Have you ever had a day that didn’t turn out how you expected? The characters in our story tonight all had days that started off ordinary but ended up extraordinary! Let’s hear about them now...
’Twas the night before Christmas
When all through the house
Not a creature was stirring
Not even a mouse
In the stable, however, a heifer was lowing
A cockerel was crowing
Anticipation was growing
As the signs were showing
The time was near.
Once upon a time, as all the best stories start, Mary was having a very ordinary day. The sun rose, the birds sang, the donkey chewed his hay. Mary was just sitting down for breakfast when a loud voice filled the air.
“Hello, my dear! The Lord is with you!”
Well, Mary jumped so high she spilled her cornflakes all over the table! She looked up and saw... an angel! An actual angel! He said:
“Don’t be scared, Mary.”
“God is going to bless you with a baby. You’ll call him Jesus, and he will be great. Greater than great! He’ll be the Son of God!”
“But I don’t understand,” said Mary, “I haven’t even married my boyfriend yet, how can I have a baby?”
“This will be the work of the Holy Spirit,” the angel replied.
Mary was more surprised than she’d ever been. This wasn’t Kinder-surprise, or even surprise-party-surprise; this was mouth open, heart booming, hands sweating and knees knocking surprise! But Mary loved God, and knew the angel was telling the truth, so, on that ordinary day turned extraordinary, she took a deep breath and said:
“I’m ready to serve God. May all this happen, just as you’ve said.”
And it did happen, just as the angel said! The greater than great baby started growing in Mary’s tummy, and Mary married Joseph, and they were both very excited about their special boy.
When the baby, and Mary’s tummy, were both growing bigger, Mary and Joseph needed to travel to a town called Bethlehem to sign some government forms. When they, and their very tired hay-chewing donkey, got to Bethlehem, the town was jam packed with people who had all come to sign their forms, too! It was so busy! All the hotels, pubs and Airbnbs were full to the brim, and all that was left was a stable!
So when Mary sat down that night, it wasn’t on a comfy bed, but on a hay bale. And when the greater than great baby was born, he wasn’t tucked up into a nice clean cot, but was laid in a manger, where the donkey had just been chewing the hay! Mary looked around the stable—messy, noisy and a bit animal-smelly—it wasn’t where she’d have chosen to have her baby, but at least it was warm. And nothing had really been normal recently anyway. It had been one of those years when everything had turned out a bit different from what she’d expected. But as she sat and looked at her brand new, scrunch-faced, wriggly little baby, she knew all of the angel’s words had come true. God really had blessed her. And her blessing was called Jesus.
The shepherds’ story
’Twas the night before Christmas
When all through the streets
Stillness settled like blankets
Save a few distant bleats.
In the hills, however, the skies suddenly resounded
And sheep scattered, confounded
While shepherds watched, astounded
Glory! Hallelujah! Angelic joy abounded!
The time was here.
While Mary was snug and warm in the stable, high in the hills above Bethlehem, some busy shepherds were having a very ordinary night, sheep-watching and shivering in the clear, cold night. Suddenly, the sky was filled with a blazingly brilliant light and an angel appeared among them.
“Don’t be scared, shepherds!”
Their shivering turned into shaking and they were terrified! The angel spoke again;
“Really, there’s no need to be so scared! I’m here to tell you wonderful and joyful news, for everybody everywhere. A baby has been born, and he is greater than great and will save the world! Go down into Bethlehem and look for a baby, snuggled in blankets and sleeping in a manger.”
All at once the clear, cold night sky was filled with angels as far as the busy shepherds could see, all singing at the tops of their voices wonderful and joyful praises to God.
“Glory to God in the highest...”
The angels carried on celebrating as they left, leaving echoes of praise bouncing around the hills. The busy shepherds stood looking at each other in amazement, then their excitement burst out and they all started talking at the same time!
“Wow! This is amazing!”
Come on, let’s go!”
“Did the angel say a manger?!”
“Quick, run faster, I can’t wait to see!”
And whooping with excitement, the busy shepherds ran all the way to Bethlehem!
When they reached the stable, they burst in through the door and found Mary and Joseph, and saw Jesus lying in the manger, just as the angel had said. Then they told Mary and Joseph (and everyone else they saw!) all about the angels and what they’d been told about Jesus being greater than great. Mary heard their words and held them close, like a favourite present.
Then the busy shepherds burst back out of the stable, full of excitement about their ordinary night turned extraordinary, and sang God’s praises all the way back up to the hills, sounding just as joyful and wonderful as a whole choir of angels!
The Magi’s story
’Twas the night before Christmas
When all through the town
People slept dreamless-deep
Barely making a sound.
In the east, however, excitement was growing
As the far star was glowing
And the Magi watched, knowing
That the signs were all showing
The time was near
Far to the East, some clever Magi were having a very ordinary night, discussing clever ideas about the world and clever ways of looking at the stars in the sky. Suddenly, one of them spotted something that wasn’t ordinary at all: a brand new star.
“Look what I’ve found!” He called.
“Well, I don’t think that was there before,” said one of the clever Magi.
“I know that wasn’t there before, said another.
“It definitely wasn’t there before,” said the first one, “And I know exactly what it means!”
He told the other Magi the star meant a baby had been born who was greater than great and would be the King of the Jewish people, and if they followed the star they’d be able to find him. The others thought this sounded like an exciting adventure! As they hurried to pack their camels with clothes and food and gifts for the new King, they all agreed their ordinary night had turned extraordinary!
The excited Magi travelled for many months, always making sure to point their camels straight towards the star. Finally, they arrived at the palace of King Herod. Being clever Magi, they were sure the greater than great future-king would have been born in a palace, so they parked their camels, gathered their gifts and headed inside to see King Herod and ask to see the new baby.
Well, King Herod was very surprised to see these Magi from the East in his palace! And he was even more surprised by the questions they asked him about this new King of the Jewish people! How dare they?! He was the only king around here... wasn’t he?
Herod was jealous and wanted to make sure this baby would never grow up to be king, but he pretended to the Magi that he was just as excited as they were. He told them to look for the baby in Bethlehem, saying, “Be sure to let me know when you find him so I can visit him, too,” because he wanted to go and kill the baby. Sneaky Herod!
The clever Magi went on their way, following the star until it suddenly stopped, hovering over the place where Jesus was. The Magi were full of joy and very excited! They’d finally made it! They hurried on, and found the greater than great baby with Mary, and they bowed down in awe and worshipped him. Then they unpacked their camels and gave Jesus the gifts they’d brought, glittering gold, fragrant frankincense and mournful myrrh.
“Oh!” said Mary, “how thoughtful of you.”
After the Magi had spent time worshipping Jesus, it was time to leave. On the way, when they were having a well-earned rest, they dreamed about Herod. The dream warned them not to go back to jealous Herod, so when they woke up, the clever Magi pointed their camels in a different direction and started their long journey home.
After everyone had left, Mary smiled to herself as she thought about her ordinary year turned extraordinary. She remembered the busy shepherds, as they tumbled into the stable, full of excitement. She remembered the clever Magi, as they worshipped the baby and gave him their special gifts. And she remembered the words of the angel all that time ago: “God is going to bless you with a baby, and he will be great. Greater than great! He’ll be the Son of God!” And as Mary looked down at her beautiful baby, asleep in her arms, she whispered, “You really are extraordinary, Jesus!”
Thanks for joining me tonight. And now it’s time for me to hang up my stocking and settle down to sleep so tomorrow will come quicker! I hope you all have an extraordinary Christmas Day! Night night.