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Remember the Night of the Star

Updated: Dec 10, 2023

A Children's Christmas Story by Beth M. Stephenson

Painting:"A Snowy Christmas Tree" by Beth M. Stephenson


Both the image and story are copyrighted and may be printed for personal use only. Neither may be used for any commercial or money-making purpose. If you're not sure, contact me!



 

Deep in the woods of Alaska, hundreds of miles from the nearest road, there is a quiet clearing. In the summertime, the deer graze there and the rabbits burrow under its rocks and roots, safe and snug. The sun never bothers to go to bed and spends all his day growing cabbages, carrots and creatures to huge proportions.

Fall brings chilly winds. The sun seems weary and in a hurry. Moose turn their heads to their winter fields farther south. The bears curl up in their caves to sleep and grow their families. The Arctic foxes, a quiet brown in the summer, burst into their luxurious, white fur coats. Rabbits, too, grow pale from lack of sunshine.

By November, the landscape is still and the Aurora Borealis undulates like the chiffon nightgowns of dancing faeries overhead.

It seems that winter’s grip will only tighten as the weeks stretch long and cold into December, but that is not completely true. While the bears and bats, squirrels and marmots are napping well by the solstice, they have tuned their ears for a certain sound that comes on Christmas Eve.

The deer and moose, the elk and foxes have waited within a two day's walk of the clearing.

Christmas Eve, they come from their dens and burrows, their pastures and caves, their woodland shelters and snowy fields to the Christmas clearing. The cacophony that ensues summons the hybernators out of their dens.

They’ve been doing it for almost 2000 years. Though their memories dim as each month passes, still, they return in half-remembered hope that the great transformation has begun.

This gathering began one night when a brilliant new star hung in the heavens. The animals woke to the sound of angel's rejoicing and filling the heavens with glorious light. The animals stared up in wonder and the Aurora Borealis seemed to caress and swirl around the sparkling star, as though it had loved it from the dawn of time.

 It took thirty-six years before the white sheep arrived at the clearing to explain.  Their faces glowed with heavenly light and joy, and for the first time, they opened their mouths to speak in a language that all the animals in the clearing could understand.

They carried with them a lovely box. When they removed the lid, the light of a brilliant star burst out. They explained that it was fashioned by a carpenter who had carved both the box and the star from a local olive tree and covered it with gold he had received for his birthday. The beautiful star in heaven had shone on the crafted gold and caused it to glow and sparkle and to shed it’s light in every direction.

How the animals gasped and grunted in joy! The starlight flooded the clearing and the darkness retreated far into the distance.

The sheep explained that the beautiful star they had seen in the heavens many years ago was a signal for a baby born in a place for animals. He was not just any baby, but the Prince of Peace and the One to redeem all the earth.

How the assembly cheered to hear that there were donkeys, cows, sheep, sparrows, bats and mice who witnessed the glorious child. The oldest sheep had seen him with his own eyes. He said the baby seemed ordinary enough for a human baby, except for the starlight that streamed onto his sleeping face.

The sheeps' shepherds had spoken to each other, saying that He was the source of light and life! All the stars shone because of him, and all the earth would honor him.

While the animals listened to the strange tale, they couldn’t take their eyes from the brilliant, golden star the sheep held.

But the rabbits and squirrels were so tiny that they didn’t have a clear view. They jumped and strained to see the golden star the sheep had brought.

 “Let’s put it on the treetop!” a great, tall moose exclaimed. He was feeling especially tender toward the helpless little creatures as he looked at the beautiful star. Everyone in the glow of the star felt more kindly than ever before.

The tall grizzly bear rose up on his hind legs and the sheep gave him the star. He fastened it with a long strand of reed to the tip-top branch of a fir. All the creatures cheered, because now, wherever you stood in the field, you could see the star and even feel its warmth.

The sheep went on with their story. The animals cheered again when they heard how the baby grew into a man and he had continued to shed his light and love to everyone He met. But then his blood had dripped like rain below the tree where he was hung by wicked men.

 He did it, the sheep explained, so that his light would never stop showing the way and bringing everyone back into the heavens.

 That made little sense to the assembled animals, and they wept and groaned among themselves that men must be very cruel creatures indeed. Great tears fell from their eyes onto the snow where they froze into crystal droplets.   

“Oh, be glad!” the sheep exclaimed. “For he did not stay dead! He rose again and went to heaven, but he promises to return one day and rule for a thousand years. Then, there will be peace!”

A great roar of joy rose from the animals. When the light of the star shown down on them, they wanted nothing more than to have peace. Many of them spent their springs and summers hunting the very creatures that surrounded the star now. The rest spent their springs and summers hunting for food and hiding from the other assembled animals. But just then, with the star shining in their eyes, killing or being killed seemed no better than the cruel men.

The mother fox, who was feeling especially hopeful for the promised peace spoke softly. “Let us gather winter berries and decorate the tree with them. Perhaps they will remind us of the drops of blood that fell to the ground to bring new life and peace!

"YES!" The sheep cried. "Use this box that carried the star to gather the berries!"

There was great scurrying and rushing about as the animals raided currant bushes that surrounded the clearing for their dried and frozen red berries.  As the box travelled from paw to paw, the red juice from the berries stained the box a deep red.Before long, the golden star shone down on a tree garlanded with red berries.

“That will surely remind us!” The sheep said. He placed the empty red box under the tree.

"Perhaps it will provide food for the little creatures so they can live without fear."


“What kind of peace?” The old mother grizzly bear asked uneasily. "I feed myself and my young on these other sorts. How can I live without eating them?” She gestured with her great paw toward the other animals.

The largest sheep cleared his throat. “He promised that we can all eat grass when he comes again. There will be no more killing. That’s the way it used to be, when the earth was young. So that will be the way it is when He comes again.”

The snow began to fall as the animals looked long and thoughtfully at one another. Then a tiny squirrel raised his voice. “There’s something tasty falling out of the sky!”

The animals held out their tongues and found that the snow tasted like sugar candy. They laughed and danced and licked their smiling lips.

Soon the creatures began to play games with each other. The bears gave the squirrels rides on their backs and the rabbits and foxes rolled snowballs and then ate them very politely as snuggled together under the star tree.

All through the hours of Christmas day, the animals frolicked together, laughing, singing and telling their favorite jokes.

But as the hour of midnight drew on, the light of the star began to wane. The animals were very tired. The bleating of the sheep that had certainly sounded like words just moments before began to sound like bleating once again. The bear slid on a stone and cursed the moose he believed had bumped him. The moose started a retort, but it ended in nothing more than an unintelligible grunt.

One by one, family by family, they wandered off, growling, chittering, and yipping to themselves. As the animals wandered away from the tree, the light of the star dimmed and it’s warmth receded.

At last, there were only two youngsters left, a little white fox and her new friend, a young white rabbit. They had fallen asleep against the warmth of the star tree’s trunk with their bellies full of sugar snow.

The two little friends got chilly and woke up.

“Where did everybody go?” the fox wondered.

“They must have gone home again,” the rabbit answered. “Look how dim the star has gotten! I think it might go out altogether.”

“That would be so sad!” the fox cried. “What a wonderful time we have had playing and feasting and hearing dozens of new jokes! When the light goes away, will we remember? What if we don’t?”

Tears started in the rabbit’s eyes. “Perhaps you’ll want to eat me after all!”

“Never!” cried the little fox. “I want to eat grass in the summer and sugar snow in the winter, but I never want to eat my friends!”

“What can we do?” The little fox leaned her head on the rabbit’s soft face. “I always want to remember.”

The rabbit’s soft, thick fur was cozy against her cheek.

But the high, yip, yip, yip of the little fox’s mother reached her ears and her ears pivoted to the call. “I have to go home. I’ll try to remember. Truly I will try to remember!” She scampered away into the gloom of the currant berry thicket.

The little white rabbit watched her disappear. “I’ll remember, too,” he said softly. The starlight was nearly out. Rabbit crawled into his den under a rock where the wind and ice couldn’t follow.

He remembered the summer and the giant cabbage leaf he had dragged into his den. It was big enough to make a blanket for him. Then he smelled the little nook he had stuffed with wild carrots, blackberries and lingonberries. He had stored them up for winter snacking. He had an idea.

Carefully, he pulled the giant, green cabbage leaf out of his den. He trimmed off the edges to save as a decoration and filled it like a big bowl with sweet, dried berries and wild carrots.

He sighed. How would his new friend find the package in the dark Alaskan winter?

“Perhaps,” he murmured, “since I can still remember my friend, she’ll remember me, too. She might see the red box under the tree and come to peek inside."

He closed his eyes and made a wish. It was really a prayer, but the rabbit didn’t know that.

“Please let my new friend remember our Christmas day, and why there are red berries on the tree and why the star shone so brightly!”

The rabbit tugged and pulled and slid his gift to the star tree and wrangled it into the red box. He decorated it with the trimmings from his cabbage leaf and nestled it in the sugar snow that had settled near the trunk.

He grinned. How delicious the cabbage leaf, carrots and all the berries smelled! If his friend returned, she would love the feast, even if it wasn't what she usually ate.

The Aurora flared up in a brilliant flash.

The star on the tree captured some of the Aurora’s light and began to glow. In a moment, it was positively shining. The darkness fled the clearing and the sugar snow began to fall.

"Ah!" the rabbit exclaimed. "I know what makes the star shine! It's love! Love is the light of the star!"

Rabbit was filled with peace. Even if fox couldn’t remember, he remembered. If it wasn’t this year when the earth was filled with peace, it would come some day! Surely the Prince of Peace would come again and flood the whole earth with light!

Rabbit hopped to his den and burrowed into the warmth of his little house. Soon he was dreaming of grassy fields and summer frolics when the warm, strong sun never sets.

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