THE GREATEST GIFT
By Jennifer Leigh Edwards
(The Story of the Birth of Jesus)
Josephine was so excited, she was dancing around the room in joyful expectation. She had waited and waited for this day to come. It was her birthday, and she was having a party with all her friends. She knew there would be games to play, a special cake made just for her with her name on it, ice cream, and, of course, lots of gifts to open.
There was one particular gift that would make her the happiest girl in the whole world. She had asked her parents over and over for this gift, but they always said she needed to wait until she was a little older. Well, today she would be seven years old and she was certain that she was old enough for this special gift. She hoped against hope that her parents thought she was, too.
One by one, she opened gifts that all her friends had brought for her - a DOLL, a GAME, a STUFFED ANIMAL, some BOOKS, and even DRESS-UP CLOTHES. She was thrilled with all of her gifts and happily thanked everyone for being so kind to her. The party was tons of fun and everyone had a great time.
Toward the end of the party, her parents handed her some gifts to open. As she RIPPED the wrapping paper and opened the first box, she found two bowls. "What will I ever need these for?" she asked disappointedly, almost in tears.
Mother grinned and replied, "Don't be too disappointed yet. You never know what's in the next package." She could just imagine the joy that would soon fill her daughter's heart.
Next, Josephine opened a package with small stuffed animals. She liked them, but it wasn't at all what she was wanting. She put a fake smile on her face and reminded herself of what her mother had just said as she was handed another gift. This time when she opened the package, she could hardly contain her joy. "A LEASH!!! Could it be?" Josephine thought. "Could I really be getting the GREATEST GIFT EVER?"
More excitedly than ever, she continued opening gifts. She had received the FOOD, the BED, and even the TRAVELING CRATE. She and her friends were becoming more excited with each gift she opened, but there was still no puppy. Josephine was a little exasperated after she opened the very last gift. "But, Mom!" she whined. "Why did you get me all this stuff if I don't even have a puppy?"
Her Father saw her dismay and very quickly headed out to the garage. "Please excuse me," he said. "I think we have forgotten one more present for Josie." As he came back inside, Josie heard a slight whimper and the pitter-patter of tiny paws on the the kitchen floor. Suddenly, there in her lap was the most beautiful, chocolate colored bundle of joy she had ever seen.
She played with the puppy a few minutes and giggled as he licked her face with his rough, wet tongue. Then she jumped up and hugged her father tighter than she ever had. After all the waiting and anticipation, she had finally received the Greatest Gift of all.
Now let's talk about another Greatest Gift.
A Long, long, long, long time ago, in a town very far away, there was a man named Joseph who dearly loved a young lady named Mary. Mary had been told by God that she would be the mother of a very special baby boy. She was so excited! She just couldn't wait to hold her baby in her arms. She would make clothes for the baby, and Joseph, being a good carpenter, would make things the baby would need, like a cradle and special, child-sized furniture. They anxiously awaited the birth of their new son. It seemed that the day just couldn't come soon enough.
One day they received news that the king wanted everybody to be counted. He didn't want to just count all the people in one town, or two towns, or even three towns. He wanted to count all the people in the entire kingdom. And the king didn't think it would be good enough to simply go from house to house to determine how many people there were. No, he wanted every person to go back to the town in which they were born in order to be officially counted.
Mary and Joseph busily packed their clothes and other necessary items for their long journey. No one had cars or any type of vehicles back in those days, but they did have a donkey to help carry their load. Sometimes they would walk on the dusty roads, and sometimes Mary would ride on the donkey to rest her sore feet. Day after day, night after night, they kept moving. When nighttime came, they would try to find a room at an inn, so they could get a good night's sleep. But sometimes, since so many people were being forced to travel, it just wasn't possible to find a room, because all the rooms were taken.
It was a very long, very dusty, very tiring trip. Finally one night, they saw the small lights off in the distance. "We are almost there," Joseph told Mary. Then they started to go slightly faster. "What a beautiful city Bethlehem is from here!" Mary exclaimed. "I wonder if it is just as beautiful inside?"
Once inside the city gates, Joseph tried to get a room at the inn. Unfortunately, the inn keeper had to turn them down. "I'm sorry," he said. "There just aren't any more rooms."
"But we have been traveling for days, and we are so tired. Are you sure there is no place for us to stop and get some rest?" Joseph asked as calmly as he could. It was getting very late and he was getting quite frustrated, but he tried to be kind and patient.
Seeing the problem and feeling compassion, the inn keeper said, "Well, there are still no rooms, but I could offer you the stable." Now, a stable is actually a barn. It's a place the inn keepers kept the animals that were traveling with his guests. It wasn't a very good place to sleep. There were no beds, and it had a bad smell because of the variety of animals, but it was a shelter where they could lie down for the night.
Joseph thanked the inn keeper for his kindness and led the donkey to the the stable. Mary gathered piles of straw to make a semi-comfortable bed. They laid down for the night and were finally able to sleep.
But, suddenly, Mary woke up. She turned to awaken Joseph. "What is it?" Joseph asked sleepily. "I think the baby is coming tonight!" Mary said with excitement. Joseph bolted upright, forgetting how sleepy he was.
That night the special baby that had been promised to them was born. Mary cried for joy and cuddled him closely. Joseph took his turn holding the little baby. They didn't take long to decide what they were going to name the baby, because God had already told them the name. Joseph held the baby up and said "His name will be JESUS."
They wrapped him in a soft cloth to keep him warm, and Mary made a bed of straw in the manger, which was usually used for the hay that the cows eat. What a wonderful night it was there in the small stable! Baby Jesus, the GREATEST GIFT TO THE WORLD, was born that night.
Why did Mary and Joseph have to travel?
Why did they have to spend the night in a stable?
What is a manger?
What did Mary and Joseph name the new baby?
God gave us the greatest gift of all: JESUS!
A VERSE TO LEARN
"And she brought forth her first born son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger" (Luke 2:7a).
Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for this
special time of year when we can have fun and
spend time with our family, but, most of all,
thank You for sending Your Son, JESUS, Who is
the Best Gift of All. Amen.
CAN YOU FIND THIS STORY IN THE BIBLE?
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