Shall I tell you who will come
To Bethlehem on Christmas Morn,
Who will kneel them gently down
Before the Lord, new-born?
One small fish from the river,
With scales of red, red gold,
One wild bee from the heather,
One grey lamb from the fold,
One ox from the high pasture,
One black bull from the herd,
One goatling from the far hills,
One white, white bird.
And many children — God give them grace,
Bringing tall candles to light Mary’s face.
This Spanish Christmas carol, set to music by Ruth Sawyer, Jimmy Webb, my friend Eleanor Robinson, and probably other composers speaks to a missing link in the Christmas story. The storytellers neglected to mention some of the characters that were in that Bethlehem stable on a cold, December night. The Bible’s version of the story includes: Mary, Joseph, Jesus, the angel Gabriel, the shepherds, King Herod, the Magi, and the heavenly host. Everybody knows that there was also an innkeeper, a donkey, some sheep, and a few camels.
As the words of this Christmas carol suggest and as many pageant costumes attest, there were others present at the birth of Jesus. If all the characters and details were included, the Christmas story would be far too long to fit into one book, and there wouldn’t be any room for our imagination.
Over the years, I have conjured up other characters, the one who never made it into the written story. They came to the stable, witnessed the birth of Jesus, and gave what they could give.
Take for instance, Samson the barn kitten. He belonged to the Innkeeper, but he had to live in the stable. There was no place for him in the inn. On the night that Jesus was born, he was sleeping on a pile of hay. When Mary and Joseph came into the barn, he hid behind a pile of wood and watched everything from out-of-sight. After the exhausted new parents laid Jesus in the manger and fell asleep, Samson snuck up to the little baby and purred. He brought Jesus a little piece of string. Then, he lay down close beside the baby and kept him warm. On that special night, I think Samson offered the kind of hospitality and generosity that Jesus taught for the rest of his life.
In this book, I will tell you the story of Christmas from the perspective of some of those unsung characters that watched in shadows and helped in the night. In the first section, there are short stories for young children that can be read on a grown-up lap by the Christmas tree. In the second section, there are stories for children at heart, stories that can be read by older children or grown-ups after the younger ones have fallen asleep. In the third section of this book, I offer some new ways to think about this old holiday. I’ve also included the words to some of my favorite Christmas carols in hopes that you might teach them to the children in your life.Perhaps, you’ll be inspired to write your tales of Christmas and add your own characters to the nativity scene because Christmas is one of those stories that is simply too good not to be not be told over and over again in all kinds of ways. By the way, I hope you’ll consider trying a 10RH holiday season.
You can check it out at Trinity Cathedral’s website: http://www.trinitycleveland.org. Print copies will be available soon.