A story a hundred years ago

By: Modesto P. Sa-onoy

This is a compelling story told a hundred years ago. Although it deals with the most popular event in human history, the appeal and message of this story is fresh as today’s headlines.  Robert Richie of America Needs Fatima shared it with me on Christmas Day with a request that I pass the story on. This is one request that cannot be passed over not only because the story is fascinating but because the message of the story is what this world needs, more than in any time of human civilization. Moreover, it is not a run-of-the-mill Christmas story.

The story is long but it would be unfair to cut it short so we will have the second part on January 4, a fitting end just before the Christmas season in the Philippines closes.

The title of the story is “The Holy Night” written for ANF by Selma Lagerlof.

“It was a Christmas day and all the folks had driven to church except Grandma and me. We had not been permitted to go along, because one was too old and the other was too young. And we were sad, the both of us, because we had not been taken to early Mass to hear the singing and to see the Christmas candles.

“But as we sat there in our loneliness, Grandmother began to tell a story.

“There was a man,” said she, “who went out into the dark night to borrow live coals to kindle a fire. He went from hut to hut and knocked. ‘Dear friends, please help me!” said he. ‘My wife has just given birth to a child, and I must make a fire to warm her and the little one.’

“But it was way in the night, and all the people were asleep. No one replied. The man walked and walked. At last he saw the gleam of a fire a long way off. Then he went in that direction and saw that the fire was burning in the open. A lot of sheep were sleeping around the fire and an old shepherd watched over the flock.

“When the man who wanted to borrow fire came up to the sheep, he saw that three big dogs lay asleep at the shepherd’s feet. All three awoke when the man approached and opened their great jaws, as though they wanted to bark. But not a sound was heard. The man noticed that the hair on their backs stood up and that their sharp, white teeth glistened in the firelight. They dashed toward him. He felt that one of them bit at his leg and one at his hand and that one clung to his throat. But their jaws and teeth wouldn’t obey them, and the man didn’t suffer the least harm.

“Now the man wished to go farther to get what he needed. But the sheep lay back to back and so close to one another that he couldn’t pass them. Then the man stepped on their backs and walked over them and up to the fire.  And not one of the animals awoke or moved.

“When the man had almost reached the fire, the shepherd looked up. He was a surly old man, who was unfriendly and harsh toward human beings. And when he saw the young man coming, he seized his long, spiked staff which he always held in his hand when he tended his flock and threw it at him. The staff came right toward the man, but before it reached him it turned off to one side and whizzed past him, far out into the meadow.

“Now the man came up to the shepherd and said to him, ‘Good man, help me and lend me a little fire! My wife has just given birth to a child, and I must make a fire to warm her and the little one.’

When we continue next Saturday, we will know how the surly man, angry at being disturbed in a cold night by a stranger, responded after seeing the unbelievable.