The First Christmas
"We're not going to make it, are we?" the woman said, and pulled her
shawl tighter. The snow was getting worse and the winds seemed to hurl
the icy flakes at them with menace. Joseph held her tighter to his chest
and said something, but the wind snatched it away before she could hear
They had been travelling through this storm for three hours and they
were still two miles from Bethlehem. Joseph pulled hard on the donkey's
rope bringing the poor animal to its knees. A small bray fled from its
lips but Joseph knew it would be safer closer to the ground than to let
it endure the icy blasts standing.
The three lonely figures bowed into the oncoming storm. Mary felt the
dampness through her tunic and knew what was happening - her waters had
broken and the aches had become stronger. The wind eased, letting the
snow find its own way to earth. Mary reached up to Joseph's ear and
whispered: "I don't have much time". This made Joseph look down from the
blizzard and his eyes widened with awe as he saw the darkening stain on
The winds came again and the snow felt like needles against Joseph's
face. His eyes narrowed as he searched around for somewhere to hide from
the storm, but the darkness seemed to creep closer and a feeling of
hopelessness came over him. Mary clutched her husband's body and
shivered with fear. She realized that death was close.
Then Joseph's face changed and Mary followed his gaze. He seemed to have
seen something or someone in the white world that held sway. She also
felt his heart beat faster as he sat up. Out there, in the swirling
cold, was a person, a shape that had no right to be out in this fierce
storm. The shape moved as if the blasting wind had no effect, as if the
icy shards glanced off the enigmatic form.
Joseph called out and waved, and Mary saw the shape wave back as its
pace became faster. Joseph reached for the lantern - it was half buried
in the snow and the flame was dwindling in the increasing cold - and he
held it into the air. The shape moved closer.
As the faint light of the lantern fought through the blackness, Joseph
saw that the shape was a man and, even though the darkness was king
tonight, he saw that the man was dressed in black. He wondered where
this person had come from. Joseph had checked his map earlier using the
last rays of the sun fading over the mountains to the west, and he knew
that there wasn't any town or village in the vicinity.
As the man in black loomed closer, Mary slowly rose to her feet in an
effort to see how he could plough his way through the maelstrom with
such ease - the storm seemed to mean nothing to him. Joseph pulled the
mule closer and helped Mary to climb on. He noticed a small cry from her
lips as she carefully mounted the saddle. The snow clung to Mary's hair
and her eyes told of misery and pain. Joseph cupped her chin and shouted
for her to hold on.
The darkly garbed man strode to the couple and smiled, a strange gesture
in this situation, Joseph thought, as there seemed no end to this storm.
Joseph held the lantern high and looked at the stranger from the dark.
His clothes looked as if they were made from the blackest of nights and
Joseph wondered which part of Israel he was from. The stranger's face
was wrapped in rather long sideburns and his head seemed to be shaved
at the back.
"Hello, you look lost," the man called and the wind made the sound
faint. Joseph nodded and the man pointed back to from where he came, his
other hand curved round his mouth to shield it from the wind.
"There is a town just a few hundred yards from here," he shouted. Again,
Joseph nodded and set off the way the man had pointed, although he
didn't know how he could have missed a whole town on the map. The wind
died and the snowfall became small flurries as the odd group made their
way to find shelter.
After a while the stranger began to look puzzled. "What's wrong good
sir?" Mary inquired. She knew it was rude to speak to a male stranger
without her spouse's permission, but she felt that this was an
The man looked around and shrugged. "It doesn't make sense. I was
delivering some presents to the orphanage and Michael and myself had
just crossed the forecourt with the gifts when I suddenly found myself
alone and out here in the middle of nowhere."
The man seemed confused as his eyes panned around as if looking for some
clue. Joseph patted the donkey's nose as he neared the stranger and
said: "I am Joseph and this is my wife, Mary. She is heavy with child
and I must get her under shelter as she is about to give birth."
Joseph's face was a mask. The man nodded and then beamed at Mary. "I'm
The Honourable Secretary of The Domino League and I've lost my
guard...er friend, but while I'm here, I'll assist where I can," he chirped.
He thrust his hand out and pumped Joseph's energetically.
"We'll have her indoors before you can say double six!" he said and
looked down to focus on buttoning his long black coat. A few minutes
later, a small building came into view and the two men glanced at each
other with relief. Mary saw the exchange and smiled to herself as
another spasm raced through her body. The building was a small stable
and Hon trotted forward to open the door to get his new found friends in
out of the weather.
Mary slumped forward and Joseph caught her as she slid off the donkey.
Hon held the animal as Joseph placed his wife on a small pile of straw.
"Is she okay?" Hon whispered, before leading the beast into a stall in
the rear of the stable. Mary grimaced as more pain came and she
whispered something to her husband. Joseph nodded and stood up, and met
Hon Sec as he reappeared with the blanket from the donkey.
"You are indeed a kind man sir, but can we have some privacy for my wife
is to give issue." Joseph watched the man's expression as he said this,
but the man simply smiled and nodded.
"If I'm correct, you and your good wife have travelled here to give
birth to the son of God, uh?" Hon Sec said and glanced at Mary as she
rummaged through her shoulder bag. Joseph gasped and stepped back. Mary
stopped her foraging and a fearful look came across her face. "How did
you know this, are you an angel of the Lord?" Mary asked. Her voice was
soft, but a tremble lay in her words.
Hon Sec put his hands up to indicate calmness. "My good lady, I know of
many things, but I think I've stumbled into a past event that sages and
theologians down the ages have pondered and debated. Did it happen or
Hon chuckled and folded the donkey blanket and placed it on the harness
ledge. He turned and walked towards the door. "We'll talk later, but if
I'm right, I have to go and get some people," he said, looking into the
snow-laden sky through the small gap in the door.
"Ah, there's the star, we're well on the way," he said stepping out into
the white world. It was an hour later when the three kings arrived, the
long line of camels, horses, slaves and carts crunched their way through
the deep crust and the velvet curtain of the night.
Hon stood on the lonely path and waved at the three leading camel
riders. The snorting and belching of the animals seemed loud in the icy
air. The men astride the beasts wore robes of silk and ermine with
jewelled crowns glittering on their heads.
Hon pointed to the dimly lit stable and the royalty and its entourage
trudged on. Hon blew into his hands and stamped his feet as he waited
for the next lot to show. He had just lit up his second cigarette when
the shepherds came wandering over the hill. Hon unbuttoned his coat and
hid behind a small bush nearby.
The three simple-minded herdsmen led their sheep across the path and Hon
could hear their angry voices as they wove their way towards the next
hill. Hon jumped out with a shout. He knew the distance would stop them
from identifying him in the future and he thought his dark clothing
against the black night would confuse them.
"Behold," Hon called and leapt out from behind the bush. "I am the Angel
of the Lord and I bring you good tidings." Hon flapped his coat to
indicate wings while his cheeks blushed with embarrassment. The
shepherds jumped in shock and some of the sheep close to Hon Sec slid
and skidded away in fright.
Hon continued: "Not far from here a baby lies sleeping in a manger. He
will grow to be the son of God. You will go and pay homage to the infant
and the Lord will be one with you." Hon grimaced at the last bit - it
sounded naff! The shepherds huddled together, their faces showing their
fear. They looked about for a route of escape.
Hon took a deep draw on his cigarette, making his face glow in the light
from the ember. "Fear ye not simple herdsmen, the Lord demands this," he
called and flapped his coat for emphasis. The men nodded, but seemed
unconvinced and Hon shouted: "Go to that stable now or I'll smite thee!"
The men ran off in the right direction, their sheep following at their heels
Hon buttoned his coat and looked up into the starry sky. "Thank you," he
whispered and smiled.
It was ten minutes later that Hon Sec saw the wise men wandering towards
him. He wondered how wise they could be, to be out on a night like this.
The men slipped and stumbled across the deep snow and Hon moved to help
one of them up from the ground. He wiped the snow from his gown.
"We are here to pay homage to the son of God. Do ye know where he
abides?" This question came from a bearded gent who was wrapped in a
bearskin collared cape.
Hon bowed and pointed towards the stable. "This way gentlemen, he
slumbers hither," he said, just then noticing the sage's puzzled
expression. "Are you from Egypt, young sir?" the ancient man asked.
"Your accent is strange," he whispered.
Hon coughed and muttered: "I travel many lands." The puzzling statement
hung in the frosty air. The old men went towards the barn and Hon
followed at a distance. He knew he had to keep well out of the way if
this was going to go right. He smiled to himself as he thought of the
problems it would cause if he was mentioned by name in the story.
In the stable the group jostled for a place near the manger, so much so
Joseph had to stand up and ask them to move to give his wife some space.
The crowd shuffled back and waited for a glimpse of the baby. Hon stood
near the door and watched the faces of the audience as Mary picked the
infant from the hay-filled manger. A gasp rose as she held the sleeping
baby up to the light.
Joseph had quietly made his way to the door of the barn and watched to
see if any of the crowd would move closer. At the door, Joseph said:
"Thank you for finding these folk. I was told that this would come to
pass, but I was an unbeliever." He looked at the ground and pushed straw
around with his sandled foot.
"Hon patted his shoulder and said "Hey, I would have doubts if someone
told me. Anyway, we're here now."
An hour later, the audience was starting to get restless and one of the
kings came to Hon Sec. He walked with dignity, his gathered robes laid
over his arm. He looked Hon up and down and said: "Young sir, what is
required of us now?"
Hon had been leaning against a post near the goat pen, his arms folded
and he hadn't noticed the man approach. Hon smiled at the old man and
straightened up. "Have you given him your gifts?" he asked and lit a
cigarette. The king focused on Hon's lighter and he quickly put it back
in his pocket. "We bear no gifts, the scriptures make no mention of it,"
the king snorted, and put his hands on his hips.
Hon stared back at the ageing royal. "You mean no gifts for the young
'un?" he whispered. Looking towards the loft where the doves cooed and
wandered the beams, Hon sighed. He realized that no matter where in the
world, or what age it might be, it always came down to the same thing -
Hon Sec sorts it out.
"Okay, give me a minute," he hissed and moved off towards the shepherds.
As he approached the three simpletons, Hon held his hands up and smiled.
"Do you have anything to give to the saviour of mankind?" he asked. The
men looked confused. Hon went on slower. "What is in the bag," he asked
pointing at the sack behind them.
"Err...we were on our way to wash our socks when the angel appeared."
They followed Hon's pointing finger. "It's soap powder," one of them
said, looking at the floor shamefully.
Hon reached forward and lifted the sack into the light. A large box lay
inside. He pulled it from the bag. Hon looked at the brand name and bit
his lip with anger. The huge red letters proclaimed the soap as BOLD and
Hon shook his head as he realized where this was going.
The king who had questioned Hon earlier came over and tapped him lightly
on the shoulder. Hon turned and raised an eyebrow to show his disdain at
being prodded. "I bring ermine to line the bed of the saviour - it's
fine ermine," the old man said and thrust it into Hon's hands.
Hon gathered the gifts and walked to the wise men, the three of them
seemed to be about two hundred years old and Hon bent down to where they
were sat. He saw that one of the sages was drawing on an old parchment
the Nativity scene and Hon noted that the artwork was really good.
The nearest wise man looked around at Hon and winked, his lips flapping
across his toothless mouth in a smile. "Don't worry young fella, we
didn't leave you out," he whined - Hon could smell cheap wine on his
breath. The old man leaned forward and picked up a large piece of paper
and placed it in Hon's waiting hands. Hon thanked them and stood up to
study the drawing and immediately jammed his fist into his mouth to stop
himself laughing out loud. The man had drawn Hon leaning against the
post near the goat pen, a reinforcement bolt had been put through the
gnarled wood and because of the angle and the height, it looked as if
Hon had bolts through his neck. The old man had also emphasized Hon's
frown line on his forehead. He knew who he looked like.
Hon walked into the lantern-lit area near the manger and laid the gifts
at Mary's feet. "These are for the baby, dear lady, these people," Hon
waved his hand at the audience who sat beaming at the scene before them,
"these people have given the Lord's son, gifts of...", Hon's head sagged
with mock sadness. He couldn't believe he was going to say it: "They
bring you, BOLD, fur and Frankenstein"
The crowd applauded and whooped, making the baby cry at the sudden
noise. Hon looked at the stable roof and gritted his teeth. He stepped
back, smiling and waving and made his way to the stable door. Joseph
stood near the entrance and shook Hon's hand as he neared him. "I'd like
to thank you for all you've done," Joseph said placing his hand on Hon's
shoulder. Hon nodded and smiled, but his eyes told of his disappointment
of the scene in the stable.
The Sunday school lessons and the 'Frankie goes to Hollywood' video
would never be the same for him. "I've got to go now Joseph, but I can
tell you everything will be alright." Hon smiled and walked out into the
He was wagging his head at the pantomime he'd witnessed - another part
of history that needed tweaking. He jammed his hands into his pockets
and smiled. More applause started inside and Hon turned swiftly and
ungainly slipped and fell head first into a heap of snow near the door.
"Are you alright, boss?" Michael asked and tapped Hon on the cheek. He
was crouched over Hon, concern on his face. Hon opened his eyes and
looked up at the worried giant. A rush of happiness swept over Hon and
he smiled to tell Michael he was okay. "Help me up will you," Hon
whispered and grunted as he stood.
Michael peered at Hon and said: "You blacked out for a minute, I was
scared." Hon looked at his red hands. They felt like chunks of cold
meat. "Well, I'm back now," he muttered and looked around to check that
he was correct.
The orphanage lights painted orange rectangles from the windows onto the
snow and Hon could see the presents that he had dropped. "Come on Mikey,
let's get this done," Hon said and patted his friend on the arm. They
both gathered their gifts together and made towards the main door. Hon
looked up at the starry sky and smiled. Onwards, he thought, and stepped
into the light.