“Do you ever wonder why there is a star on that Christmas tree?” Mrs. C asked the room full of children, who were sitting crisscross applesauce in a circle on the living room rug. They were passing around a plate that had all kinds of delicious cookies, for it was their parents’ yearly Christmas cookie exchange party. The room had colorful twinkling lights in every corner, and in the background “Jingle Bells” was playing. Outside, a light snow had started to fall, and Santa was on the children’s minds, as tomorrow was Christmas Eve. One little girl named Haley answered Mrs. C’s question, “I know. It is the star in the sky on the night Jesus was born.” “Good, Haley! That is right!” Mrs. C said. “For hundreds of years, people have placed a star on their trees for Jesus, and have retold His story, sometimes called the greatest story ever told.” “Would you tell us that story, Mrs. C?” “Well—the greatest story ever told is really the whole story of Jesus’ life—but let me tell you the Christmas part of it, tonight! There are so many ways the story has been told… Here is how Joseph, who was really there on that night, might remember it.” So Mrs. C began telling Joseph’s Christmas story:
It was a really cold night. You could see your breath come out in little clouds, and there were still miles to go before we reached Bethlehem, the town where I had been born. My wife Mary was trying to be patient and brave, but she needed a place to rest. The law said we had to travel the very long distance to my parents’ town, to be counted in the census. It was in days long before computers, cell phones, TV, hospitals, or even cars, were invented. I could walk the distance, but my wife Mary needed to ride on our donkey. Not because she was weak (she was very strong!), but because she was pregnant. You see, in her body, there was a little baby growing: our son—and He was also, in a way I couldn’t even understand—the Son of God. Brrrr…It was such a cold night–I just wanted to get her to a warm inn (like a hotel) with a comfortable bed, before the time came for the baby to be born. It was close to happening, she told me.
Oh, I was so cold and tired, and getting cranky, but I was more worried for Mary. Every place we stopped was full, because so many people were traveling to their home towns to be counted in the census, and there were no rooms for us. We had been looking for hours, and the sun had already gone down, when Mary finally said, quietly “We have to stop, Joseph, I am so weary—I really can’t go any further—it is time.” I looked up the road and at the top of a hill far ahead there seemed to be a large inn! Above it there was a bright and beautiful star, and I took this as a joyful sign that we had finally found a place to stop for the night! I gently led Mary on the donkey up the long hill, and when we got to the top, I left Mary in the yard and knocked loudly on the door of the inn. The innkeeper was friendly enough, but he said, firmly, that every single room was already taken. “We simply must stop” I told him, with equal firmness “My wife is with child, and it is impossible for her to travel any further without resting. Isn’t there some small corner of your inn where we can stay?”
He looked out at Mary with sympathy, and offered what he could, kind man! “The stable out back is very warm, with all the animals sheltered there. I just filled it this morning with fresh, clean hay. You are absolutely welcome to stay there for the night.” I thanked him, and led the donkey, with Mary sitting on it, around to the back, and up a little, sloping hill to the stable. It was in the middle of a cleared field, some distance from the main house; a beautiful place, really. From it you could see for miles, in all directions. That bright, strange, glittering star was shining directly over us, and it cast a cool, silver light onto everything. We did not even have to use our lamps, to see. “Thank You, God” I whispered, and made a comfortable resting place for Mary and myself. The kind innkeeper had given us bread and a pitcher of water. I unwrapped a package of olives, dried fruit and cheeses that we had brought with us. We ate, and relaxed in the warmth of the place, but I could tell that Mary was so tired and uncomfortable, although she didn’t complain. The animals did not seem to mind us being there, sharing their quiet, peaceful space, and before long, we both fell fast asleep.
After a few hours, Mary awakened me, and that night, in that stable, with that glorious star shining over us, our precious baby Jesus was born. Our son, Who by a great mystery and miracle, was also the Son of God! We wrapped him securely in our extra clothes and laid him in the manger, which the innkeeper had filled with new straw for the animals to eat. Jesus was beautiful, and healthy, and Mary and I were filled with awe and great happiness to see Him sleeping there, a little baby, perfect and sweet!
I learned through all the years Mary and I raised Jesus to manhood, that He was born that night to do something very special for God, His Father in Heaven. You see, Jesus even taught me, Joseph, and His mother, Mary, about God. We learned more deeply than we ever knew before, how much God loves us, and is always with us! Because of Jesus, we are alive with Him in Heaven even now…and our life with Him will never end! Jesus coming to us from Heaven to become a human child has been called “The Good News”. Mary and I were so blessed to see it in that stable, beneath that beautiful star, but it is the “Good News” for all people, everywhere—especially for you, little children! When Jesus grew up, He said that people must become like little children (like you!) to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. He saw something wonderful and important in the way you see things!
When you little children celebrate Christmas this year, with the star (or angel) above the tree inside your warm homes, remember that Jesus was born outside in a warm stable on a cold night long, long ago, beneath a shining star. Angels appeared in the sky that night singing gloriously beautiful songs– so sing your joyful Christmas songs, and join your sweet voices with the angels! Poor shepherds and wealthy kings came to rejoice with Mary and me, and each gave us their heartfelt gifts. Remember these, little children, as you give your gifts and happily unwrap your presents! Remember, sweet children, that in Jesus, you are God’s children, too. You are here on earth for a special reason! If you live carrying Jesus and His teachings in your heart, you will also be part of His story; the greatest story ever told!
“Venerable Joseph, on your way to Bethlehem, prepare the manger of our hearts!” From a Byzantine Rite monastic chant, sung the week before Christmas.