Welcome to my Christmas Newsletter.
Just three more days and we’ll be heading off to Christmas Eve services mostly on zoom or youtube. It’s not what we want, but what is. This is the season of love. Our love for the world, our country, our family, and even ourselves calls us to comply with the Covid 19 protocols and stay home. It’s not easy. But we can do it. To help this Christmas I am sending out two Christmas stories. They are my Christmas gift to you. I will send them one blog at a time. Here is the first. Blessings Janet
The Christmas Shadow
From Breakthrough Moments by Janet Stobie
A Reflection on Luke 2: 1-15
A fictional story about a single parent family, Aaron & his son Benjamin, who might have been present the night Jesus was born. The story is told by Benjamin.
The Christmas Shadow
Boarding in the stable was part of Father’s pay for working at the inn. We’d been living here in the hayloft for only a few days when they came.
I was afraid for her. She looked so young, just a little older than me. Their baby was ready to be born. I knew, of course, that babies were born every day, but my mother had died when I was born. I was a boy, only twelve, but I knew enough to be afraid. Would this baby be like me with a lame leg and hesitant speech? Adults call me “the cripple.” Many of my peers are mean. They mock and tease. Their words are cruel. Some even push me over and laugh. I try to fight back and occasionally land a fist in a face or gut, but not often. It’s not easy being different.
On that evening, my father was still working serving drinks and late-night meals at the inn. I stood in the shadows alone, listening for the baby to be born and praying. I begged our God to care for the woman and her child. The innkeeper’s wife, Lois, came out to help. I heard the baby’s first strong, lusty wail. Someone clapped their hands. Lois’ voice rang out, “He’s beautiful, and so perfect.”
I breathed a sigh of relief. All is well, I thought. He’s not like me. I retreated to our hayloft.
Sleep eluded me. Just two weeks earlier Father had told me the story of my birth. Father said, “Benjamin, your birth took a long time. And when you finally came, the midwife had to unwrap the life cord from around your neck. Your mother died, her life blood poured out onto the pallet with the birthing waters. You were damaged.” As Father spoke, tears poured down his cheeks. He reached out and pulled me close. I cried too.
. Guilt dogged my every footstep in the days that followed learning my painful story. My birth caused my mother’s death I had always wanted a mother. Now it was all my fault.
I imagined that when I was born, my mother and father would have been as young as the couple in the stable below. I tossed and turned on my pallet, wishing Father would come home. It’s lonely living in the hayloft, but better than coping with meanness and rejection. I have the animals. They don’t make fun of me. I cuddle the stray cats. My work at the inn, washing dishes, sweeping floors gives me a purpose.
I still hadn’t fallen asleep when I heard Father’s steps on the ladder. He had just crawled into bed when we heard them. Four shepherds trudged into the stable and walked towards the young couple’s stall. Father and I were curious. Silently, we climbed down and hid in the shadows, listening. Their voices drifted towards us. The shepherds told a story of angels singing in the sky, announcing the birth of this baby. They said he was going to be a king. I wondered what that young mother thought. She said very little.
The next morning, we rose with the sun. The young father left the stable the same time as my Father. I stayed behind. I wasn’t needed at the inn till breakfast was served. Curiosity dragged me towards their stall. She was singing, a lullaby for her baby. I wanted so much to see him, to see the two of them together.
As soon as she saw me, she smiled and said, “Good morning.”
Frightened, I stood very still. “GGGGGuhGood MuMMMuMorning,” I answered.
“It’s all right,” she said. “You must be Benjamin. Last night the innkeeper said you and your father live in the hayloft. My name is Mary.” She gently hugged the sleeping baby in her arms.
Longing filled my being. If only mother had been able to … I rubbed my eyes to wipe away the tears.
She looked up at me and smiled, “Did you come to see our baby, Jesus?”
She must have been lonely for she patted the straw beside her and said, “Please come and sit Benjamin.”
I limped over and sat beside her careful as possible not to disturb either of them. I couldn’t take my eyes from the wee baby in her arms. He was beautiful. His tiny fingers were folded in a fist. I wanted to touch him, to feel his soft skin. Mary stroked his face and touched his hands. I reached out, but then drew my hand back.
“It’s all right,” she said taking my hand and placing it on baby Jesus’ head.
He was warm and so fragile. Jesus opened his eyes and looked right at me. I don’t know how much newborn babies can see, but Jesus saw me. Yes, he did. I felt as if he looked straight into my heart. It seemed like he knew, he knew all the pain I felt. I can’t explain it. It makes no sense. I felt as if he was holding me. That’s it. I sat absolutely still. I didn’t want the moment to end. Of course, it did, but the feeling didn’t. He was just a tiny baby, yet I felt accepted. All the rejection, the scorn, the meanness no longer mattered. My guilt about my mother’s death seemed to slide away the moment I first looked into Jesus’ eyes. It was as if baby Jesus took it. His love made me whole. I’m so grateful I was there, a shadow, in the stable that night.
Prayer: Caring God, thank you for loving all your children. Help me to learn to love as you love. Keep my heart and eyes open to see your beauty in everyone. Help us to remember that we are all special, perfect in your sight. Your Spirit lives within each one of us. Help us to recognize your presence. Amen
Questions for Discussion
What has kept you from accepting someone as God’s beloved child? Race? Creed? Behaviour? Disability? Give the source of your feelings and beliefs.
When have you been rejected and or bullied by someone, or been present when someone else was mistreated? Tell your story, sharing your feelings.
What for you is the importance of placing Benjamin’s story within our Christian Christmas story?
At the beginning of the story, Benjamin feels like an outcast and carries guilt for his mother’s death. Seeing and touching the baby Jesus helps him with that. How does your faith give you acceptance? Have you ever experienced acceptance or forgiveness when holding a baby? Share your experience with someone or in your journal.