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"THE GRACIOUS TIME"
CCORDING to tradition, on the Holy Night there fell upon Bethlehem of
Judea a strange and unnatural calm; the voices of the birds were hushed,
water ceased to flow and the wind was stilled. But when the child Jesus
was born all nature burst into new life; trees put forth green leaves,
grass sprang up and bright flowers bloomed. To animals was granted the
power of human speech and the ox and the ass knelt in their stalls in
adoration of the infant Saviour. Then it was that the shepherds abiding in
the field with their flocks heard the angels praising God, and kings of
the Orient watching in their "far country" saw ablaze in the heavens the
long-expected sign. Even in distant Rome there sprang up a well or
fountain which "ran largely" and
 the ancient prophetess, Sibyl, looking
eastward from the Capitoline hill heard the angel song and saw in vision
all the wonders of that night.
There are many such traditional tales of the nativity, of the "star-led
wizards" and of the marvels wrought by the boy Christ. They tell of the
bees singing their sweet hymn of praise to the Lord, of the palm-tree
bending down its branches that the weary travellers fleeing from the wrath
of Herod might be refreshed by its fruit, of the juniper which opened to
conceal them and of the sweet-smelling balsam which grew wherever the
drops of moisture fell from the brow of the Boy "as He ran about or toiled
in His loving service for His Mother." Quaint fancies some of these,
perhaps, and not all of them worth preserving; but oftentimes beautiful,
and with a germ of truth.
From the centuries between then and now, come stories of holy men, of
bishops and peasant-saints, and of brave men who preached the White Christ
to the vikings of the north or on Iona's isle. As in popular belief, with
each returning eve of the nativity the miracles of the first Christmas
happen again, so in these
 tales the thorn-tree blossoms anew and wonderful
roses bloom in the bleak forest.
Other stories tell how on each Christmas eve the little Christ-child comes
again to earth and wanders through village or town, while lighted candles
are placed in the windows to guide Him on His way.
These various legends and traditional tales, which sprang up among the
people like flowers by the wayside and became a part of the life of the
Middle Ages, are still of interest to us of to-day and have a distinct
charm of their own. And when the childlike faith and beauty of thought of
the finest of these have found expression in literary form they seem
particularly suited for our reading at "the gracious time."