, called Christmas Carols. Like the men who visited the baby bringing gifts, we give gifts to those we love, in honor of Jesus' birthday.

Happy birthday, Jesus. And Merry Christmas, to all.

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