| Christmas in Legend and Story|
|by Elva S. Smith|
|An exceptional collection of Christmas stories, legends, and poems, that have distinct literary merit, a spirit of reverence, and an appeal for children. Chosen from a wide variety of sources by a pair of children's librarians, the stories represent the work of many writers. The selections are arranged chronologically, beginning with the birth of the Christ Child. Ages 8-12 |
LEGEND OF ST. CHRISTOPHER
ADAPTED FROM THE GOLDEN LEGEND
 THERE was a mighty man of old who dwelt in the land of Canaan. Large was
he and tall of stature and stronger than any man whom the world had ever
seen. Therefore was he called Offero, or, "The Bearer." Now he served the
king of Canaan, but he was proud of his great strength and upon a time it
came in his mind that he would seek the greatest king who then reigned and
him only would he serve and obey.
So he travelled from one country to another until at length he came to one
where ruled a powerful king whose fame was great in all the land.
"Thou art the conqueror of nations?" asked Offero.
"I am," replied the king.
"Then take me into your service, for I will serve none but the mightiest
 "That then am I," returned the king, "for truly I fear none."
So the king received Offero into his service and made him to dwell in his
But once at eventide a minstrel sang before the king a merry song in which
he named oft the evil one. And every time that the king heard the name of
Satan he grew pale and hastily made the sign of the cross upon his
forehead. Offero marvelled thereat and demanded of the king the meaning of
the sign and wherefore he thus crossed himself. And because the king would
not tell him Offero said, "If thou tell me not, I shall no longer dwell
with thee." Then the king answered, saying, "Always when I hear Satan
named, I fear that he may have power over me and therefore I make this
sign that he harm me not."
"Who is Satan?" asked Offero.
"He is a wicked monarch," replied the king, "wicked but powerful."
"More powerful than thou art?"
"And fearest thou that he hurt thee?"
"That do I, and so do all."
 "Then," cried Offero, "is he more mighty and greater than thou art. I will
go seek him. Henceforth he shall be my master for I would fain serve the
mightiest and the greatest lord of all the world."
So Offero departed from the king and sought Satan. Everywhere he met
people who had given themselves over to his rule and at last one day as he
was crossing a wide desert he saw a great company of knights approaching.
One of them, mounted upon a great black horse, came to him and demanded
whither he went, and Offero made answer, "I seek Satan, for he is mighty,
and I would fain serve him."
Then returned the knight, "I am he whom thou seekest."
When Offero heard these words he was right glad and took Satan to be his
lord and master.
This king was indeed powerful and a long time did Offero serve him, but it
chanced one day as they were journeying together they came to a place
where four roads met and in the midst of the space stood a little cross.
As soon as Satan saw the cross he was afraid and turned quickly aside and
fled toward the desert.
 Offero followed him marvelling much at the sight.
And after, when they had come back to the highway they had left, he
inquired of Satan why he was thus troubled and had gone so far out of his
way to avoid the cross. But Satan answered him not a word.
Then Offero said to him, "If thou wilt not tell me, I shall depart from
thee straightway and shall serve thee no more."
"Know then," said Satan, "there was a man called Christ who suffered on
the cross and whenever I see his sign I am sore afraid and flee from it,
lest he destroy me."
"If then thou art afraid of his sign," cried Offero, "he is greater and
more mighty than thou, and I see well that I have labored in vain, for I
have not found the greatest lord of the world. I will serve thee no
longer. Go thy way alone, for I will go to seek Christ."
And when he had long sought and demanded where he should find Him, he came
at length into a great desert where dwelt a hermit, a servant of the
Christ. The hermit told him of the Master whom he was seeking and said to
him, "This king whom thou dost wish to
 serve is not an earthly ruler and
he requireth that thou oft fast and make many prayers."
But Offero understood not the meaning of worship and prayer and he
answered, "Require of me some other thing and I shall do it, but I know
naught of this which thou requirest."
Then the hermit said to him, "Knowest thou the river, a day's journey from
here, where there is neither ford nor bridge and many perish and are lost?
Thou art large and strong. Therefore go thou and dwell by this river and
bear over all who desire to cross its waters. That is a service which will
be well pleasing to the Christ whom thou desirest to serve, and sometime,
if I mistake not, he whom thou seekest will come to thee."
Offero was right joyful at these words and answered, "This service may I
So he hastened to the river and upon its banks he built himself a little
hut of reeds. He bare a great pole in his hand to sustain him in the water
and many weary wayfarers did he help to cross the turbulent stream. So he
lived a long time, bearing over all manner of people
 without ceasing, and
still he saw nothing of the Christ.
Now it happened one night that a storm was raging and the river was very
high. Tired with his labors, Offero had just flung himself down on his
rude bed to sleep when he heard the voice of a child which called him and
said, "Offero, Offero, come out and bear me over."
Offero arose and went out from his cabin, but in the darkness he could see
no one. And when he was again in the house, he heard the same voice and he
ran out again and found no one. A third time he heard the call and going
out once more into the storm, there upon the river bank he found a fair
young child who besought him in pleading tones, "Wilt thou not carry me
over the river this night, Offero?"
The strong man gently lifted the child on his shoulders, took his staff
and stepped into the stream. And the water of the river arose and swelled
more and more and the child was heavy as lead. And alway as he went
farther, higher and higher swelled the waters and the child more and more
waxed heavy, insomuch that he feared that they would both be
Already his strength was nearly gone, but he thought of his Master whom he
had not yet seen, and staying his footsteps with his palm staff struggled
with all his might to reach the opposite shore. As at last he climbed the
steep bank, suddenly the storm ceased and the waters calmed.
He set the child down upon the shore, saying, "Child, thou hast put me in
great peril. Had I carried the whole world on my shoulders, the weight had
not been greater. I might bear no greater burden."
"Offero," answered the child, "Marvel not, but rejoice; for thou hast
borne not only all the world upon thee, but thou hast borne him that
created and made all the world upon thy shoulders. I am Christ the king
whom thou servest in this work. And for a token, that thou mayst know what
I say to be the truth, set thy staff in the earth by thy house and thou
shalt see in the morning that it shall bear flowers and fruit." With these
words the child vanished from Offero's sight.
But Offero did even as he was bidden and set his staff in the earth and
when he arose on the morrow, he found it like a palm-tree
 bearing flowers
and leaves and clusters of dates. Then he knew that it was indeed Christ
whom he had borne through the waters and he rejoiced that he had found his
Master. From that day he served Christ faithfully and was no more called
Offero, but Christopher, the Christ bearer.
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