D Gibb Mitchell
Nou in thae days there gaed oot a decree frae Caesar Augustus that a census should be taen o the dwallers in aa his dominions. (This census wis made whan Quirinius wis Owerseer in Syria.) an aa wis gaun ti be enrolled, ilk ane ti his ain toun. An Joseph, as weel, gaed up frae Galilee, oot o the city o Nazareth, ti Bethlehem--Dauvid's toun, in Judea--for he belanged ti the faimly o Dauvid, an wis ane o his line--ti be registered. Mary, his Betrothed wife, that wis suin ti be a mither, gaed ti be enrolled wi him. Her time cam while they wis there, an she gae birth ti her firstborn, a son. She sweelt him in a barrie-coat, an laid him in the manger, for there wis nae room for them in the inn.
In the same kintra side there wis some shepherds bidin in the fields an keepin gaird ower their flocks that nicht. An see! a Angel o the Lord cam ti them, an the glory o the Lord glintit roond aboot them. They wis fleyed.
An the Angel sayed, "Be na feart; for A am bringin ye guid tidins o muckle joy ti the hale warld! For there is born t'ye this day in Dauvid's toun, a Saviour, that is the Anointit Lord. An here is a token for ye; ye's finnd the bairn rowed in a barrie-coat, lyin in a manger."
An aa at ance there wis wi the Angel, a thrang o Heevin's host, praisin God, an sayin--
An whan the Angels haed left them an gane back ti Heevin, the shepherds sayed ane til anither: "Lat us gang nou ti Bethlehem an see this thing that haes come aboot, that the Lord haes made kent ti us!"
An they gaed, makkin haste, an fund Mary, an Joseph, an the bairn lyin in a manger. An whan they saw it they tauld faur an wide what haed been sayed ti them aboot this bairn. An aa that heard it wunnert at the things tauld them bi the shepherds. Mary telt her thochts ti nane, keepin her ain ken, treasurin ilka wird they spak, an turnin it ower an ower in her mind. An the shepherds returned giein glory ti God for aa they saw an heard; agreein as it did wi aa that haed been telt them.--Luke ii
Lang shaidaes sklentit doun on hame an haa. The sun bored his hinmaist rays throu the mist that hung on the hill, an spreed his plaid o the gloamin licht ower the plains o the sacred land. The hush o the burn rose ti the clachan as it bickered by, like a hymn at the nichtfaa in praise o the day that wis gane.
The mire-mirk hung ower the warld. The wids wis cauld an bare. Ilka tree wis rifled o its galore. The girse wis grey an nithert. The bleatin yowes wis heard on the faur hillside as they scurried hame ti the buchts for the nicht. The last echoes o the bairns' mirth wis floatin awa throu the glacks o the hills.
Ilka fire wis bleezin bricht, an the yule logs flung their sparks on the fluir, an the lum roared lood wi the dancin lowe.
The simmer's wark wis by, the thrang o the hairst wis past. Ilka barn wis packit weel. Natur's haun haed been fou an skaillin. The guidman's hert wis blythe an merry. Nae want, nae care. The saeson haed keepit its tryst wi him, an haunit him doun meikle store.
It wis a nicht whan men wad wait on God an thank Him for His guidness, an bide his blessin. A nicht whan the ee wad wander heevenwards an steal a leuk ayont the blue inti the Halie Place!
It wis a nicht that touched the sowel an the hert o man, an swung him back inti bygane times whan Jehovah haed trysted wi his faithers. Memory trudged back the road o promise, an peered ahint the cruiks an thraws, eident ti trace the tramp-marks o God's plan!
Unco strainge wis the sichts he saw--the great Almichty comin doun an broodin ower an haudin grip o his ain folk. He saw a God that's face wis turned ti the earth, that's een wis aye on man's richt an wrang; a Bein that mixed in the stramash o man's daeins, an grippit the threids o human action an warped them inti His ain loom!
It wis glorious ti staun an listen ti the click o the Divine shuttle, an hear the whir o the sacred wheel, an the whoop o the threids as they cam thegither--a strainge crimson streak twined an twisted throu aa the wob!
The road wis lang an dreich, an the skulls an carcasses that lay on the wey telt o mony a brulzie an mony a hard fecht: the warslins o man's wild hert ettlin the richt road ti gang--tryin ti follae the track whaur Providence haed lat faa His licht. Whiles a backward mairch inti the mirk, whan they tint their gate for the want o a man that kent the wey; an forrit again, wi a sang an a gallop, whan the richt man spak Jehovah's will.
In their sowel there wis a national dream. Their herts langed for something they kentna what. Like stars that shot throu the dark, great men haed shot oot frae the lave o the race an shouted the cry that wis needit. Ilka ane that comes on ti his day cairies forrit the cry an a promise that maun come true.
A tear stole ower his een as he thocht o the days gane by: "We'v nae sang on oor tongue, nae joy in oor hert, nae gleam in the ee. Nae mirth, nae pleasur rings throu the land." The tramp o majestic hosts gaed by his sicht--the ryce an faa o bygane glories--nations hurled ti the fit o the hill, an driven ti the grund, aa their micht an their pride dumbfounert an cowed an broken ti bits!
The souch o the wind cam ti his lug as he wandered ower the lanely hills o Judah an trudged by the dowie hauchs o Jordan. The wail o grief struck his sad hert. "Ma country is duin. Its glory is vainished. There's nae God, nae prophet, nae priest, nae king. The auld herp lies by, wi its strings aa wizzent an fustit. Nae peg stauns ticht in its place, the muisic is oot, an the tuin is gane that Jehovah wis wont ti hear!
The sun sent the hinmaist shaidaes across the land as he sank doun ower the broken hills, leavin the auld warld for aye. The nicht wis heavy wi mystery! A solemn quaitness brooded ower aa. The efterglow hung lang on the hills. It bathed their crests wi gowden licht, an ran ower their shouthers, an trickled doun till it met the nicht in the howes! The firmament wis vast in its sea o blue! The sky wis shiverin an agitated. A star here an there keekit throu timrously ti see if they'd hae leave ti shine. The earth spoke back again wi a kindly welcome, an beckoned them doun throu the faulds o the nicht. The earth an sky seemed ti spaek thegither. The stars breathed tenderly on dewy hill an fen, an touched the lanely earth ti soothe it ti paece!
The wanderer woke ti the mood o the nicht, an fund a strainge mystery gaun on atween heeven an earth. Heeven wis laich doun, an as near as could whisper a secret til't. An a listenin humour that lay ower the land garred him herken alang wi't ti get the threid o the passin tryst!
He sat aneath a cedar tree an hummed the sang o the Captivity. He heard the tramp o the passers by as they trudged the road at the fit o the hill. A youthfu maiden, sittin on a ass, neebored bi her man, gaed by, an antered oor o sicht alang the road ti Bethlehem. The folk thranged doun fae aa the airts at the biddin o the haun that haed haud o the sceptre. Aa the tribe o Dauvit forgaithered in the little toun. The place wis asteer in ilka neuk an corner. Ilka hoose an hovel wis made a restin place. The first ti come wis best serred, the hinmaist teuk the warst fairin.
Joseph, an Mary on the ass, appeared afore the inn an socht a bield ti pass the nicht. A stable wis aa they could get. The din o the toun quaitened doun ti rest frae its hammerin souch, the eerie nicht cam ower the streets, an silence claimed the place!
There's nichts that haes hallaed memories twined aboot them--nichts that a body's mind traivels back ti. This nicht wis the maist uncommon o aa the nichts that haed gane. The haun o Providence wis fou o his biggest gift, an this nicht he wis ti pass it ower ti man!
Heeven wis waitin hushed an still, an ilka starnie that blinkit throu the blue abuin seemed ti focus on the little toun o Bethlehem. The herds that wis oot in the wold fendin their flocks thocht the augurs wis bodin, an wondered, at the nichtfaa, what Jehovah haed ti divulge! Whiles they crackit aboot ancient days as they daundered on the hillsides. The faithers haed visions frae the Almichty, an angels caad doun ti this warld langsyne. Haed the angels banged oot o sicht an closed Heeven's curtains for aye? Haed they striven wi oor forebears an left the earth ti itsel-ill-taen wi its wrangs an feckless wammle?
While they muised like this, a bricht bruch o licht wis shinin aa roond, an a Divine figur drew nar them. As the winds o October shiver the ash leaf, they trimmlt at the vyce o the angel tongue: "Fear nocht. A'm bringin ye guid news o meikle gledness. It's for aabody. For e'en ti you, an aa mankind, is born this vera day in the toun o Dauvid, a Saviour, whilk is Christ the Lord. An this'll be a arles ti ye: ye'll finnd the bairnie rowed in a barrie-coat, lyin in a manger." an as they gazed inti the starry lift they heard soonds, like whispers frae afar, o a heevenly host! an the words that fell on their lugs frae the faur-aff melody soondit like "Glory... Paece...Earth...Guidwill...Man." The sky seemed ti open up, an the great hosts o heevin fell throu the rift, singin the sang o angels' guidwill, an heraldin the advent in the little toun--the staa wi the wee bairn that wis born.
It wis a unco sicht for man ti see in a warld like this: Heeven's glory comin doun ti the plains, an a band o angels laudin in the mids o the glory! The shepherds couldna bide the grandeur o't. They wis fleyed ti meet the unkent warld whan it cam in the garb o a angel-host. But the dreid that first fleggit their herts wis suin past. The muisic wis swaet, an the wirds wis winnin, an the beauty suin wyled their herts back ti guid faith. Their likin grew strang as they listened an heard the message o joy: a Saviour wis gien ti the warld frae God. "Glory ti God in the hieghest hichts, on earth paece, guidwill ti man."
The angels gaed awa ahint the curtains o the nicht, an stole their weys back hame!
The shepherds wis fou o gleefu crack. They wis brimmin ower wi happiness. Their faces beamed in the dark, as if the angels haed left their glory wi them. As they trampit across the fields they wis prood at hert because God haed lippened them wi the news, an trusted them as leal men!
They wis aiblins god-fearin, that waitit for news like this. They thocht the time haed come whan the by-gane promises micht be made guid. They kent the days wis lang gane sin God haed sent His messengers ti the warld, an neathing haed been heard o Him for hunders o years. The hert o their countrymen wis wearied oot waitin sair for the comin back o Jehovah's wird. Whaur haed God gane frae his ain folk?
The alien haun held the sword ower their heid. Pain an sorrae depressed them aa. Their herts wadna ryce ti the thocht o their God. They haedna freedom ti caa Him their ain. The sangs o Dauvid wis nae mair heard, an the soond o the psalm wis lost!
God's hosts haed come doun ance mair. The lang drowsin age wis broken wi a sang, an Heeven itssel cam back ti the warld again!
The bonny wee bairnie, wi its blythsome face, lay helpless in a stirkie's staa. Strainge hou Heeven wis pleased ti pit it there, an no in a palace buskit an braw! Nae man jalouzed he wad come like this. Nane wad think ti leuk for Him in sic a place. In this wafflin stable o Bethlehem God's greatest gift lies in the lowliest cradle--as if born bi chance, thrown in upo the warld athoot a foreplan--as if raivelt fate grippit his destiny, an chance an mishanter deceived Him! Nae blythmaet ready for him, awa frae hame, doun in the cauld stable--comfortless; nae saft or cozy crib, nae couthie or kindly surroondins--as if He wisna God's Bairn ava!
The wind souched thro the rafters an played wi the strae in the byre. The stars glintit in thro the riggin, an blinkit at the bonny wean, an sang ti themsels as they saw Him there--the cantie wee cratur sae swaet! Strainge that Heeven wis concerned aboot this, that the angel hosts sang their joy aboot it! Strainge that the universe wis waitin for't an the weirds o the nicht soondit forth that the langed-for Visitant haed come! Strainge that the herds wis wanderin here seekin the door whaur God haed placed His Child--in a neuk like this--in a battered auld biggin--the Bairn o Promise haed come!
Inquirin faces peers in at the door an spiers for the bairn they'v come ti see. A glance roond at the place is aa they need. They ken they ar richt, an the shepherds stap quaitly inby. They ar blythe; but saerious an eager wi joy. They feel that their errand is sacred. They haed heard ower muckle an seen ower muckle this nicht ti be licht-hertit. Their meed is the ee-swaet Bairn!
They bends their aernest forms ootower the bairnie. They leuks for something mair than natur's common gift. They see a child that king or cottar micht be prood o--but naething mair. Aathing is juist what natur should be--like their ain wee toddlers at hame.
What dis this mean? Is their naething mair ti see? Can this be the end o oor journey? Efter aa, ar we at the richt place? Is this what hae broken the silences an stirred up the weirds o the nicht, an sent aa the stars sic a dancin, an the rid lichts faa on the hills, an the glimmer o the lift whan the sun gaed doun? Is this what rave the heevens in twa, an that aa the angels cam doun aboot? Is this the substance o the sang, in life--the sang o paece an guidwill an joy that soopit the wolds o Bethlehem? Is it here whaur aa the streams o human desire wis ti meet? Is it here whaur aa the tides o the past flowed for? Wis it for this that aa the human agony an passion an hope an dreams wis spent? Is this the crimson streak in the wob o God's weavin? Haes the visions an symbols o the wild an rugged past met aneath the shaidae o the stable staa at Bethlehem?
The mystery is here: Natur's biggest ferlie--God's fouest haunfu--the warld's michtiest blessin--Heeven's greatest sacrifice!
Whaever cam ti see Him left their blessin, an nane thocht him wrang. Amang the lave wis wice men frae the Aest, that haed been bamboozled bi the straingeness o the heevens. The sky wis their hame. They prowled throu the welkin an pried inti its ferlies. They kent ilka blink o its omens an lippened ti its forebodins. They redd their wey bi the licht o a star an fittit the unkent road in sairch o its secret.
The warld's day wis reddy for the Bairn, an nou He wis in the mids o its whirl. It wis the first time that perfete paece haed come ti bide on earth, an guid gree wis set at wark atween ae man an anither!
Naething haed come bi chance: aathing wis foregane in the decrees. The stamp o Heeven wis in this maiter. It wis planned up there!--ootside the ken o man, an brocht forrit ti this day o grace. Heeven wis ower faur awa for man. Man couldna rax ti God. The warld seemed driech an cauld an a lanely place athoot God. There wis peety in Heevin as it leukit doun here an saw hou dreary, driftin, hapless wis man's lot. God ettled ti get nearer man than He haed ever been--ti leuk inti his face wi human een, ti spaek wi a human tongue, ti grip his haun wi a human grip, an be as near ti us as we ar ti ane anither!
This is the wey that God haes taen ti mak freends wi man. He pits the bairn's haun inti man's luif an says: "Quits; byganes is byganes, past bullyragins is mendit, the gulfs is brigged ower bi this haun o guidwill!" This wis God's wey o tellin us hou he likit us. We didna ken till nou that He haed a faither's hert for His bairns doun here. We didna ken that He likit us sae weel, or langed sae sair ti get us back ti His ain fauld. It wis only whan he spared His Son frae Heeven an lippent Him doun amang the sin, the sorrae, the puirtith, the misery, the guilt, an the steer o the warld, that we kent God's hert!
There wis a new interest in Heeven anent earth. It wis aye doun here watchin ti see hou the Bairn wad get on, keepin gaird roond Him lest ony mishanter should befaa Him. Heeven dreidit the scaith that man's wicked wyles micht wirk agin Him. The warld afore haed staned the prophets an blattert the men that spak for God!
Aa this warld wis grand an sent back its glory ti God. It wis fair athoot a flaw; an the Almichty rejiced in His ain bonny wark. Man only wis cursed, an his life wis sad an his hert wis broken. Sin haed marred the perfete pattern. An what wad hae been God's greatest glory, wisna fit for him ti leuk at! It wis sorraefu ti think that God couldna see His best creation. Man's sad an sinfu hert cuist a gloom ower aa the lave o the Creator's wark. Earth's paradise wis lost, its happiness wis gane. Nae man till nou wis fit ti mak it richt.
Man's bondage wis turned back, the fate o the battle wis reversed. The glory o God cam back as He saw the Bairnie in the manger. He behaudit man in his perfete state--His hieghest creation redeemed frae the curse--made fit for His ee ti leuk on, an love an joy an delite in! Heeven wis bigger the nicht than it haed ever been afore. The sang o paece an guidwill wis liltit ower an ower again as the hosts leukit doun an saw man's mirth an joy begun this first Yule nicht, an his waefu hert brocht back ti hae a likin!
Than here's a haun ti aa ma freends that haes spent this nicht wi me. A chorus o greetins o guid cheer rings in ilka hame, an the blythe meets frae mony airts: wi a beamin ee, a brimmin hert, an a giein haun.
We aa forgaither as freends, an we like the paece an the joy an the guidwill that maks us brithers. It haed taen lang ti mak the warld better, but lat us aa help it on bi oor kindly weys. Pit a blythe hert inti the thrang o the warld's affairs. Lat byganes be byganes. Keep nae grudge. Set honesty on the open brou. Lat the love-fire burn in the hallaed ee, an the lips spaeks paece. Lat the hert's beat be true. An mey the haun's touch be kind an aye fou o blessin.
The joy o the first Yule-tide began in Heeven: but on earth we can aa sing nou the sang that wis sung langsyne bi the angels:--
A Laddie's Prayer
Faither in Heeven,--A'm kneelin at ma bedside an A wad thank Ye for leukin efter me aa day. Ye ar kind ti gie me a bonny hame an eneuch o breid an claes. Bless faither an mither, ma brithers an sisters. Mak us aa guid. A'm aften in mischief an wrang: dinna lat me anger Ye. Forgie me: A want ti dae richt: Ye can help me. Ma temper whiles gets up: A steeks ma nieve an wants ti fecht. Whiles A'm greedy an winna share a thing wi ither folk. Ither days A sulk an winna dae ma mither's biddin.
Ma hert wis wae for the blackie A killed an the dug A threw stanes at. A dinna like ti think o the ploys A'm sometimes in. Gie me a safter haun an a kinder hert. A wad like ti be better an dae richt. Mak me a guid lad: mak me Yer ain bairn. A'll staun the lauchs o ither lads gin A can please Thee. It's bedtime, an A'll suin be asleep. Gaird us aa nicht: haud us siccar till mornin, for Jesus' sake. AMEN.