The packed crowd is hushed. In the silence a lone treble voice pipes up, “Once, in Royal David’s City, stood a lowly cattle shed; where a mother laid her baby in a manger for his bed.” Is this the “Once upon a time” of fairy tales? Or the definitive “once” of reality? A sentimental story or history-changing facts of eternal consequences?

Luke’s Biblical narrative of Jesus’ birth is brief. It tells of Mary, Joseph, angels and shepherds, plus an old male priest and an old female prophet. And a baby of course. Why, more than two millennia later, do we still sing and celebrate the birth of Jesus? The key, now as then, is that it’s good news for a world in turmoil.

Musicians: Bach, Tavener… and writers: Dickens, Hardy… and artists: Botticelli, Bruegel… have all been inspired by the birth of Jesus. In John Betjeman’s poem, Christmas, he poses the question:

And is it true? And is it true,
This most tremendous tale of all…
The Maker of the stars and sea
Become a Child on earth for me ?

Well, what do you think? Is it true? Luke wrote at the beginning of his gospel account to Theophilus: “Many people have done their best to write a report of the things that have taken place among us… Because I have carefully studied all these matters from their beginning, I thought it would be good to write an orderly account for you. I do this so that you will know the full truth.”

Each of us has a choice: to think it’s a sentimental fairy tale or to believe it as life-changing truth.


2 thoughts on “ONCE… BUT IS IT TRUE?

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