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Greatest Story Ever Told

                                                                                                                                                                                    by F. Marie Foley


 In the days leading up to December 25th, thousands of people will fill airports, train stations and use any other means of transportation available to travel home for Christmas. The destination itself and the celebrations anticipated uppermost in their mind; the journey itself just another ordinary trip.

 In December 1944 there was a soldier that had been badly wounded in the war and was being sent home. Because of the Army misplacing his paperwork, he was delayed and was finally able to leave three days later than anticipated at 9 p.m. in a blinding snow storm.

 A cheerful conductor wishing him a Merry Christmas awoke him to the astonishing fact that it was Christmas Eve. He felt cheated. After being away from home the past two Christmases he would now spend all of Christmas Eve traveling. Traveling was what he had been doing now for three years; traveling that led to pain and suffering.  He should, he felt, have at least remembered what day it was.

 Looking around him, for the first time, he saw that he was on an empty train except for three other people. He heard the others exchanging their reasons for a late departure. A doctor by the name of Stephens, said he had been to a convention and had come down with the flu, which delayed his trip. A powerfully built young man by the name of John Allen said he had such a good hand of cards that he was bound to stay at the poker table and missed his appointed train. Miss Emily Dooley, seventy five was on her way to spend Christmas with her elderly parents who were ninety seven. Miss Dooley blamed her own procrastination.

 The soldier watching the whirling gusts of snow whipping past the window was thinking how long it had been since as a small boy he had gone alone into the fields on his family’s farm late on Christmas Eve and in the stillness of the night the wonder and the majesty of Christmas had filled his heart with Joy.

 Dr. Stephens and Miss. Emily begin to tell stories about Christmas celebrations to pass the time. The soldier tuned them out until he heard young John Allen say, “We can all tell stories about Christmas, why doesn’t somebody write a story about getting to Christmas?”

 Dr. Stephens said, “Maybe that’s because nothing happens to people on their way to celebrate Christmas is as interesting as the celebration itself.” “That must be the answer,” Miss Emily said, “after all; thousands of people are doing it at the same time. It’s just an ordinary trip. Why should anyone want to write about it?”

 The soldier with a quiver in his voice spoke for the first time, “I know a story he said, about extraordinary things that sometime happen to people who think they are going on a perfectly ordinary trip.” Surprised, the other three passengers listened with anticipation, thinking he was going to tell a story about his experience in the war.

 Taking a small battered New Testament from his jacket pocket and turning to the Gospel according to Luke, he read the most extraordinary description that has ever been written about what the participants thought at the time was a perfectly ordinary trip:

 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem (because he was of the house and lineage of David), to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son. And wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone around about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them,

 “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, 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 towards men”.






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