RINGING THE CHIMES.
Once upon a time in a land far away, the people of a certain town would bring gifts and offerings for the Christ child to their church every Christmas Eve.
Now this particular church had a tall bell tower. The old people in the town said that when the most precious gift of all was laid on the church altar, the chimes would ring a beautiful tune. Some said God himself rang the chimes. Some said the angels stooped toward earth to set them ringing. Nevertheless, the chimes had not rung for many years, so some said the story was just an old fable.
It so happened that one year a boy and his little brother were walking together to the colorful Christmas Eve pageant. As they walked, they talked about the pageant. Everyone in the town would be there, dressed in their finest clothes.
But as they came near to the church, the boy spied an old woman huddled in the snow outside the city gates. She had fallen and had been too sick and too weak to get back up or even cry for help. The boy stooped beside her to help and laid her gray head in his lap. Then he dug into his pocket and drew out a silver coin.
"Take this and place it on the altar for the Christ child for me."
"But you'll miss the celebration!" his brother protested. "You'll miss the choir and the singing and ... and ..."
The boy shook his head. "If I don't help her, this poor woman may die out here in the cold. You go." He tried to smile. "I will not miss it so much."
The younger boy hesitated, then left his brother alone with the sick woman. He arrived at the church just as the villagers finished bringing their gifts to the Christ child. Many brought rings of gold and chains of silver. Several gave fine jewels. One woman presented a robe embroidered with the finest stitching. And a great man of the town laid his shining silver sword on the altar. The little brother snuck into the midst of the throng and shyly placed his single silver coin amid the other gifts.
Suddenly the chimes in the bell tower began to ring! A more heavenly sound had never been heard. The minister raised his arms and the congregation stared at the altar to see what gift had made the chimes ring. But all they saw was the little brother of the boy who had stopped to save an old woman's life and the single silver coin he had laid on the altar.
REFLECT: Do you think the boy and his brother's offering pleased God? If so, why? How do you think you would have felt if you had been that little boy? In today's Bible reading, did God reward the Hebrew midwives for their compassion toward the Israelite babies in Egypt? If so, how?
PRAY: "Father, help me to see the many rewards of being compassionate, even when they are invisible."