“The Holy Bible: The Infancy Narratives”
St. Matthew, Chapter One and Two. St. Luke, Chapter One and Two
“The Night Before Christmas”
by Moore, Clement; photos by Raquel Jaramillo.
Atheneum Books for Young Readers, New York, 2001, 32 pages, All Ages.
Christmas is one of the happiest days of the year. We celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. The finest way to do this at home is to read one of the Infancy Narratives from the Bible.
St. Matthew emphasizes the role of St. Joseph in the birth of Our Lord. In Chapter One, an angel appears to St. Joseph in a dream and tells him: “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit, she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” This emphasizes St. Joseph’s earthly fatherhood as well as demonstrating that Jesus is the fulfillment of all the Old Testament prophesies concerning the Messiah.
St. Luke develops the role of the Blessed Mother in these marvelous events. In Chapter One, St. Luke recounts the Annunciation and the Visitation which culminates with one of the most profound prayers in all of Sacred Scripture, The Magnificat. In Chapter Two, St. Luke tells us of the birth of Jesus and of Mary wrapping Him in swaddling clothes and laying Him in a humble manger. In St. Luke’s Gospel we are introduced to the shepherds coming to greet and adore Jesus. Both Infancy Narratives of the birth of Our Lord are poignant, personal and edifying.
It is particularly instructive for the father or mother of the family to read one of these accounts before opening presents. My father-in-law, Edward Dailey, understood the beauty and need to share the accounts of the birth of the Messiah. Each Christmas Eve, before opening the presents, he would either read the Infancy Narrative from St. Matthew or St. Luke. The reading of the birth of Jesus by the patriarch of the family impressed the importance of this holy event. We all understood that the presents could wait, because God the Father had sent the perfect present to humanity.
In addition to this sacred material, the reading of a delightful poem such as “The Night Before Christmas” can add joy and spontaneity to Christmas Eve. Written by Clement Moore, a seminary professor of Oriental and Greek languages in New York, the poem was published anonymously in 1823. It became wildly popular and remains so to this day. One would hardly expect such a well-liked poem to have been written by a scholar of classical languages, but truth is stranger than fiction. The book is filled with photos of all the events in the poem. We see a family going to bed and later being awakened by the arrival of St. Nicholas and the tiny reindeer. All of the photographs depict the joy and happiness of the event as the family sees St. Nicholas filling the stockings with care. St. Nicholas has a happy face and truly is a “right jolly old elf.” When he goes up the chimney, readers will want to also say: “Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.”
As your family gathers together on this holy evening, I hope that you choose one of the Infancy Narratives for the joyful edification of your family. It is both instructive and pleasing for children to hear the Infancy Narratives.
Additionally, add to the pleasure and fun of the night by reading the delightful “The Night Before Christmas” by Clement Moore. You can help make Christmas Eve both instructive and entertaining for your family by using sacred and secular readings. I hope that you have a joyful Christmas.