‘A Great Joy’ published by the Times in 1983 (thanks to James Freeman/WSJ)
The story begins very simply. A man and his pregnant wife are on a journey. They had planned to stay at an inn but because all the rooms are gone they take shelter in a stable.
During the night the woman gives birth to a son. Her husband is her only help, farm animals the only witnesses. The woman swaddles the boy in cloth and nestles him in the straw. The desert is cold after sunset, and his parents may be grateful for the animals’ warmth. A little rest, and the family will move on. Not far from the stable, and ignorant of the birth, some shepherds are grazing their flocks when they are suddenly, frighteningly wrapped in light. An angel appears and says, ‘’Be not afraid; for behold I bring you news of a great joy.’’
The rest of the tale has been 2,000 years in the telling. . . There have been eras in which it seemed unlikely that the story would ever be told again. But new pages are forever being written.
Read more here.