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from Children Stories To Tell - For Classes Iv. And V.





There was once a nation which was very powerful, very fortunate, and very
proud. Its lands were fruitful; its armies were victorious in battle; and
it had strong kings, wise lawgivers, and great poets. But after a great
many years, everything changed. The nation had no more strong kings, no
more wise lawgivers; its armies were beaten in battle, and neighbouring
tribes conquered the country and took the fruitful lands; there were no
more poets except a few who made songs of lamentation. The people had
become a captive and humiliated people; and the bitterest part of all its
sadness was the memory of past greatness.

But in all the years of failure and humiliation, there was one thing which
kept this people from despair; one hope lived in their hearts and kept
them from utter misery. It was a hope which came from something one of the
great poets of the past had said, in prophecy. This prophecy was whispered
in the homes of the poor, taught in the churches, repeated from father to
son among the rich; it was like a deep, hidden well of comfort in a desert
of suffering. The prophecy said that some time a deliverer should be born
for the nation, a new king even stronger than the old ones, mighty enough
to conquer its enemies, set it free, and bring back the splendid days of
old. This was the hope and expectation all the people looked for; they
waited through the years for the prophecy to come true.

In this nation, in a little country town, lived a man and a woman whose
names were Joseph and Mary. And it happened, one year, that they had to
take a little journey up to the town which was the nearest tax-centre, to
have their names put on the census list; because that was the custom in
that country.

But when they got to the town, so many others were there for the same
thing, and it was such a small town, that every place was crowded. There
was no room for them at the inn. Finally, the innkeeper said they might
sleep in the stable, on the straw. So they went there for the night.

And while they were there, in the stable, their first child was born to
them, a little son. And because there was no cradle to put Him in, the
mother made a little warm nest of the hay in the big wooden manger where
the oxen had eaten, and wrapped the baby in swaddling clothes, and laid
Him in the manger, for a bed!

That same night, on the hills outside the town, there were shepherds,
keeping their flocks through the darkness. They were tired with watching
over the sheep, and they stood or sat about, drowsily, talking and
watching the stars. And as they watched, behold, an angel of the Lord
appeared unto them! And the glory of the Lord shone round about them! And
they were sore afraid. But the angel said unto them, "Fear not, for
behold I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all
people. _For unto you is born, this day, in the city of David, a
saviour,--which is Christ the Lord._ And this shall be a sign unto you: ye
shall find the babe, wrapped in swaddling clothes, _lying in a manger_."

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host,
praising God, and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth
peace, good will toward men."

When the angels were gone up from them into heaven, the shepherds said to
one another, "Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which
is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us." And they came,
with haste, and they found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a
manger. And when they saw Him in the manger, they knew that the wonderful
thing the angel said had really happened, and that the great deliverer was
born at last.





Next: THE CHILD-MIND; AND HOW TO SATISFY IT

Previous: THE LAST LESSON



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