Archive for the ‘Christmas’ Category

Christmas–1. Introduction

Posted: 2013 年 12 月 12 日 in Christmas
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聖誕節懶人包介紹:

I. 全文共11篇,主題如下:1. Introduction  2. Xmas arts, rituals, & customs  3. Xmas songs  4. Virgin Mary  5. The Journey  6. The Birth  7. The Shepherds  8. The Magi  9. The Gifts  10. Flight to Egypt  11. The Return

II. 教學時間有限者,建議可讓學生閱讀第一篇與第二篇學習聖誕節由來/習俗/慶祝活動/相關短片。

III. 教學活動可利用第三篇進行聖誕歌曲教學與賞析。

IV. 教學時間充裕或學生程度優異者,第四篇到第十一篇文章內容為連貫性的耶穌誕生故事,每篇段落皆有編號,方便老師們進行分組翻譯/故事接龍等教學活動。此外,每篇篇末皆附有聖誕相關電影或短片,可進行課後聽力練習與文化瞭解。

V. 此懶人包適用學生程度約英檢中級,若老師們願意多花時間搭學生的鷹架,英檢初級也可適用。

VI. 此懶人包年年適用,若本部落格讀者有聖誕相關題材可豐富此包內容,請不吝賜教,謝謝!

Introduction

Christians the world over celebrate December 25 as Christmas, the anniversary of the birth of Christ. It is a joyous holiday, marked by family gatherings, colorful decorations, traditional songs, and the exchange of gifts. Many people also take part in special religious services.

The name “Christmas” comes from the Old English Christes Maesse, or “Christ’s Mass.” The story of Christmas is told in the Bible. The Gospels of Saint Matthew and Saint Luke tell how Jesus was born in Bethlehem, how angels announced his birth to shepherds outside the town, and how a bright star led the three Wise Men to him. But the Gospels do not tell the date of Christ’s birth. It is thought that December 25 was chosen because it was around the time of various pagan festivals, such as the Roman Saturnalia. These festivals marked the winter solstice, the time of year when days begin to grow longer in the Northern Hemisphere. Many Christmas customs are thought to have begun with practices associated with these pagan festivals.

The early Christian churches were divided over when to celebrate Christmas. The Western church, based in Rome, chose December 25, while the Eastern church chose January 6. Eventually the holidays merged, and Christmas was celebrated in a twelve-day festival that included both days. Today only the Armenian church observes Christmas on January 6. In other churches, this day is known as Epiphany (主顯節) and is said to mark either the visit of the Wise men or (in Eastern churches) Christ’s baptism. But to many people, the Christmas season extends for an even longer time—from the end of November through New Year’s Day.

Christmas customs

Each country that celebrates Christmas has developed its own particular customs associated with the observance of the holiday. But some customs are found in most countries where Christmas is observed.

Gift giving. Gift giving was part of many pagan midwinter festivals and became part of Christmas as well. In some countries, gifts are exchanged on New Year’s Day or on Epiphany rather than Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Children’s gifts are often said to be brought by a magical and mysterious figure. In the United States, this figure is Santa Claus—a jolly, fat elf in a fur-trimmed red suit. The original Santa Claus is thought to have been St. Nicholas, a 4th-century bishop in Asia Minor (小亞細亞) who was famous for his generosity. He became the patron saint of children. The children of Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands still know him as Saint Nicholas. He is called Pere Noel in France, and Father Christmas in Britain.

Decorations. Christmas decorations are another ancient custom. In pagan times, northern Europeans brought evergreen boughs indoors in winter to serve as a reminder that life would return with spring. Some evergreen plants, such as mistletoe, were thought to have magical properties. It was said that if two enemies met under a branch of mistletoe, they would drop weapons and embrace. This old belief may have been the origin of the modern custom of kissing under the mistletoe.

Christians adopted these decorations and gave them new meaning. Holly, for example, became associated with the crown of thorns Jesus to his crucifixion. The prickly leaves stood for the thorns, while the red berries stood for drops of blood. Wreaths, which symbolized the continuance of life through winter, came to stand for the eternal life promised by Christ. Fires, candles, and other lights, important to pagan festivals as reminders of the sun, came to stand for Jesus as the light of the world.

The Christmas tree also originated in northern Europe. In the Middle Ages, a tree called the Paradise Tree—an evergreen hung with apples—was a prop in a play about Adam and Eve. People began to set up similar trees in their homes on December 24, the feast day of Adam and Eve. As the trees became more associated with Christmas, people added candles and, eventually, cookies and other decorations.

The Christmas tree custom was introduced in the United States by German settlers in the 1700’s. But it did not become widely popular until the mid-1800’s, when a German prince, Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, married Queen Victoria of England and had a decorated Christmas tree set up in Windsor Castle. Today a Christmas tree decorated with glittering ornaments, candy canes, and electric lights is the focus of many family Christmas celebrations. Huge outdoor trees are also set up in many communities. Two of the largest in the United States are put up each year in Rockefeller Plaza, in New York City, and on the White House lawn in Washington, D.C.

New decorations have been added to traditional ones. The poinsettia, a bright tropical plant, was discovered by Joel R. Poinsett, a U.S. minister to Mexico in the 1800’s. it became a popular Christmas decoration because its leaves showed the traditional Christmas colors—green, standing for the continuation of life, and red, standing for the blood shed by Christ.

Christmas cards.The first Christmas greeting card was created in 1843 by John C. Hosley, a British artist. His card was designed like a post card, lithographed in black and white and colored by hand. It showed a family having Christmas dinner. Another British artist, William Egley, designed a card at about the same time. Both these early cards bore the now-familiar message “A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.”

By the 1860’s, Christmas cards were popular throughout Britain. Louis Prang, a German emigrant printer, began to design and sell colored Christmas cards in the United States in 1874. In less than ten years, his shop was turning out 5,000,000 cards a year. Today greeting cards have become a major industry, and billions of cards are sent all over the world each year.

Family gatherings. In medieval Europe, Christmas was a wild celebration of feasting, dancing, and merrymaking that lasted for weeks. Today it is a time for families and friends to get together, often for a special meal. Foods of the season include turkey, gooese, duck, fish, roast beef, and an abundance of other good things to eat and drink. In some European countries, the custom of serving a roast suckling pig with an apple in its mouth is still observed.

Of all Christmas desserts, perhaps the most popular in Britain and the United States are mince pie and plum pudding. Superstition says that eating mince pie on Christmas brings good luck. In many lands, specially baked cakes and cookies are traditional. Preparation of these treats is begun weeks ahead of Christmas dinner.

What the Americans do at Christmas

Christmas: origin, history and traditions (EASY)

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 Christmas arts

Since early times, Christmas has served as an inspiration for music, art, and poems and stories. Many of these works have become closely associated with the holiday.

Music.

Christmas music covers a wide range, from light popular tunes to regal works such as Handel’s Messiah. Tchaikovsky’s ballet The Nutcracker and Gian Carlo Menotti’s opera Amahl and the Night Visitors are often performed during the Christmas season.

Carols are the most traditional Christmas music. Early carols were based on dance tunes and refrains from ballads and folk songs. During the Protestant Reformation in England, carols were banned. This was because the Puritans, who took control of the country in the mid-1600s, felt that the music and merrymaking associated with Christmas were pagan customs. Carols returned after 1660, when the monarchy was restored.

Most of the carols we sing today were written in the 1800’s. They include “Silent Night, Holy Night” “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” “Away in a Manger,” and “Joy to the World.” These traditional songs have been joined by modern ones, such as “White Christmas,” “Here Comes Santa Claus,” and even “Jingle Bell Rock.”

Bells are also a traditional part of Christmas music. Every Christmas Eve, church and cathedral bells ring loud and clear to call families to church services. Bells are used as decorations on Christmas trees, wreaths, and gift-wrappings.

Arts.

The scene of the nativity has been painted by many artists. Among them were some of the great masters of the Renaissance, including Giotto, Fra Angelico, and Sandro Botticelli. The nativity is also depicted in three-dimensional creche (French word for “crib”) scenes. St. Francis of Assisi is given credit for setting up the first creche, using live figures, in Greccio, Italy, in 1223. In many Catholic countries, the creche is the center of a Christmas Eve pageant that tells the story of the three Wise Men bringing gifts to the infant Christ.

Literature.

Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is one of the most popular Christmas stories ever written. Several film versions of this tale have been made. “The Gift of the Magi,” by O. Henry (William Porter), is another well-known story. It tells of the efforts of a young husband and wife to find gifts for each other.

The poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas” has been part of Christmas in the United States since 1823, when it was first published. Clement C. Moore wrote it for his family, and it did much to create the present image of Santa Claus. These traditional Christmas works have been joined by some modern favorites, such as Dr. Seuss’s The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.

Christmas rituals

Religious ceremonies marking the birth of Christ begin some four weeks before Christmas. The fourth Sunday before Christmas Day is the first day of Advent, the period of preparation that comes before the holiday. Many people keep track of the days in this period with Advent calendars or Advent candles. The calendars have Christmas scenes and tiny windows, one of which is opened each day to uncover a picture or verse. The candles carry the dates leading up to Christmas and are burned a set amount each day, so that on Christmas day they are used up.

Many people also have Advent wreaths in their homes. These wreaths have four candles, one for each of the Sundays of Advent. Each Sunday, the family lights candles—one candle the first Sunday, two candles the next, and so on—and prays.

In churches, children often take part in nativity pageants, in which they act out the scenes of the Christmas story. On Christmas Eve, churches are decorated with evergreens and candles, and special candlelight and carol services are held. Most churches also hold services on Christmas Day. The message at these services is the central message of Christmas: Peace and goodwill among all people.

Customs around the world

Christmas is celebrated in many ways. Here are some of the traditional customs in countries around the world.

France.

Children in France welcome the visit of Pere Noel at Christmastime. Instead of hanging stockings, they leave their shoes by the fireplace to be filled with gifts. On Christmas Eve, after midnight Mass, many families have a special supper called Le reveillon. Turkey is the favorite food on Christmas Day, followed by a special Christmas cake called buche de Noel.

Scandinavia.

In the Scandinavia countries, Christmas gifts are brought by a jolly old man called Jultomten in Sweden, and Julenissen in Norway and Denmark. His elflike helpers, who sometimes help people throughout the year, are called the tomtar. In Sweden, the Christmas season begins on December 13, St. Lucia Day. On this day the oldest daughter of the house—dressed in white and wearing a wreath with candles on her head—serves coffee and buns in bed to the rest of the family.

Germany.

For German children, Christmas festivities begin on December 6, when they leave their lists of Christmas wishes for St. Nicholas and receive candy in return. Christmas gifts are brought by the Weihnachtsmann. A Christmas tree, often decorated with small, spicy cookies, is the focus of many family celebrations. Fruit-filled breads called stollen are a seasonal treat.

Holy Land.

In Bethlehem, which is now in Israel, Christmas Eve is marked with a colorful procession. People file through the narrow streets carrying an image of Jesus in a cradle to the Church of the Nativity, where it is placed in a special glass and marble manger. Pilgrims from all parts of the world take part.

Italy.

A nativity scene called a presepio, rather than a Christmas tree, is the focus of celebrations in most Italian homes. The figure of the Christ child is added to the scene on Christmas Eve. Many families have a Christmas Eve supper of capitone, or fried eels. Other Christmas specialties include panettone (a bread with dried fruit) and torrone (a candy made with nuts and honey). Presents are brought on Epiphany by La Befana, a kindly witch. But Italians parents tell their children that La Befana will leave only ashes if they are naughty.

Britain.

British children hope to receive gifts from Father Christmas, and they enjoy a Christmas dinner of roast turkey and mince pie or plum pudding. Wassail, a punch made from ale, apples, spices, and other ingredients, is served. People go from house to house singing carols, often to raise money for charity.

Japan.

Because there are relatively few Christians in Japan, Christmas is not widely celebrated. But many Western Christmas customs have been adopted by Japan. People exchange gifts, and streets and stores are decorated with evergreens and bright lights.

Mexico.

In Mexico and many other Latin American countries, children have a Christmas party that includes a pinata. This is an earthenware jug or papier-mache figure filled with candies and small toys. It hangs by a rope from the ceiling or a tree branch, and the children take turns putting on a blindfold and hitting it with a stick until it breaks and the sweets and toys tumble out. In the days leading up to Christmas, people take part in posada processions that re-enact the search of Mary and Joseph for lodgings in Bethlehem.

The Netherlands.

Saint Nicholas brings presents to Dutch children on the eve of December 6. He is said to arrive by boat from Spain, and he rides through the streets on a white horse. He is assisted by his helper, Swarte Piet (Black Pete).

Bizarre Christmas traditions around the world

Worldwide Christmas celebrations

 

Christmas–3. Christmas songs

Posted: 2013 年 12 月 12 日 in Christmas
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When it comes to Ben’s favorite Christmas songs, there are three of them: Last Christmas, Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, and When Christmas comes to town.

1. Last Christmas, sung by Wham originally, is about a heartbreaking romance. The song is so popular that you can hear the song in public places every Christmas.

Last Christmas (Wham)

2. Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer tells a story of how a red-nosed reindeer being encouraged to be the leading reindeer for Santa Claus. Personally, the reason I love Rudolph so much results partly from Chopper (a character in comic books named One Piece). Both Rudolph and Chopper are discriminated when young, but they get over the miserable past because of the encouragement by others. The story inspires me to encourage my students more!

Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer (action song)

3. When Christmas Comes to Town is an interlude of the animation Polar Express starred by Tom Hanks. The animation tells a story of how a lonely boy takes the Polar Express to North Pole and has a wonderful trip there. Personally, the MV by Hollie Stell is highly-recommended because I strongly believe that little boys will definitely have a crush on Hollie not only because of her beautiful voice but also her cute looks.

When Christmas Comes to Town (Polar Express)

When Christmas Comes to Town (Hollie Steel)

When Christmas Comes to Town (Piano-accompanied)

Christmas–4. Virgin Mary

Posted: 2013 年 12 月 12 日 in Christmas

The Day Christ Was Born by Jim Bishop (Dec. 24, 1979; China Post)

Mary, the Virgin Mother

  1. Nothing is known of the birth of Christ beyond the New Testament. It is a great and joyous story, the happiest event since the dawn of history. Mary was born and raised in Nazareth. Joseph knew her, even though he was four years older. When Mary reached her thirteenth birthday, it was permissible to ask for her in marriage. The proper form was followed. Joseph first asked his parents if he could marry Mary. He was seventeen, an apprentice carpenter, and more than a year away from having his own shop. It was assumed that a serious-minded young Jew of seventeen was a responsible adult. Joseph’s parents discussed the matter of marriage and, in time, paid a formal call on Mary’s parents. Mary was not supposed to know of the matter, but had ex facto knowledge of it all along and had made known her wishes to her mother and father.

  1. When the two mothers and two fathers were agreed, the qiddushin took place. This is a formal betrothal, and much more binding than any other. The qiddushin has the finality of marriage. Once the marriage contract was negotiated, even though the marriage ceremony had not occurred, the bridegroom-to-be could not be rid of his betrothed except through divorce. If Joseph had died between qiddushin and marriage, Mary would have been his legal widow. Throughout the engagement, Mary of course, lived with her parents. At a time midway between engagement and formal marriage, Mary was alone one day and was visited by the angel Gabriel. She was alarmed, but not as frightened as she would have been had she not heard stories of such visits from the village elders. Mary lived after the days of the great prophets, the great visions, the visitations.

  1. Gabriel stood before her and saw a dark, modest child of fourteen. “Do not tremble, Mary,” he said. “You have found favor in the eyes of God. Behold: you are to be a mother and to bear a son, and to call him Jesus. He will be great: ‘Son of the Most High’ will be his title, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father, David. He will be king over the house of Jacob forever, and to his kingship there will be no end.” The words did not calm Mary. “How will this be,” she said shyly “since I remain a virgin?” Gabriel explained. “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. For this reason, the child to be born will be acclaimed ‘Holy’ and ‘Son of God.’” She now understood the words. What the angel was saying, she reasoned, was something for which the Jews had been waiting for centuries: a messiah, a savior, God come to earth as he had promised long ago. Mary shook her head. Gabriel sensed that the child needed more proof. “Note, moreover,” he said, “your relative Elizabeth, in her old age, has also conceived a son and is now in her sixth month—she who was called ‘The barren.’ Nothing indeed is impossible for God.”

  1. The angel stood before her in silence, fading slowly from her vision. Mary’s impulse was to run and find her mother. She must tell. She must ask counsel. Exultation came and it was transmuted to anguish. She thought again of her mother and decided not to tell. If the angel had wanted her mother to know, he would have come when her mother was at home, so that both of them would have had knowledge of this thing. It must be the will of God that she keep the secret. Within a few days, Mary asked, as casually as possible, for permission to visit her cousin Elizabeth. Her mother thought of it as a touching sign of devotion, and sent her off with a family traveling south to Judea. Sometime before the visit of Mary, the angel Gabriel had appeared before the old lady and told her that God had answered her prayers. She would give birth to a son in June, and she must call him John. Someday he would be called the Baptist, and he would go ahead of the messiah, preaching and baptizing as he wants.

  1. Elizabeth was standing in her doorway as Mary came up the walk. Raising her hand in greeting, she suddenly burst into tears. “Blessed are you,” she said, “beyond all women. And blessed is the fruit of your womb!” Mary stopped, part away to the door. She could not speak. Elizabeth knew! Mary remained with Elizabeth until June, a week prior to the birth of John, Elizabeth’s child. The young girl was three months pregnant and her parents had sent word that she should be at home preparing for her wedding. When Mary arrived home, she saw her husband-to-be. Mary decided, from his attitude, that he knew nothing of the great secret. She would not marry him without telling something of it.

  1. “I am going to have a baby,” she said. The shock to Joseph was beyond measure. She had gone away three months ago, and now she returned to say that she was with child. Joseph looked at her tenderly and she offered no word of explanation. She looked away from him and wished that she might tell everything. The baby was going to need a foster father—who better than the man she loved, the gentle and pious and patient Joseph? The thought crossed her mind that he had been selected for the role for these very reasons. Then why, why had he not been told? Joseph went away from her to think. He loved this girl with all his heart. Now, he felt, she had betrayed him and he could not understand the betrayal. Joseph kept his awful secret. He could divorce her publicly. If he did this, he would be impelled to tell the elders the reason. The priests would adjudge her to be an adultress. There was only one penalty for this crime: stoning.

  1. Joseph was being put to a test. He did not want Mary to die. He could, under the law, pay money to put her away, to have her sent to some remote place. There, she could have her baby and remain. A third possibility would be for Joseph to swallow his pride, proceed with the wedding. He was dwelling upon the possibilities one night in bed, when he made up his mind. He would put Mary away privately. Within a few moments after the decision was reached, relaxation came to Joseph, and he slept. In sleep, he was visited by an angel. The spirit said to him, “Joseph, son of David, do not scruple to take Mary, your wife, into your home. Her conception was wrought by the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus; for he will save his people from their sins.”

  1. When Joseph awakened, he remembered the dream and he wondered if his forlorn hopes were reaching for rationalization. Still, the dream fulfilled an old prophecy to the letter: “Behold, the virgin will be pregnant and give birth to a son, who will be called ‘Emmanuel,’ which means ‘God with us.’” Joseph felt refreshed. He felt happy. He longed to hurry to Mary’s house, yelling: “I know! I know!” He waited until the proper time, after supper, and when she saw his first glance, Mary knew that he knew before he took her for an evening walk to explain. God had tried both of these young people, and they had not failed him. The following week, they were married and Joseph took Mary to his home.

The pagan origins of Christmas

 

 

Christmas–5. The Journey

Posted: 2013 年 12 月 12 日 in Christmas
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The Journey

  1. The Roman Emperor, Caesar Augustus, ruled the known world at the time of marriage of Joseph and Mary. He was concerned that the amount of taxes collected was not commensurate with the number of his subjects. He held a council in Rome, and his advisors told Caesar that he could not levy an equitable tax until he had an accurate idea of the populations of the Roman provinces. Caesar issued an imperial rescript ordering all subjects, in the winter solstice, to return to the cities of their fathers and there be counted. Many of the subject peoples chafed when the law was proclaimed. They said that Caesar was not a just king to do this to them. Joseph sought the local tax merchant and asked if women in advanced pregnancy could be excused and he was told that no one could be excused.

  1. They started on the trip south, two young and solemn people with a short and slender jackass who bore the most exalted burden ever to honor the animal. Joseph lifted Mary’s spirits by reminding her that, if he paced the trip correctly, she would see Jerusalem at sundown of the fifth day. Jerusalem. Little parties came up all year long from Jericho and the Salt Sea and the Mountains of Moab and the north country of Samaria and Galilee in a never-ending procession to the great temple of Solomon. It was a spiritual spawning for all Hebrews; a coming home; a communion with God at his appointed house. This was the winter solstice of the Jewish year 3790. The gaiety of the Feast of Chanukan had ended as Joseph and his wife left Nazareth.

  1. Each night, when the sun was gone and the road obscure, Joseph led the ass a little way off from the road and into a clearing where there was very little brush and few insects. Then he tied the ass, tilted the goatskin and filled the earthen jar with water from it, and sat. There was not much to talk about. Their minds were troubled with momentous events far beyond the scope of their thought. Mary was big with the unborn child, and awkward, but she managed to prepare the food as appetizingly as possible. There was no meat. Even at home, they never had meat more than once a month. Mostly it was lamb, chopped into cubes and roasted and then set on a plate beside charoseth and other herbs and fruits. They slept in the open, saving what little money they had for the day of the baby. Sometimes, when there was no moon, Joseph set a lamp on the ground and Mary removed her veil and brushed the long dark hair which hung to her waist. She said that she would like to bathe in the Jordan, and she said it wistfullly because she knew that Joseph would say no, and a good wife did not dispute the will of her husband. He said it gently, reminding her that her time was near, that this would be her first-born, and he would not assume the risk of the river. With a gruff tenderness Joseph wet some cloths in the Jordan and brought them to Mary to wash herself.

  1. On the evening of the fourth day they were at Jericho, a few miles above the Salt Sea and within a glance of Mt. Nebo to the east. Joseph wanted to stay at an inn, where they could pay for space on the floor, but Mary begged him not to do it. “This is not an important day,” she said. He knew what she meant. In the morning, Joseph led Mary and the ass into the wilderness. It was twenty miles to Bethany, and, from there, three to the heart of Jerusalem. Towards sunset, Joseph stopped at the top of a rise. The ass stopped. Mary looked up, a tired child with eyes partly conscious of the scene. “Jerusalem,” Joseph said, pointing. Mary looked. The onderment of what she saw caused her nausea to fade. It was a thing to see. Jerusalem was a white jewel pronged by the great stone wall around it. Joseph pulled the ass to the side of the road because the pilgrims behind him were shouting. “Jerusalem,” he said again. He said it as though it were an earthly anteroom to paradise, as indeed it was.

  1. The sun would be gone in ten minutes and there was much to see because they could not stay in Jerusalem. Their destination, Bethlehem, was still five miles to the south, but Joseph did not mind the night walk if he could stop a moment and drink in all of this and remember it when he was old. Softly, haltingly, Joseph found his voice and, as he drank in the exquisite and almost fearful beauty, he began to tell the story to his wife—a story she knew as well as he. He reminded her that he came of the family of David, even though his branch was small and poor. It was David’s son Solomon who had built the Great Temple. He had commissioned Hiram, the King of Tyre, to draw the plans and do the engineering. The work was finished in seven years, a miracle of goodness. The temple was 1,600 feet long and 970 feet wide. The bigger the temple got, the more remote Solomon felt from God, and he needed the solace of women, so on the Mount of Offense to the left of the city he had built a palace and placed therein five hundred concubines.

  1. The sin needed washing and, long after Solomon repented, the Jews split into two nations—Judea and Israel—and the Babylonians defeated them and reduced the walls of the temple. Now the Jews were the chattels of Roman emperors and the Caesars appointed Herod as king to rule the people. Herod proclaimed himself a Jew and made daily sacrifices, but he was not even a good hypocrite. Herod married ten times and he was so cruel that Caesar Augustus in Rome said that it was safer to be Herod’s pig than Herod’s son. This was a sacrilegious joke on the dietary laws, and Joseph did not like to repeat it. Still, he had also done good things for God. He had paid ten thousand workmen to repair the temple and rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. “Darkness is upon us,” said Mary. She had a feeling of foreboding. She wanted to proceed to Bethlehem for no reason other than that she was trembling and the baby was unusually quiet. Joseph stopped in mid-speech. He knew that she would not interrupt him unless there was a reason. Without further conversation, he led the ass westward into the valley. It was soon night and moonless. Something happened suddenly to Mary and she knew in a moment that this would be the night of the baby. She asked Joseph to stop and he became alarmed and asked if she was unquiet. “No,” she said. “I feel no pain, but we must find an inn. The baby—with God’s help—will be born tonight.”

Christmas Movie 1: Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas

 

Christmas–6. The Birth

Posted: 2013 年 12 月 12 日 in Christmas
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The Birth

  1. The final few miles to Bethlehem were fatiguing to Mary and Joseph. Joseph stumbled many times in the dark and, over his shoulder, he asked his wife if she was quiet. When they were two miles from Bethlehem, she said no. She felt uncomfortable, she said, but it was bearable and she had no complaint. She hoped that they would reach the inn in time. Joseph leaned forward to pull the ass a little faster. He reached the city of David and found, to his dismay, that there were multitudes of people, some sleeping beside the road. He had not realized that there were so many who belonged to the House of David, as did he. The inn was to the left built on a cliff of rocky soil overlooking the valley. Joseph went directly to the inn, knowing that he would find room there or he would find it nowhere.

  1. He left Mary and the animal outside, and assured his wife that he would make arrangements. She too could see the crowds. Some families were sleeping outside the inn, against the wall. She said nothing. Joseph started to go inside, then stopped and returned. “Under the law,” he said, “you must have a midwife at once. Let me first find one.”  She shook her head no. The important thing, she said, was privacy. She was not worried about assistance. God had promised to take care of her, and she needed no additional help. Joseph entered the inn. The floor of the main room was full of sleeping people. The young man sought the proprietor. With supplication on his face, he begged for a small private place for his wife, who was with child. The owner listened and threw up both hands. Where? He asked. Where would you go for privacy? His own family had no room in which to sleep. Every cubit of space had been rented three days ago, and some of the transients were taking turns sleeping in one place.

  1. My wife, repeated Joseph in a tone this side of begging, is outside. She will have her first-born in an hour or two. Can you not please find a room? A little room? The owner became irritable. Every house, every field in Bethlehem was filled with people from all over Judea. The owner’s wife heard part of the plea. She called her husband aside and asked questions. The night was chill, she said. Look at the men outside the inn, sleeping with their cloaks over their noses. Why could not the young man take his wife to the cave below, the cave where the animals were kept? The owner shrugged. If Joseph wanted privacy, he said, the only place left was down the side path to the cave where the asses and small animals were kept. The young man was welcome to it, if one wanted to bring a baby into the world in a place like that. Joseph inclined his head. “I’m grateful,” he said. “I thank you.” Joseph dragged his feet returning to Mary. He told her the news. She wsa not vexatious; in fact, she seemed to be relieved. “Take me,” she said. “The time grows short.”

  1. There were paths leading from both sides of the inn down the side of the cliff. In front, as on the bow of a big ship, there was an entrance to the cave, which had been carved out a long time ago. Joseph paused to light his small lamp, then led the donkey inside. He turned to look at Mary, and, in the yellow rays, he saw that she was in deep fatigue. Joseph apologized. He said that he was sorry that the Hospice of Chamaan had no room for her, but she could see the crowds of people. He was ashamed that he had failed her in this hour. For a moment, Mary studied her husband. She brought a tender smile to her face. She told her husband that he had not failed her. Mary looked around at the haltered cattle, the few lambs, some asses and a camel. If it is the will of God, she said, that His son hsould be born in a place like this, she would not quesiton the wisdom of it.

  1. At the age of fifteen, Mary would undergo her trial alone, untended by midwife or friend, just as, thirty-four years later, her son would undergo his trial alone. She asked Joseph to build a small fire on the path outside the inn’s stable, and to fetch some water from the goatskin. Joseph did as she directed. Joseph collected clean straw from the feed boxes, cleaned out a stall, and arranged the straw as a bed and placed his cloak over it. Then he looked for wood outside, and found none. He went back up to the hospice, and bought some charcoal from the owner. When the water was hot, he filled a jar, and brought it to Mary with some cloths. She was standing, hanging onto the wall of the stall with both hands. Her head was down, and he could not see her face. In fear, he asked her to name what he could do. She said to go outside and tend the fire and heat more water and to remain there until she called him. The animals watched impassively as Mary sank to the straw.

  1. No one came down from the inn to ask how the young woman felt. If she prayed, no one heard except the animals, some of whom stopped chewing for a moment to watch; others of whom opened sleepy eyes to see. Joseph, sitting by the fire, had run out of prayers and promises. He looked up toward the east, and his dark eyes mirrored a strange thing: three stars, coming over the Mountains of Moab, were fused into one tremendously bright one. His eyes caught the glint of bright blue light, almost like a tiny moon, and he wondered about it and was till vaguely troubled by it when he heard a tiny, thin wail, a sound so slender that one had to listen again for it to make sure. “Joseph.” It was a soft call, but he heard it. At once, he picked up the second jar of water and hurried inside. The lamps still shed a soft glow over the stable, even though it seemed years since they had been lighted.

  1. The first thing he noticed was his wife. Mary was sitting tailor-fashion with her back against a manger wall. Her face was clean; her hair had been brushed. There were blue hollows under her eyes. She smiled at her husband and nodded. Then she stood. She beckoned him to come closer. Joseph, mouth agape, followed her to a little manger. In the manger were the broad bolts of white swaddling she had brought on the trip. They were doubled underneath and over the top of the baby. Mary smiled at her husband as he bent far over to look. There, among the cloths, he saw the tiny red face of an infant. This, said Joseph to himself, is the one of whom the angel spoke. He dropped to his knees beside the manger. This was the messiah.

Christmas Movie 2: A Golden Christmas

 

Christmas–7. The Shepherds

Posted: 2013 年 12 月 12 日 in Christmas
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The Shepherds

  1. In the valley below Bethlehem and the cave where Mary was delivered of Jesus, sheep huddled against the chill. The shepherds sat on little eminences, dozing. The herds wandered by day, up an down the grasslands of Judea, always edging closer to Jerusalem, the big market for sheep. Those without blemish brought a good price as sacrificial animals for the temple. The others were sold for shearing and for food. Some of the shepherds were dozing, a few were watching, when the deep night sky was split with light. It was brighter than day, more like staring at a noon sun, and the sleeping shepherds awakened and, in fear, hid their eyes in the folds of their garments. After a moment, the intense light faded, and an angel appeared in bodily form, standing in air over the valley. The herders were terrified and their sheep began to run in tight circles. “Do not fear,” the angel said slowly. Some of the men took heart and looked up. Some did not. “Listen,” the angel said, “I bring you good news of great joy which is in store for the whole nation.”

  1. The shepherds looked up hopefully and the angel spoke again. The voice seemed to permeate the valley. “A savior,” the angel said, “who is the Lord Messias, was born to you today in David’s town. And this will serve you as a token: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and cradled in a manger.” The shepherds repeated the words. “A savior…Lord Messias…David’s town…infant in a manger.” There was nothing frightening in that news. The angel had spoken correctly. It was good news. It was better than good news. It was the thing which had been promised by God a long time ago. It was the advent of him who would save the people of the world. They were still dwelling on the wonders of God and his works when the angel was joined by hundreds of others, who appeared brightly in the night sky, and began to sing in a heavenly chorus: “Glory to God in the heavens above, and on earth peace to men of good will.”

  1. Slowly, the angels floated across the sky and disappeared. The shepherds approached each other in the darkness and asked: “What did you see?” “Did you hear as I heard?” “Is it true that the Son of God has come to save the twelve tribes of Israel?” They babbled awhile, and one said: “Let us go over to Bethlehem and find out the truth about this thing the Lord has made known to us.” The older shepherds were certain that this was not a hoax. All Jews were good scriptural students and, because there were no common books, they memorized all their teachings about God. He had promised a savior, and the great one would come of the House of David. This would be Bethlehem. The aspect which mystified all the shepherds was that the birth of the messiah was undignified. One could not imagine the Son of God being born in a stable. The shepherds reached the top of the eminence and walked among the dozing pilgrims of Bethlehem, asking where the messiah might be found. Most men turned away from them in silence. A few asked what messiah; the shepherds asked if anyone had seen the angels. What angels?

  1. Patiently, they continued their rounds, asking: Where can we find a newborn baby in this town? Someone told them to try the inn. The innkeeper, exhausted with his labors, remembered the young man and pregnant young lady going to the cave beneath the inn. The shepherds appraoched timidly. As they nared the lighted aperture, they crouched and coughed. Joseph came out. He studied them solemnly, without rancor, and the leaders told him that they had seen angels in the valley, and one angel had said tht a messiah had been born this night in the town of David. They had—well, if it wasn’t too soon—they had come to worship him. Mary heard, and told Joseph to permit the men to come in. the shepherds came in, the cowls down off their heards. In the flickering yellow light of the oil lamp, they saw the child-mother, seated on straw. She was looking over the side of an old manger. The men lifted themselves a little on their toes to peer over the sides. Inside was an abundance of white swaddling clothes. An aura of light seemed to radiate from it. The men looked, with mouths open, and fell to their knees. They adored the baby, and thanked him for coming to save the nation. They recited some of the formal prayers. Joseph, standing aside, was amazed tht so many strangers now knew the secret.

  1. The shepherds were torn between wonderment and happiness. This little baby was God and the Son of God, but he was also a helpless, lovable infant. Their hearts welled with joy and the stern, deeply bronzed faces kept melting into big grins, which were quickly erased as the sheep men recalled that they were in the presence of the King of All Kings. They remained kneeling, clasping and unclasping their hands, and staring at the face of the infant, as though trying to etch on their memories the peaceful scene, the tiny ruddy face, the serenity of the mother, who, by the grace of God, had had her baby without pain. They were men of such poverty and humility that their colored threadbare cloaks spoke more eloquently than their tongues. Their adoration came from full hearts. If there was any wonderment in Mary’s heart, she did not show it. After a while, the shepherds stood and, in the manner of the Jews, apologized for intruding. They addressed their remarks to Joseph because to speak to Mary would have been immodest. They asked Joseph if he had seen the angels and he said no. they related all that had happened to them in the valley. Joseph shook his head. Mary nodded toward the sleeping baby, as though she and he alone understood that this was only the first of many great world events. The shepherds left, praising God, and in their joy awakening people to tell them that the promised messiah had come. If one can say that the place of birth was small, humble, a place of animals and odors, then one can also say that the first apostles were the most humble and scorned of men.

Christmas Movie 3: Mandie and the Forgotten Christmas