Christmas


Wally and the Christmas Play

What to do with Wally? Wally was an awkward and shy child who belonged to the church kids club. It was time to hand out roles for the Christmas play, but what role should the teacher give Wally? She decided on the inn-keeper. It was an important role, but required Wally only to shake his head and say one line “Sorry, we’ve no room.” Wally grinned from ear to ear when he learned of his important role and he couldn’t wait for the big night.

It arrived soon enough, and the play was proceeding according to plan. Mary and Joseph had traveled to Bethlehem and come to the door of the inn. Joseph knocked on the door and it opened to Wally. “Please sir, do you have a room we could take?” asked Joseph. Wally shook his head and replied. “I’m sorry, we’ve no room”.

Now the boy playing Joseph was a particularly confident child, and while the script called for he and Mary to turn away at this point, Joseph decided to exercise some dramatic license. “But sir” he said to the innkeeper, “My wife is about to have her baby and we need somewhere to stay. Couldn’t you find us a room.” Wally’s face went white – this was not planned for! – and he paused for a moment before repeating his line. “I’m sorry, we’ve no room.”

“But sir” replied Joseph, “We’ve traveled such a long way and we’ve nowhere else to go and my wife is very tired. Surely you can find us somewhere.” Wally bowed his head, shook it sadly and said, “I’m sorry, we’ve no room.” Forlornly Joseph and Mary started walking away. Wally, now fully into his role, felt shamed and saddened. A tear trickled down his cheek. Then his voice was heard calling out. “Wait! Please come back. You can have my room.”

It may not have been according to script, but at that moment Wally gave perfect expression to the Christmas story.

Source: widely repeated story of unknown origins

The True Story of Santa Claus

Every year children across the world eagerly await the arrival of that jolly fat, red man Santa Claus. But is he real? Well, in a way, yes he is.

The Santa Claus story begins around 200 CE, with a sailing ship caught in the grip a terrible storm outside the Turkish port of Myra. As cargo was being thrown overboard by a  crew desperate to stop their ship being overwhelmed by the storm, someone remembered a man of God was on board. Perhaps he could help. “Nicholas, Nicholas” went the cry. And from his cabin emerged a man with a white beard, Nicholas. Holding the rail he prayed for God’s mercy. His prayer was apparently answered, for the storm died down and the ship limped into the port city of Myra.

Upon reaching dry land Nicholas made his way to the nearest church, intent on giving thanks to God for the safe passage of the ship and her crew. Unbeknown to him a group of elders were gathered in the church, seeking God’s will as to whom should be appointed bishop of their city. The white bearded Nicholas was the answer to their prayers. As bishop he wore a long red robe and became known as the “Bishop of Miracles”, for there were many reports of amazing answers to his prayers.

During his bishopry Nicholas was disturbed to discover many young girls were sold into prostitution if their parents were too poor to afford a marriage dowry. As he was from a wealthy family Nicholas struck upon a plan of action. He launched it one December 6th. Under the cover of darkness he secretly moved around the town, dropping small bags of gold coins through the window of homes where there was a little girl but a family too poor to afford a dowry. From that time on Nicholas would follow the same practice every December 6th. Families were  elated to save their daughters from slave prostitution.  It is said that one year when Nicholas reached through a window, the bag of coins fell into a stocking hanging by the fire to dry – the source of our Christmas stocking tradition.

It was not until the year of his death that people discovered who the mystery benefactor was. Five hundred years later Nicholas was made a saint by the Catholic church – thus our talk of “Saint Nicholas”. As his story spread so did attempts to imitate his kindness. In the twelfth century French nuns began imitating him by taking bags of fruit and nuts to poor families every December 5 – what became known as “St Nicholas’ Eve”. In Russia St Nicholas became a patron saint and was celebrated every Christmas. In England he was given the name “Father Christmas”, in France “Papa Noel”

In Holland St Nicholas was known as “Sinter Klass”, “Sinter” meaning “Saint” and “Klass” for “Nicholas.”  Elsewhere those with broken English heard the story of Saint Nicholas dropping coins through windows onto the hearth and developed the into the idea of the gift-giver coming down the chimney, landing in the cinders of the fire below. So for some he became “Cinder Klaussen”.

Then in 1822 Clement Moore wrote his famous poem, “The Night Before Christmas”, in which the Dutch Sinter Klass became Santa Claus. He probably drew (whether directly or indirectly ) from the poet Washington Irvin who had published a book about a Dutch colonist’s dream in which St. Nick came riding over the tops of trees in a wagon in which he brings yearly presents to the children.

Thomas Nash was a cartoonist for Harpers Weekly. He began drawing pictures of the figure described in Clement Moore’s poem. He gave Santa Claus the red robes and white beard of the original St Nicholas, and decided to make his Santa plump and jolly. The final stage in Santa’s evolution came when Coca-Cola had what is now the definitive Santa image drawn up for an advertising campaign.

So is Santa real? Yes he is…or was. And every Christmas we do well to hear his story and imitate his acts of generosity.

 

Source: reported in Austin Miles, “Santa’s Surprising Origins”, posted at Crosswalk.com news service December 20, 2001

The Gift of Us

Marjorie Tallcott was married and had one child during the Great Depression. The family managed to scrape their way through, but as Christmas approached one year Marjorie and her husband were disappointed that they would not be able to buy any presents. A week before Christmas they explained to their six year old son, Pete, that there would be no store-bought presents this Christmas. “But I’ll tell you what we can do” said Pete’s father, “we can make pictures of the presents we’d like to give to each other.”

That was a busy week. Marjorie and her husband set to work. Christmas Day arrived and the family rose to find their skimpy little tree made magnificent by the picture presents they had adorned it with. There was luxury beyond imagination in those pictures- a black limousine and red speedboat for Dad, a diamond bracelet and fur coat for mum, a camping tent and a swimming pool for Pete.

Then Pete pulled out his present, a crayon drawing of a man, a woman and a child with their arms around each other laughing. Under the picture was just one word: “US”.

Years later Marjorie writes that it was the richest, most satisfying Christmas they ever had.

It took a present-less Christmas to remind Marjorie and her family that the greatest gift we can ever offer is ourselves, our presence. This too is the great gift that Christ offers us, not only at Christmas but throughout the year – himself. If he was to draw a gift perhaps it would be just like Pete’s: three people with their arms around each other laughing – human community with Christ at the centre.

Source: Reported in Illustrations Unlimited