Some new children’s books have recently come to us through the post.
I ordered them because I had started to think about Christmas, and how Christ was born into history to save us. But what of our history since then? Some times and places seem very dark: it’s hard to see evidence that people were (and are) shining the Christ-light (even in “Christendom”). One day, of course, we shall see more clearly how the lives of many godly men and women are woven through history like so many golden threads.
In the meantime, it seems to me, we should treasure some of the stories about God’s people in history that have been passed down. These children’s books tell lovely stories of how people have followed their King in different times.
I love this book, not because it is a “Santa spoiler”, but because the story of the original Father Christmas, a fourth century bishop in Lycia (modern-day Turkey), is so full of love and concern for children in poor families. It explains some of the characteristics we attribute to the modern Santa (why does he deliver presents to children, in the middle of the night?), while showing that his generosity was derived from the One who had been so generous to him.
The story of how Saint Patrick brought the gospel to Ireland is amazing! He was not Irish: as a teenager on the coast of England he is captured by Celtic pirates and sent to Ireland. After his return to England his love for the Irish people prompts him to train as a priest and go back. Saint Patrick travels the land, bringing the message of peace and forgiveness, winning hearts but also encountering hatred and violence from the old religion. He sings and prays all the way.
I buckle to my heart
The love of God
To show the way,
His eye to watch,
His ear to hear,
His hand to lead
Me on the way.
Brigid was born in the mid fifth century, a few years before Saint Patrick died. Brigid has a Christian mother, and even the local Druid recognises that Brigid has “God’s favour”, and “will be a mother to the new Ireland that is to come.” Brigid is given a lovely vision of the nativity, and later on her convents give shelter and food to poor people.
This beautiful story is about Caedmon, a cow herder in the seventh century who became tongue-tied whenever it was time for he and his friends to share stories of great battles and fearsome warriors around the fire. He hates poetry until someone prompts him in a dream to “sing about the things you know.” When he wakes he composes a glorious hymn about God and his creation. Caedmon’s friends are astounded, and direct him to the local abbess in Yorkshire. She asks him to become a monk, and to continue to create these songs.
Caedmon’s Hymn is the earliest known poem to be written down in the English language.
Praise we now the Keeper of heaven’s kingdom,
The mind of the mighty Maker,
The glorious Father who made
The world and all it’s wonders;
How first he created the roof of heaven
For us, the children of men;
Then the holy Creator, the eternal Lord,
Gave the earth to people,
This middle earth to be our home.