22 December 2012



The sun shone on the frozen town, but it yielded no warmth to the boy whose occupation was to construct a cave. Diligently, in the quiet churchyard, he chiselled impacted snow with his boot, squatting occasionally to scoop chippings with his bare hands. He could hear the choristers singing: Oh Come All Ye Faithful. His favourite. Humming as he worked, he felt strangely ashamed that he did not know the words, but then he had never been encouraged to learn religious songs.

The Boy in his ignorance did not understand

Tiring of the pointless exercise, the boy adjusted his baseball cap. Hungry and cold, he shoved his numb hands into his pockets and considered going home, but the idea was discounted as quickly as it occurred. His Dad would be on the Internet and he hated to be disturbed when he was surfing. It was all he thought of, except when Sky Sport was on the telly. Christmas meant nothing to him; there were too many mysteries for his liking.

The Boy, in his ignorance, did not understand

Nor did he understand his mother, who sang so joyfully before she discovered drugs, and who believed the Millennium would be her salvation.

The boy, in his ignorance, did not understand.

A new carol began: We Three Kings of Orient Are. Leaning against the edifice, the boy banged his heel and bounced his head in rhythm. Suddenly, a shadow fell before him and he stiffened, fearful lest he was doing wrong.

The man whose shadow the boy had seen, a bearded man in a grey robe, came to stand in front of him. 'I am the Custodian,' he said in a gentle voice. 'Would you like to see our Christmas tableau?'
The boy remembered his father deriding the church's endeavours to recreate the nativity. This was the modern age, how could they reproduce what never existed?

The boy, in his ignorance, did not understand.

Feeling the first stirrings of inquisitiveness, a yearning suddenly to see inside, the boy took the stranger's hand and allowed himself to be led away.

Festooned with berry-laden holly, the church was alive with Christmas atmosphere. There was a sweet smelling pine tree, shining with baubles and a silver cross, but it was the nativity display that caught the boy's attention. Viewed by hushed, reverent children, each one pointing to a thing of note, it was as wondrous as fairyland. The wide-eyed boy crept nearer, wanting to touch the blue-eyed baby in the straw-filled stall.

Without warning, from the depths of the church there came great crashes of reverberating chords, followed by a more peaceful air.

And the congregation sang: Once in Royal David's City.

The boy, in his ignorance, did not understand the passion he felt or the coursing tears as he joined in, humming when the lyrics eluded him. Unwittingly, he stepped back, not wanting to disturb the sleeping babe, and when the carol ended he turned and fled and did not halt until he reached the outside.

The Custodian advanced towards him, smiling, gliding almost through fresh snow. Not wanting to show his tears, the boy made off. It wasn't proper to cry, his Dad said.
'Peace be with you, the man called.
'Thanks,' hurled back the boy, and he sprinted away leaving a trail of footprints in his wake.
As he sped along, he reflected on the pleasant experience. He could hardly wait to tell his Dad.
Peace be with you, the man had said, and the boy, in his wisdom, understood.


Written by Valerie Daggatt for the Christmas Carol Service in Birmingham Cathedral
Copyright December 2000


  1. That was truly a lovely story Valerie. Merry Christmas and A Very Happy New Year!

  2. smiles...peace to you as well valerie...a perfect little story for christmas...leaving me with a his understanding...i feel for him...

  3. Thank you, Denise, and all good wishes to you for Christmas.

    I am so pleased you liked this, Brian. I am especially proud at the way the story progressed. Happy Christmas to you and your lovely family.

  4. Thanks for this Valerie.
    Peace be with you too, and a very Happy Christmas.

  5. What a BEAUTIFUL story, Valerie!

    It totally brought a smile to my heart!

    "Peace be with you, the man had said, and the boy, in his wisdom, understood."


    Thank you so much for sharing, dear lady!

    Hope you're enjoying this holiday season!

    ((((((( You ))))))


  6. Hello Ron, how lovely to see you here. So unexpected. Thank you for commenting on this, my favourite Christmas story. Best wishes for Christmas and the New Year.

  7. Merry Christmas Val!

    Have you seen my cowboy, Valance around?


  8. that was beautiful, Val! Have a wonderful Christmas!

  9. Oh, what a beautiful story.
    Thank you for the warmed heart. :-)

  10. A beautiful story.. and
    love the Christmas header !!

    Happy Holidays Val. !!

  11. Love the Xmasy header! Have a wonderful Xmas, Val! Lea and I have really appreciated your regular visits to our blog.

  12. Wonderful! Very poignant and nicely done!!


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