Let us put by some hour of every day for holy things...

Think on th' eternal home,
The Saviour left for you;
Think on the Lord most holy, come
To dwell with hearts untrue:
So shall ye tread untired His pastoral ways,
And in the darkness sing your carol of high praise.

--from Keble's The Christian Year, Thoughts in Verse



Tuesday, December 25, 2012

For the Children at Christmas

by Peter Marshall
 
 
"Lord Jesus, who didst take little children into Thine arms and laugh and play with them, bless, we pray Thee, all children at this Christmastide. As with shining eyes and glad hearts they nod their heads so wisely at the stories of the angels, and a baby cradled in the hay at the end of the way of a wandering star, may their faith and expectation be a rebuke to our own faithlessness. Help us to make this season all joy for them, a time that shall make Thee, Lord Jesus, even more real to them.
Watch tenderly over them and keep them safe. Grant that they may grow in health and strength into Christian maturity. May they turn early to Thee, the Friend of children, the Friend of all. We ask in the lovely name of Him who was once a little child. Amen."


A custom we kept for many years was to buy the children at least one new Christmas book every year. We have a chestful of them now, and there are many among them which are special favorites: Lucy and Tom's Christmas by Shirley Hughes, Christmas in Noisy Village by Astrid Lindgren and Ilon Wikland, Becky's Christmas by Tasha Tudor, The Jennifer Gift by Eunice Young Smith, and others too numerous to mention.
 
One I especially treasure is an out-of-print little story written in poetry form, entitled If I'd Been Born in Bethlehem by Joan Gale Thomas. The numerous illustrations are simple and charming, and the perspective of the story from a child's eyes is truly unique. If you can find a copy at a used bookseller, I recommend it highly. It comes in two versions, a Roman Catholic version and a Protestant version. They are essentially the same poem with slightly different wording.
 
One year my daughter read this for our church's Christmas Eve program, for which I altered some of the wording to make it more appropriate as a slightly older child's presentation. I share that here, hoping that, in the spirit of Christmas and faith in the Lord, it may bless you and your children as it has us.
 
 If I'd Been Born in Bethlehem
by Joan Gale Thomas

If I'd been born in Bethlehem and lived there long ago
I might have seen the travelers passing to and fro.
I might have been in bed one night and heard the
     shuffling feet
of weary people passing by along the village street;
 
and just along the alleyway a shouting and a din,
and someone saying, "No more room, there's no
     room in the inn!"
And then was all was quiet and the town was fast
     asleep,
faintly from the fields, perhaps, the bleating of the
     sheep.
 
And looking from the window above my little bed
I might have seen the Christmas star shining
     overhead;
until at last when half asleep, I might have heard on
     high
the voices of the angels all singing in the sky.
 
Then early in the morning I should have made my
     way
with shepherds to the stable to find where Jesus lay,
I might have really seen Him and taken Him a toy,
and Mary might have said that I could hold her little
     boy.
 
She might have let me go there to see Him every
     day,
until He would have missed me if I had stayed away.
And when a little later they moved from Bethlehem,
and traveled into Egypt, I might have gone with them.
 
I could have minded Jesus while Mary packed their
     things,
and I'd have kept Him company on all their travel-
     ings,
until they came to Nazareth and settled there to stay.
Then I'd have lived in Nazareth and seen them every
     day.
 
I might have been with Jesus when first He tried to
     talk,
and held His hand and played with Him, and watched
     Him learn to walk.
And Mary might have trusted me to take Him out to
     play,
and see that no one worried Him, or took His toys
     away.
 
Perhaps, sometime when Joseph was busy carving
     wood,
he might have let us watch him, if we were very good.
And he'd have made a toy for us, perhaps a sailing
    boat,
and Mary might have come with us to see if it would
    float.
 
And Mary would have taught me, as she taught her
    little Son,
to grow up good and gentle, and be kind to everyone.
When both of us were old enough to wander out
    alone,
we might have gone for rambles and picnics on our
    own.
 
Hand in hand with Jesus all those happy days,
I might have grown more like Him and learned His
    loving ways.
In pleasant grassy places we might have played for
    hours,
chasing bees and butterflies, and picking summer
    flowers.
 
Then sitting on the hillside above the little town
we could have talked together until the sun went
    down;
and running home to Mary when the day was at its
    end...
How happy I'd have been then with Jesus for my
    friend!
 
I wasn't born in Bethlehem; nor yet so long ago,
so what I've been pretending can never happen so!
I still am just a little child, I still am only small,
and Jesus is the King of Love and greater than us all.
 
But if I pray to Jesus He even now will be
Just as near and just as dear a loving friend to me.
Dear Jesus, please be with me, from now until the
    end!
Hold my hand and guide my feet, and be my Special
    Friend!    
            
 

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