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Carolyn Sherwin Bailey

The Story of the First Christmas Eve

A long way from here there is a little town called Bethlehem.

if you could go and spend Christmas Eve there this year, you would find it as it was Christmas Eve almost two thousand years ago. You would see small white houses with little gardens and grape-vines. And beyond the town are green hills where the shepherds keep their sheep.

The day before the first Christmas Eve, Joseph, a carpenter of Nazareth, came down the road to Bethlehem. He had business in Bethlehem and so he had left his shop for a while. With Joseph was Mary, his wife. She wanted to come with Joseph, but she was too tired and worn to walk in the road beside him. They had a small donkey that carried Joseph's wood on his back, and fruit from the market at home. Joseph had brought the donkey with him, and Mary rode upon it all the way to Bethlehem.

Mary's eyes were as loving and her smile as kind as your own dear mother's. She was just as tired, too, as you have sometimes seen your mother. All mothers must do a great deal for others and much that is hard to bear.

Joseph led the donkey slowly until they came to Bethlehem and went through the gate. There was an inn at Bethlehem where strangers could sleep. Joseph asked if he and Mary could stop there for the night.

"No," said the innkeeper. "There is no room."

There was no room for Joseph and Mary in any home in Bethlehem, either. As Joseph tried to find a resting place, the night came on. A bright star shone out in the sky, and by its light they came back to the stable of the inn. Through the open door of the stable they could hear the gentle lowing of cattle. It was as if the cows and oxen said, "Come in, we will welcome you."

Joseph helped Mary to alight from the donkey. He led her into the stable because there was no room for her in the inn. There they planned to sleep, and Mary lay down upon the hay.

On the green hills, outside of Bethlehem, the shepherds sat beside their sheep. It was just like any night to them. They nodded and almost slept. The shepherds did not know that it was Christmas Eve.

This is the story that the Bible tells us about the shepherds on Christmas Eve.

And there were shepherds in the same country abiding in the field, and keeping watch by night over their flock.

And an angel of the Lord stood by them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

And the angel said unto them, Be not afraid; for behold,

I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people.

For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord.

And this is the sign unto you: Ye shall find a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, and 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 among men in whom he is well pleased.

And it came to pass, when the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing that is come to pass, that the Lord hath made known unto us.

— Luke ii. 8-15.