Why Bethlehem?

The easy answer, if I wanted to make this a two-sentence blog post, would be “Because God wanted it to happen there.” But since God has left us some further clues and insights into the matter, let’s explore them.

Why Bethlehem? On the surface, for mundane reasons that we all know (only too well) by experience: governmental over-reach and impersonal bureaucratic unreasonableness. A census and a tax are annoying enough, but a tax that has to be paid in your ancestor’s home town? Joseph, pounding nails up in Nazareth, must have been like “Why can’t you just count me RIGHT HERE? Why can’t I just pay it RIGHT HERE? That’s a 90-mile walk to Bethlehem! And my wife is VERY pregnant!” But God wanted it to be Joseph, and He wanted it to be Mary, and He wanted it to be in Bethlehem. The lesson here: being smack-dab right in the dead-center of God’s will doesn’t mean it won’t be inconvenient. This is also a prime example of how God works behind the scenes in the affairs of men to achieve His will and purposes, even though the “powers that be” don’t have a clue about what’s going on, and think that it’s all their own brilliant plans that they’re carrying out. “The heart of the king is like a river in the hand of the Lord; He turns it whichever way He wishes” (Proverbs 21:1).

But why Bethlehem? Because God told Micah that it would be Bethlehem. “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the clans of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to me the one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are form of old, from everlasting” (Micah 5:2). Micah lived 300 years after David, so he wasn’t just making a no-brainer historical statement about where David came from. No, everyone knew that Micah was referring to the coming king who would sit on the throne of his father David and would reign forever: the Messiah. And we all know what Herod did when the Bible scholars shared this one verse with him. Even during His ministry, the enemies of Jesus used this verse against Him (John 7:42), thinking that it proved that He couldn’t possibly have been the Messiah. If only they would have made a little honest effort and checked into the facts about where He was born, like, I don’t know, maybe asking Him. We’re only talking about something that occurred 30 years before. As Paul described Christ’s later ministry, it wasn’t “done in a corner.”

But still I ask, why Bethlehem? Well, because it was the City of David; David was born there.  But why was David born there? Why Bethlehem?  Because Elimelech and Naomi were from Bethlehem.  For their story, we need to head back to the Book of Ruth. For those who read the Bible straight through like any other book, the Book of Judges can be very exasperating. There are moments of great victory, followed by longer moments of idiotic behavior leading to inglorious defeat. The theme that courses through the whole Book of Judges is: “every man did what was right in his own eyes.”  It’s kind of like reading the National Enquirer; it’s like God wanted to record the most bizarre, ridiculous stories that illustrated how wacked-out we get when we do whatever we think is right in our own eyes. So when we get to the Book of Ruth, we need a breath of fresh air.  And that’s exactly what we get. Instead of everyone doing what is right in their own eyes, the Book of Ruth shows us people simply doing what is right; doing what is right in God’s eyes.

Elimelech and Naomi decided to leave Bethlehem during a famine and settle in the land of one of Israel’s distant cousins/enemies: Moab.  Their two sons (who don’t last too long in this story) marry two Moabite women, one of whom is named Ruth. All three husbands die, leaving three widows. Naomi decides she might as well return to Bethlehem, and tells her daughters-in-law to stay home in Moab, but Ruth then makes her memorable speech which is often quoted at weddings, way out of context: “Wherever you go, I will go, and wherever you live, I will live; your people will be my people, and your God will be my God” (Ruth 1:16). So Ruth and Naomi return to Bethlehem, where, long story short, Ruth keeps her word and proves to be of more value than seven sons and marries a very good man of integrity named Boaz. So why Bethlehem? Because Ruth and Boaz were from Bethlehem. They were David’s great-grandparents.

This next “why Bethlehem” does not really apply to the question of “why was Jesus born in Bethlehem?”, but “why did Matthew quote a seemingly unrelated prophecy in reference to Bethlehem?”  We will now need to recall the saddest, darkest, wickedest part of the Christmas story. I already alluded to what Herod did when he found out that the newborn King had been born in Bethlehem. I don’t need to recount it here. Matthew did that for us.  But then he quoted Jeremiah 31, applying it to this horrible story: “Rachel weeping for her children, and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more” (Matthew 2:18). What does Rachel, one of the wives of the patriarch Jacob/Israel of long ago, have to do with Bethlehem? We now turn to the very first mention of the little town of Bethlehem in the Bible: Genesis 35:19. Bethlehem was where Rachel died while giving birth to Benjamin, and that’s where she was buried. Bethlehem was associated with Rachel long before it was associated with David. And since the matriarch Rachel rested there, she was looked upon, symbolically, as the mother of all who were born there. Hence, Rachel weeping for her children.

But let’s not end on this sad note. I still ask, why Bethlehem? Because Bethlehem was just a dirty, fallen town in our dirty, fallen world.  It didn’t have a king’s palace. It didn’t have a 5-star hotel.  It didn’t have a U.S. News and World Report Top 25 Hospital. But it did have a stable, and it had a manger. And when God came to earth to take on the form of a servant, the manger, and the stable, and the Little Town of Bethlehem, would be good enough for Him. “Bethlehem” in Hebrew literally means “House of Bread.” What more fitting birthplace could there be for the Bread of Life, the Bread of God who came down from Heaven to give life to the world? Why Bethlehem? Because God so loved the world.  Happy Christmas.

If this puts you in a musical mood, here are two Bethlehem-related songs for you. One is by the Jewish/Christian group called Lamb, and the other is by yer blogster. And don’t forget to scroll down to one of the first blog posts on here, for a bit of fan-fiction, an “explanation” of why it was entirely appropriate for Father Christmas to show up in Narnia.

Ode To Bethlehem:

From Bethlehem Flows a River:

Cardinals and Cottontails: Take That, Charles

My favorite bird has always been the cardinal. It may have begun when my mom gave me a bird sticker book as a little kid, or maybe when I went to my first Pirate game at Forbes Field (against, naturally, the Cardinals). I love that their striking bright red color just stands out everywhere. Everyone can see them, including their potential predators, especially in our bleak mid-winter, since they don’t migrate out of the frigid northeast. So to me, cardinals are a prime refutation of Darwinism. Why would a bird “evolve itself” to be so bright-red that it stands out in the heavy foliage of summer, not to mention in the stark black and white of winter? And then stay up north? No Charles, cardinals are a wonder of God’s creation. For this species, the females aren’t the pretty ones (sorry girls); God gave them plain, drab colors to help the momma birds stay safe in the trees with their babies; that’s why we still have cardinals. But the guys, why, they just keep brightening up the atmosphere. No leaves? No problem. Snowy white background? No problem. All Thy works shall praise Thy name.

And then there’s Peter Cottontail. I was going for a walk the other day when I almost tripped over a bunny because the little goofball was so concealed. And then he turned tail (pun intended) and skedaddled and showed me his highly-visible white ball of cotton bouncing away, and again I thought: another refutation of Chucky D. The big ears for hearing: check. The speedy legs for running away: check. Coloration that blends in with the surroundings: check. But what’s with that tail? Why would “natural selection” leave that thing on there? So their predators could make sure that we don’t have too many rabbits? A species that “evolves” a feature that keeps its own population down, that makes itself less likely to survive? Sorry Charlie.

Three hundred zillion years of chance and natural selection wouldn’t even produce the ant, let alone you and me. Or the cardinal. Or the cottontail.

Genealogy, the Sovereignty of God, and the Miracle That is You

A very funny early Saturday Night Live skit has a husband and wife both reaching for the same spray can on their kitchen table. The husband heatedly claims that the can is a dessert topping, but the wife insists that it is a floor wax, until the huckster shows up and assures them that they are BOTH RIGHT. You can listen to it right here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wPO8PqHGWFU

On a much loftier level, folks have been pondering, for millennia, the question of the Free Will of Man in relation to the Sovereignty of God. Whole denominations have sprung up around the question. St. Paul could have answered it in Romans Chapter 9, but he basically told us NOYB. It is not the ambition of this humble blog to tackle this dilemma; for that read, say, Boethius. But when it comes to a question like, “how did our ancestors hook up: by their own free choice (or at the very least their fathers’), or by the sovereignty of God?” I believe, like the Shimmer Dessert Topping/Floor Wax product, the answer is: BOTH.

When I started looking into my family tree, I was struck by the sheer exponential-ness of the whole thing. What I mean is this: we all have two parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, and so on. Once you get down to your 6x great-grandparents (and I’m lucky to know some of their names, and even have read some of their letters), we all have 256 of ’em. That means 128 separate hook-ups had to take place, or else you’re not here. And the farther back you go into your ancestry, whether you know their names or not, there are thousands and thousands of people in the chain of your existence. Take away just one of those names, break just one link of that chain, and you’re not here.

You see what I’m getting at: if just one of your handsome young ancestors had his head turned by a different pretty young lady than your pretty young ancestor, you would not exist. Maybe you have seen pictures, like I have, of one of your parents on a prom date with somebody who was not your mom or dad. What if things would have worked out between those high school sweethearts? Now multiply that possibility by, say, 2 to the 10th power, and you begin to see that it is a miracle that you’re even here; that Someone must have really, really wanted you around. Your existence was a longer shot than my chance of winning the Powerball tomorrow. You were meant to be.

The most poignant scene in the excellent Tom Hanks as Mister Rogers film A Beautiful Day In the Neighborhood has Fred Rogers asking his table-mate at a cafe to join him in a minute of silence while they think about all the people who “loved us into being.” Here it is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9AzXX_2BrVk. Not a bad exercise to practice.

But forget about what would have happened if our ancestors had never hooked up: what if they had never made it out of infancy, or toddler-hood?

Grace Chetwode Bulkeley was greatly with child in 1635 on a boat sailing from England to Massachusetts. But three days before arriving, she became seriously ill; she fell into a trance/coma, and was presumed to be dead. The only reason that she wasn’t buried at sea (i.e., dumped into the ocean) was that she was a “Lady.” But when they carried her body ashore, low and behold, she showed some signs of life. She eventually recovered, and soon gave birth to a son named Gershom (which means “exile” or “stranger”, because the Bulkeley’s had been booted out of England). If Grace wouldn’t have made it, and Gershom wouldn’t have made it, then a whole lot of people, and I mean a WHOLE LOTTA PEOPLE, would never have existed. Including me: Gershom Bulkeley is one of my 2,048 9x great-grandparents.

Now let’s take a trip back across the pond, to County Antrim, Ireland, a couple of centuries later. On New Years Eve, 1860, James and Ann McCaughern and their four children were living with James’ father in a rickety old house, when suddenly, as had been warned, the house collapsed. Only James, his father, and his infant son James Jr survived this tragedy. When James Jr grew up, he too sailed for the New World, eventually settling in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. If there had been no grown-up James McCaughern Jr, there would be no me. He’s one of my 16 great-great grandparents.


This may be James McCaughern Jr (which somehow morphed into “McCarney”) and his wife Lizzie; or maybe not, the family isn’t sure. But if it isn’t, it’s still a cool old couple picture, right?

But I don’t have to go too far back into my family history for this next one: when my dad was born in 1933 at home (like many babies were, even at that time), they thought he was still-born. They laid him off to the side and covered him with a blanket. But one great-aunt kept her eye on him, and noticed that the blanket moved. Another little guy beats the odds. If he hadn’t, I wouldn’t be here. My brother and sister wouldn’t be here. My nieces and nephew wouldn’t be here. My son wouldn’t be here.

Another little guy beats the odds: my dad with his mom, his grandmother, and his great-grandparents (who also could possibly be that young couple shown above, whadaya think?)

And these are just a few stories; to say nothing of my thousands of Polish ancestors that I know next to nothing about. I’m certain that your family tree has many stories just like these. When it comes to weighty matters like Human Destiny, I don’t believe in chance. I believe in the free will and free choice of men and women working in concert, often unknowingly, with the sovereignty of God. My journeys into genealogy have greatly multiplied my awe and wonder at the providence of God. Exponentially. We are all fearfully and wonderfully made. And that I know right well. Psalm 139:14.

“One of the proudest boasts of Pittsburgh’s war record”

Rachel McFadden was the sister-in-law of Pittsburgh’s Civil War General Alexander Hays. Let’s get that out of the way from the start. But it is entirely for her own merits that I want to remember her today.

Rachel W. McFadden (1824-1867), was one of the founding members of the Pittsburgh Subsistence Committee, which was organized in August 1861 for the initial purpose of caring for the needs of the many Union soldiers who were traveling through Pittsburgh on their way to or from the front lines. The tireless work of this organization impacted thousands of soldiers. On one occasion thirty members of the Subsistence Committee fed five thousand soldiers in twelve hours. When the organization was dissolved in 1866, they had aided a total of 489,205 soldiers (Under the Maltese Cross p. 35).

As this work continued, and when she wasn’t busy watching Alexander and Annie Hays’ kids, Rachel turned her attention to the plight of the soldiers in the field: “When the Pittsburgh Sanitary Committee organized a branch of the United States Sanitary Commission, in January, 1863, they selected Miss McFadden—whose zeal in behalf of the soldiers had already been manifested—to act as first directress of the ladies’ branch. The position was one which required ability, perseverance and the spirit of true patriotism and self-sacrifice.” (Pittsburgh Commercial, June 12, 1867).

General Alexander Hays referred to her affectionately as “Dear Sister,” or “that Sanitary girl, Rachel.” In a letter dated March 16, 1862, he wrote to her: “I cannot avoid the acknowledgment of the indebtedness of myself and my regiment to you for your many evidences of kindness and attention…By the kind thoughtfulness of yourself and your friends our hospital…was rendered a paradise in contrast with those around us…Suffering humanity expressed to unknown benefactors, the thankfulness of grateful hearts.” She visited her brother-in-law’s troops in Virginia on at least one occasion, as recorded in a letter from Hays to her father dated January 30, 1864: “Rachel visited our hospitals today, and returns delighted to realize that the work of the Sanitary Society is not in vain. Rachel rides horseback like a trooper, and appears as happy as a bird.” (Life and Letters of General Alexander Hays p.196 & p. 537).

Her crowning achievement was the Pittsburgh Sanitary Fair, held on June 1 -18, 1864, for which she played a pivotal executive role, holding the office of secretary, as well as chairman of the all-important fundraising Ladies’ Committee. The Fair, held in Allegheny City, included exhibits such as “a miniature lake and model iron-clad boats and enemy shore batteries [which] were equipped with steam-powered guns, [with] a mock battle…held between them.” The Fair was an overwhelming success, raising $363,570.00 to aid the soldiers in the field and their families at home. “The Sanitary Fair was Pittsburgh’s most successful mobilization of private goods, resources, and services for the aid of soldiers. No other event brought so much of the city together for that cause.” (Our People are War-Like: Civil War Pittsburgh and Homefront Mobilization pp. 171-172).

But all of her ceaseless efforts came at a cost: “She literally wore herself out in the service of love—love of the soldier, our common country, the flag and its defenders.” (Life and Letters of General Alexander Hays p.674). When she died on June 8, 1867, she was only 42 years old. “No one was more wholly given up or labored more judiciously and unceasingly than she did, or was more distinguished for superb energy and administrative ability. Thousands of soldiers will carry to their graves grateful memories of benefits and blessings received through her zealous efforts, and will lament with heartfelt emotions her untimely death as that of a dear friend…Miss McFadden was everywhere admired and loved for her lively and genial disposition and temper…her memory will linger sweetly in the hearts of all who knew her.” (Pittsburgh Gazette, June 12, 1867). “She adds another to the ranks of the great army of martyrs who have sacrificed their lives for their country; and all who knew this admirable woman will sustain me in saying that there are few who better deserve a crown.” (Documents of the U.S. Sanitary Commission Issue 96 p.295). Her legacy is perhaps best summed up by the editor of the Life and Letters of General Alexander Hays: “Miss McFadden’s connection with the Sanitary Commission in Pittsburgh and at the front is one of the proudest boasts of Pittsburgh’s war record.” (p. 395). She is buried in the McFadden family plot in Section 19 of Allegheny Cemetery in Lawrenceville, Pennsylvania.

What King Frank and Queen Helen Brought With Them Into Narnia

Some people have a problem with Father Christmas showing up in Narnia in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. J.R.R. Tolkien hated it. Me? I loved it, and I never had a problem with it, especially once I read The Magician’s Nephew, which is the prequel to all the Narnia stories. So I wrote a short story which explains how Father Christmas (along with some other stuff you may not have thought about) shows up in Narnia. In order to fully understand this story, it is best to have read The Magician’s Nephew and The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis, which I’m sure many of you have. But if you haven’t, I highly recommend them; boy, are you in for a treat, no matter how old you are.

What King Frank and Queen Helen Brought With Them Into Narnia

By Paul Blackham

I, Zebnus, Chief Scribe and Recorder of Histories in Their Majesties’ royal court, and graciously chosen by Aslan to be among the first of my people the Fauns in the young Land of Narnia, in order to record the origins of various and sundry customs that Their Majesties King Frank and Queen Helen have hereby established in Narnia, as well as to preserve ensamples of their most unique manner of speech, now endeavour to inscribe an account of His Majesty’s story in His Majesty’s own words. Insomuch as His Majesty the King has expressed the desire that Their Young Royal Highnesses Prince Robert and Princess Florence and any and all future royal children should learn to speak “the Queen’s English” (as His Majesty describes the speech that Aslan has given to us who serve in the royal court; the origin of His Majesty’s description of our language remains a wonder to us, since Her Majesty Queen Helen herself shares the same exalted speech as the King), yet it has pleased His Majesty to allow me to transcribe this account for the royal record. This narrative, being in His Majesty’s own words, of a truth fails to make a just account of all of the noble qualities, talents, deeds, and wisdom of His Majesty King Frank, for which his subjects love him, and which in his most steadfastly humble and self-forgetting nature, His Majesty, most admirably, fails to mention.

I was raised by my mum and dad in the country, in the county of Sussex, parish of ‘Aywards ‘Eath. Like my dad, from a young’un, I worked on farms, and ‘ventually found I ‘ad a way with ‘osses. I had schooling of a couple of years, where I learned reading and writing and ‘ow to do sums and figures, but mostly, I worked on farms for as far back as I can remember. But old Dad always made sure to bring me to the parish church every Sunday morning (fact, it was ‘e what gave me my little Testament, the same what was in my pocket when I was brought ‘ere, the same what is, to this day, still present in my room ‘ere in the castle). I inherited a fine singing voice of my mum and so as a growing lad I started singing ‘ymns in the church choir.

That’s where I first seen my Nellie, Miss Helen Mason as was christened, Queen Helen as you know ‘er [“Please write ‘Helen’ with an ‘H’ as is proper, and not ‘elen as I says it” His Majesty directed me], at the parish church it was, on Christmas Day no less, sitting with ‘er people the Southwicks (which were not ‘er family, but were the people she were in service with). Mr. Southwick, good man, were always kind to my Nellie, as were the missus, as were the Southwick girls (what used to wear bows on their ‘eads near as straight and tall as they were!). Anyways, I looks out and sees my Nellie (still a young gal then, mind), singing them Christmas ‘ymns, looking up with them shining eyes of ‘ers—‘til she notices me looking at ‘er (couldn’t ‘elp myself, truth be told), then she looks down, and keeps looking down. But day come when she got to liking to look back up at me with those eyes well ‘nough—‘nough that we was married in that same parish church.

Fact is, later on when we came ‘ere, Aslan says to me, ‘e says, “That is one of the reasons that I chose Queen Helen for Narnia, because of the way that she looked down and the way that she looked up.” Said it brought ‘im to mind of another Lady who was very dear to ‘im [“Please start the word ‘Lady’ with a capital letter,” His Majesty instructed me, “the way Aslan said it, it put me to mind like it needs to start with a capital letter. And whenever Aslan talks in this ‘ere tale, please to write it down the way Aslan would say it, not as it sounds when I relate it. And please do write ‘Aslan’ and not ‘Haslan’ as I hoften pr’nounces it.”].

Anyways, Nellie and me was married. But we were finding it ‘creasinly ‘ard to make a living in the country, so we decided to ‘ead up to the big Town of London. And since I knew a thing or two ‘bout ‘osses, we decided, my Nellie and me, to take all the money we ‘ad put by, and buy ol’ Strawberry, before we left, from a good and honest chap of my haquaintance (“son of a warhorse, ‘e is” s’what ‘e told me, and I believe it, to this day–Strawberry as was called then, Fledge as is called now), and also buy me my own ‘ansom, and enter the trade of a cabman. And my Nellie would take in peoples’ washings. Till one day I find me and Strawberry in sich a row as you never seen, and we end up ‘ere (as you ‘course know)—but that tale ‘as already been told by me many a time and been wrote up (as you know, mate, since you wrote it)—aye, we finds ourselves in this new world of Narnia, jist being born before our eyes and ears, and being made King and Queen of it by Aslan ‘imself, which was a bit of a shock to us, and no mistake.

One day, one of the first days of us being King and Queen of Narnia, when Aslan would come ‘round much more hoftener than these days, my Nellie, Queen Helen as was now called (who real soon-like could look in Aslan’s eyes and not look away more than hanyone else, more than myself even—still can) says to Aslan, she says (after ‘er proper curtsey, mind), “Dear Aslan, if you please, Sir, and if it weren’t no trouble, since you been so kind as to make us King and Queen, could you make it like King Arthur’s days? I always loved those stories ever so much, with knights, and ladies, and swords, and lances, and tournaments, and castles, and banners, and feasts, and banquets and things.” You see, the Southwick girls was always reading books and lending ‘em to my Nellie. “Yes, my dear,” says Aslan, “I know what is in your heart, as well as what is in your husband’s heart, for a longing for those days can always be found in the hearts of the true sons and daughters of Britain.”

And so it is to this day, we ‘ave a reg’lar castle and lords and ladies and knights like in olden times, ‘cept there’s much more ‘telligent creatures besides ‘umans ‘ere, as you well know. But being like we’re in “mid-evil” times as my Nellie says they called them (though it don’t seem too evil to me, jist yet), we don’t ‘ave none of the new conweniences that ‘Er Majesty back ‘ome ‘as (I speak at present of the Queen back in our old world, God save ‘er), sich as them new ‘lectric lights, no gaslights neither (‘cept for that lamppost, what grew up of hitself like it were a tree, but you ‘eard tell of that before), no hindoor plumbing, no steamships nor locomotives, not even any guns nor firearms to speak of. Even my wisest ones hain’t been given any of that type of knowledge yet. And me not ‘avin’ much eddycation, I can’t figure out ‘ow they all work anyways so as to explain any of it to ‘em, you see.

Aslan gave to some of my people (I call ‘em all “people”, no matter what creature they be—hactually, I should say Aslan’s people, not mine—but I’ve grown so fond of all of you, as I don’t mind saying), as I was relating, ‘e gave some of ‘em great ability to build things (like this ‘ere castle), and some to be smithys (that’d be the dwarfs), some to be wise and write down things and give counsels and sich (like yerself), some are real ‘andy with a bow ‘n arrow, some are hartists and makers o’ moosic, and some of my people can prepare a meal of food like I never even ‘eard tell of in my old country, or even in London—they seems like they was jist born with the knack. I s’pose it’s King Arthur-like food. And to be sure, we like it very much, I won’t deceive you.

But time come when I get a longing for some of the good country food like as Nellie used to cook back in the old ‘ome days. So I tells this to my Nellie (Queen Helen, ‘course), and before long she starts to going down reg’lar-like to the kitchens (we got more ‘n one) and puts on ‘er apron, the very same what she was wearing when she was brought ‘ere (“fergets ‘erself” as was commonly said—the people loves ‘er all the more fer it) and asks if she might, if it weren’t too much trouble, show the cooks ‘ow to prepare some of the meals like we ‘ad in Sussex. And then the cooks go to teaching their folks outside the castle and soon everybody’s famil’r with the Queen’s cooking. And I don’t mind saying it, those are the victuals what are now most preferred in all the land, though we still ‘ave the good and fancy food at banquets and sich.

As I mentioned, I ‘ad my little Testament with me from the very hour I stepped into Narnia, so one day I says to Aslan, I says, “Since I ‘as my Testament, and these people’s grown mighty dear to me, shouldn’t I, you know, let ‘em ‘ave a look in it? Maybe ‘ave these scribes ‘ere copy it down for ‘em all?” And ‘e says to me, “Son, the truths in your Testament hold fast in all worlds and for all times, but the stories in it are for your world. The reason that I called you from your world, was that knowing me there, you may know me better here. Narnia will have its own stories that will unfold over time and will be written down in due course. I am in all worlds, but with different names, and appear in different forms. Even in your own world, on the planets apart from yours, I have a different name, though I will always appear there in the form that you read about in your Testament.”

That being said, there was that time when the forest folk invite me and Nellie to be their guests at one of their night-time celebrations, with singing and dancing and story-telling, and with one of them big bon-fires, and they asks me to tell ‘em agin the story of ‘ow Narnia was first started out, which I does, and then one of the little’uns pipes up (fact, it were a little badger girl), and she asks me to tell ‘em ‘ow my world first come to be. So I looks over at Aslan (who was given an invite too, though ‘e don’t exactly need an invite anywheres, but ‘e seems to ‘preciate it all the same), and ‘e give me a little nod, ‘e does, so I makes free to proceed to telling ‘em (best I could from mem’ry, mind, cause I only ‘ad my Testament, and that story’s from t’Other Testament), I tells ‘em ‘bout the Creation of the World, in six days no less, and the Garden o’ Eden, and the first man and woman being Adam and Eve as was called. But when I started to tell ‘em the part ‘bout—well, never you mind—Aslan says to me, “That will do, Son of Adam.”

‘Course, everyone ‘eard what ‘e said, and it put ‘em to mind what ‘e had called us a time or two before, with my Nellie being called “Daughter of Eve” (fact, ‘e called the little boy and girl what was with us at the start of Narnia the same things, as well as that onpleasant old chap, but they since left—we do miss the two young’uns—can’t say as we miss t’other one) but now it was like they was putting two n’ two together and coming to an understanding of what the meaning of the phrase were. And so they started adding to the long list of names they give me (seems like it takes ‘bout ten minutes to recite the whole string of names we got), they tack on at the end “Son of Adam,” and to Nellie they adds at the end, “Daughter of Eve.” Now, I’m not sure if some of ‘em thought that our world was pract’ly as young as this ‘ere world of Narnia, and my hactual old dad was Adam, and Nellie’s hactual mum was Eve, but that’s what they took to calling us, on formal ‘casions. And when our boy Bob was born, they calls ‘im “His Royal Highness Prince Robert, (sich ‘n sich ‘n sich ‘n sich), Son of Adam,” and then they takes to calling our little Floy “Her Royal Highness Princess Florence” (which were Nellie’s mum’s name also, in point o’ fact), “(sich ‘n sich ‘n sich ‘n sich), Daughter of Eve.”

It was some months into our time ‘ere in Narnia as King and Queen, and we ‘aving nothing but the loveliest of spring-like weather (no scorching ‘eat like in summer, no cold blasts of wind like as autumn, no ‘int whatever of winter snow), that me and my Nellie one day was walking with Aslan in the fields, and my Nellie stops, and give ‘im that curtsey of ‘ers, and then looks up at Aslan with those eyes of ‘ers, and says, “Dear Aslan, Sir?” “What is it, my child?” ‘e asks. “Well, if you please, Sir,” she says, “we’ve been ‘aving sich lovely spring-like weather for ever so long, and I think it’s ever so nice, ‘deed I do. But shall we never have winter—what I really mean to ask is—could we not have Christmas?” And ‘e says to ‘er, “Remember, daughter, Christmas is one of the stories that is for your world.” But Nellie, in that shy way of ‘ers, yet at the same time bold as (well, not a lion, but close—she always could ‘old ‘is eyes) says to ‘im, “Dear Aslan, must it be always Spring and never Christmas?” And ‘e smiles at ‘er (in ‘is own way—I took it as a smile) and says, “My dear, you have conquered me. For I know that it was through Christmas that you first began to love me. Each year you shall have autumn, then a touch of winter, and you, and the whole land of Narnia, shall keep Christmas in whatever way you wish.” “Like back ‘ome, in England?” she says, “With food and sweets and presents and decorations and songs and things? Even just like in Mr. Dickens’ stories? And with Father Christmas? Even if ‘e is jist a tale.” And Aslan, ‘e says to ‘er, “Yes, even as Mr. Dickens tells it. But Father Christmas is more than a tale. You shall meet him yourself. For he manages to find his way into nearly any world that he pleases, though unlike me, he retains the same name and form.”

So, for these past several years now, whenever the air starts to getting a bit cold, and the snow starts to flying a little, the people ever’where starts getting hexcited and cheerful-like, for they know the feast of Christmas is coming. Even though no one but Nellie and me knows what it stands for, or even where the name comes from. And so we ‘ave the grandest Christmases you ever ‘eard tell of. And that Father Christmas is the jolliest bloke you’d ever want to meet.

In Their Most Beloved Majesties’ Royal Service,

Zebnus,

Chief Scribe and Recorder of Histories, Narnia

(Illustration from The Magician’s Nephew by Pauline Baynes)

Only Real People Live Here

One day about twenty years ago, when we were new to our neighborhood, I started to take a walk when I heard the sound of a baby crying through an open window in the duplex across the street. The thought immediately popped into my head: “Only real people live here.” As I continued my walk, I remembered a quote by C.S. Lewis from Letters To Malcolm: Chiefly On Prayer: The prayer preceding all prayers is ‘May it be the real I who speaks. May it be the real Thou that I speak to.’

none of us are noble/none of us are wise in this world’s eyes/there’s no one rich and famous here/no one here whose star is on the rise/we’re only real people/with good and bad and everything between/we’re only earthen vessels/with treasures that are waiting to be seen

may it be the real i who speaks/may it be the real You i’m talking to/for only real people live here

1 Corinthians 1:26-27; 2 Corinthians 4:7

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