CHRISTMAS BY CANDLELIGHT
HEDWIG LEWIS SJ
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The stories in this book are like multi-coloured Christmas candles that light up your life. Some stories have an air of intimacy and confidentiality, some produce moods of joy and enthusiasm, some lead to prayer. And the book, like a sumptuous Christmas dinner, provides appetizing food-for-thought, nourishment for the heart, and energy for the body. The stories inspire, inform, enlighten, transform and motivate.
Moreover, there is an important symbol attached to the humble candle.
Christmas Candle is a lovely thing;
Practically all the stories in this book highlight this significance of the spirit of Christmas as exemplified by the candle. The stories are all about self-giving – the most important and most genuine gift one can give anyone during this season and all through life. For did not the Son of God "empty himself" of his divinity and become a helpless child in the arms of humanity, so as to bring joy and healing to all God's children?
Readers who are familiar with my earlier works, particularly the ‘Mirrors’-trilogy, will know that I am an avid collector of stories, anecdotes, poems and quotes. I’ve been at it for over a quarter of a century and have built quite a repertoire. The materials, which I have collected from magazines, newspapers, books, posters, calendars, homilies, lectures ..., have been a great source of inspiration to me, in the first place, and have come in handy for my priestly ministries.
Christmas By Candlelight is not a comprehensive anthology of any sort. It is just a random collection of Christmas stories, some of which I had found over a dozen years ago (when I had not the least intention of writing a book) during my stay in the U.S. and London. Since I have not preserved the references to their sources, I regret my inability to make due acknowledgement, but I am grateful to the authors and publishers for providing the material used here. Almost all the stories have been ‘retold’, ‘adapted’ or compiled from different sources.
The book has two sections. The first contains stories from life-experiences or fantasy. Each of the stories has an inspiring Christmas theme. The second contains ‘stories’ that are based partly on fact, and partly on legends or myths.
Though these are ‘Christmas stories’ in the strict sense, they tell of universal values of caring and sharing, loving and giving. Christmas may be one day on the calendar, its celebration may extend a week, but its ‘spirit’ must be lived and experienced throughout life. This book is one of those rare Christmas gifts that come in handy any time of the year.
Read these beautiful, inspiring stories by ‘candlelight’– when your mind is stilled and your heart quietened. They will enhance the joys of Christmas. They will revive the Christmas spirit.
This night -- a cold one -- I was in the railroad yards of a midwest town I no longer recall. to escape the penetrating cold, four other men and I climbed to a boxcar. Soon the train began to move and as it picked up speed, the wind pushed through the cracks in the doors. The cold inside soon became as fierce as it had been outside. The car had been used for hauling flour and had some sheets of paper in it. We wrapped them around our shivering bodies, but we were still cold.
Then one young man with a Spanish accent said, "We make a star for warm. We sit on the floor back to back." He tucked the paper all around us and took a place for himself. We sat huddled there with knees drawn and toes pointed out. Gradually heat from our bodies spread from one man to another, warming us.
The young fellow began to sing Noche de amor, noche de paz. The rest of us joined in with the familiar words, Silent Night, Holy Night. We sang for a long time, cosy and warm, until I dozed off, dreaming of other Christmases. When dawn came, and the train stopped, we went our separate, lonely ways.
That was long ago and my Christmases are comfortable and happy ones now. But I've never forgotten those fellows who shared the boxcar with me, and I give thanks for them often. Especially to the young Spanish man who showed us that no matter how bleak and difficult circumstances may be, it is always possible to be warmed by the light of the CHRISTMAS STAR. Rod Dyer, A Different Kind Of Star
CHRISTMAS FLORA AND FAUNA
.... It is impossible to prove the veracity of legends, but Christmas is a time for mysteries, which provide the stuff of which charming tales are made. Let us take a few. There are many fables which attempt to explain why robins are red-breasted. A Christmas story tells of the robin at the stable in Bethlehem. The fire which Mary had lit to warm the infant Jesus was beginning to die, so the robin flapped his wings feverishly in order to revive the flame. He came so close to the embers that the glow was reflected on his breast where it has remained ever since.
There is a legend about a beetle which was nestled in the roof of the stable at Bethlehem when the choirs of angels poured out their hosannas at the birth of the Messiah. The beetle implored the angel that he be allowed to announce this good news to other creatures. The angel was so thrilled at this earnest request from such a lowly creature that he patted the beetle with his bright wings, and set it aglow. The beetle, commonly known as the glow-worm, never lost this light!
In parts of Britain tradition has it that if you listen outside the bee-hive at Christmas you will hear the bees humming their praise of the newly-born Christ-child. In William Drummond's The Shepherd's Song, "springs ran nectar, honey dropped from trees" during Christmas. And in Shakespeare's Hamlet, Marcellus invokes the seasons "Wherein our Saviour's birth is celebrated, The bird of dawning singeth all night long."
I think that I shall never be,
... In another school Nativity Play, a small boy was bitterly disappointed when instead of being cast as Joseph he was given the minor role of innkeeper. During the rehearsals he plotted on how he could avenge himself on his successful rival.
On the evening of the public performance, an enthusiastic audience watched the Christmas scene unfold on stage. In the dark of the night, Joseph and Mary came to the inn. Joseph knocked on the door anxiously. The innkeeper opened it just a wee bit, eyed the couple with indifference, and turned up his nose.
Joseph recited his lines of entreaty: "Could you please give us board and lodge for the night?" He then stood back expecting the rebuff. Instead, the innkeeper flung the door wide open, flashed his pleasantest smile, and cried, "Of course. Do come in. You will have the best room available."
Joseph, with great presence of mind,
turned to Mary and said, "Wait here. Let me take a look first." He
scoured the scene over the shoulder of the innkeeper, shook his head
disapprovingly, and said: "Mary, the place looks awful. Let's return to
that stable we had seen before."
Excerpts from Reviews