The shepherd had now grown old but his face would still glow when he predicted with conviction that ‘the great king, the king of love, will soon arrive’. His grandson would always strain his ears to hear every possible detail of this great advent. And he would ask many, many questions, “When is he coming?” “I don’t know,” the old man would reply, “but definitely the time is near.” “And where is he coming?” “I don’t know,” the old man would answer, “but certainly not very far away from here.” “And will he have a crown of gold on his head, like other kings?” “I don’t know. But I am certain of one thing. He will soon come.”
The boy used to daydream a lot about this king who is coming so soon and so near. And he would conjecture what kind of gift he can possibly give to this great king, the king of love. Finally he hit on an idea. Given that he enjoyed playing the flute, he started putting hours and hours of practice on his instrument, hoping that when the great king appears, he would be able to play the most beautiful melody ever heard on earth just for him! This waiting grew ever bigger in his heart. His life became an expectation.
So that night when he saw the shepherds hurrying towards the fields, claiming that angels had appeared to them and told them that the king was born, he was overjoyed. Very excited, he got out of bed, seized his flute and furtively followed the shepherds towards the place the angels had indicated to them.
However he was in for a big surprise. The shepherds did not go in a fantastic mansion or a huge castle as he had always envisioned, but instead they entered into a small, muddy cave. He could see no royalty there, only a young man and his pretty wife who had just given birth to a baby boy. The woman looked weary because of the childbirth and the baby was crying.
The boy was very disappointed. The scene was sweet and loving but he had always imagined something else. And he said to himself that perhaps he had made a mistake. He had hoped in vain. Dreams differ from reality and with a heavy heart he set off for home. Just then, the baby started crying even more strongly. He turned around and went back, pulled his flute from his rucksack and started playing the tune he had practised so well in the past months. The melody was angelic. The baby listened and amazingly enough, stopped crying. He closed his eyes and fell peacefully asleep. His first sleep on earth! But just before he closed his eyes, the baby looked at the little boy and … smiled! What a smile!
This smile filled his heart. It re-energized him interiorly. He went back home elated, because he understood that he had not hoped in vain. The King, the King of Love was this baby. And he realized also that he was the lucky recipient of His first smile!
This is the real meaning of Christmas. God the King of Love became man and smiled and this smile has made us wealthy.
(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission is hereby granted for any non-commercial use, provided that the content is unaltered from its original state, if this copyright notice is included.