© 2017 Bill Murphy
It’s said that Christmas is for children. Not so! Christmas is for everyone. On the other hand, modern commercial X-mas IS for children – and for manufacturers and merchants everywhere. This story is my take on the difference between the two.
Joseph stood by Mary’s side, as she cradled the newborn child. He reflected on the past few months, and this astounding miracle which had befallen them. He thought too of their awesome responsibilities ahead – caring for, and raising – the son of God! Why them, he thought, and how would they do it?
And then he heard the sound of excited voices just outside the poor stall where they had taken lodging for the night – and where the Christ child was born. “Here, here he is!” Joseph heard one of the voices exclaim. Then several ragged shepherds entered the straw strewn room. Their faces where filled with awe and wonder – such joy Joseph had never before seen. Soon, all the rag-tag men were kneeling at the feet of Mary, all of their attention focused upon the sleeping infant.
Then one of the men turned and faced Joseph. “An angel appeared to us, yonder on the hills,” he began, “and told us where we’d find the new born king. And the a heavenly choir of angles filled the sky, praising God on high! We came as quickly as we could.”
Then a second man stood, and took Joseph by the hand, leading him off to the side. “I don’t want the child’s mother to hear this,” he began, “but I need to warn you. We met a most unusual fellow along the way. He was very fat, dressed in red, and had a long white beard. He stopped us, and tried to direct us in a different direction, away from here. We thanked him, and pretended to go the way he’d instructed us, but quickly returned to the right path. Who might he be?
“I have no idea,” replied Joseph. “Unless…”
Joseph was about to explain himself, when again he heard voices outside, and the sound of the hooves of large animals. Three stately men, each dressed in regal attire entered the stall. The tallest among them spoke, “We have seen his star in the East, and have come to worship the newborn king,” he said, as he bowed low at Joseph’s feet.
“Kind sir, please,” said Joseph. “I am but a humble carpenter, not due such respect from you. The child is there,” Joseph said, pointing to the far side of the stall, where Mary still held the baby in her arms. “Worship Him!”
The 3 men, in deep respect for this newborn king, approached him slowly, reverently, then knelt before him. Joseph gazed at the scene in wonder. The new visitors spoke among themselves in hushed tones, so not to disturb the sleeping child. And then, slowly, they each placed a jewel covered box on the straw at his feet.
“These gifts are for the child,” one of them said to Mary. “It is at best the very least we could offer him.”
And then, one by one they rose to their feet. One of the stately men pulled Joseph over to the side. Taking Joseph’s hands in his own, he spoke slowly. “Kind sir, I fear there’s a villain afoot. Just as we neared Bethlehem, we met a robber along the way. He was a quite bizarre character. Dressed all in red, he was rather chubby and had a long white beard. His looks were so deceiving and disarming, that I got down from my camel and approached him. That’s when he attacked us, trying for all he was worth to steal away the gifts we had for the child. It took the 3 of us to fend him off! See the scratches I received,” he said, pulling up his sleeve to show Joseph. “Please take care, for this scoundrel is out to steal from the newborn king!”
“Yes we will. And thank you ever so much,” said Joseph. “I wonder who this man in red might be.”
“I don’t believe he’s a man, not like you and me,” replied the wise man, “I believe he’s a spirit – a spirit come to do battle against the Christ child. I can see in my mind, years ahead, many years ahead, when this man in red will still be doing battle with the King of kings and Lord of lords. He’s like a wolf in sheep’s clothing, who is all smiles – with promises of joy and happiness. But he wants to overshadow the child, to take place of this newborn king. He wants to be to be more popular – more loved. And the sad thing is, children will be lead away from the true king born this day in Bethlehem, and will look instead to the thief in the red suit – and celebrate this day as the thief’s day! And their parents will support this. Oh how tragic, how sad!”
“But how can we stop him?” asked Joseph.
“The child who now sleeps in your wife’s arms is truly the newborn king,” replied the wise man. “He will rule someday with love beyond measure, and with mercy and grace. Every knee shall bow to him, and every tongue shall confess that he is Lord. He will prevail. He will!”
The wise man continued, “But until that day, many will ignore him, even revile and hate him. He will try to win them over to the very God of heaven, his true father, but they will not listen. Many will embrace others, just as they will embrace the man in red. And that’s sad indeed. But other’s, like you and me, and my traveling companions, and these deliriously happy shepherds, we will be by his side and at his feet, always – always and forever! Take heart in that my friend!”
Later that night, when all the visitors were gone, Joseph pondered everything that had happened, and all that he had seen and heard. And he resolved with renewed strength to be the very best earthly father he could be – to this son who would in truth, welcome him as a son – into his eternal kingdom!