I love a good story. And one of my favorite parts of homeschooling the Bear has been getting introduced to new stories in the children’s books selected for the Five in a Row Literature series. We read a new book every day for a week and pull out different things to discuss: perhaps a science lesson, new vocabulary, character lessons, elements of the story that are important to discuss, how the illustrator created the imagery and what we can do to do create something similar.

A couple of weeks ago, we were sitting down for our Five in a Row time, and I’d deviated a little from the books on the list in order to read the Christmas story in his Beginner’s Bible each day that week. There were lots of interesting aspects of the story to discuss, and I was super-impressed with the Bear’s version of the angel, Gabriel, which he drew and painted one afternoon.


{The Bear’s Gabriel – Remember he’s only 5 folks!}


{I also came up with an idea for clothespin angels!}

One morning, we read the story and before discussion time I quickly went to put the Belle down for her nap. When I returned, he had flipped through the Bible, all the way to the story of the crucifixion. He asked if I would read that story to him as well.

Imagining how this could be a very useful and teachable moment, I immediately started reading — but I didn’t expect it to be a teachable moment for me.

We read about Judas carrying out his “bad plan” and about it being time for Jesus to die, as it had been planned for a long time. And after his (G-rated) death, then there was, “A Great Surprise” — the Resurrection.

It was so strange to see so many parallels — and to consider that this was the end that God had in mind, from the beginning. That precious baby boy, wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger, would eventually become a fully grown, fully God-man, wrapped in grave clothes and laid in a tomb. From a poor baby’s crib, a feeding trough for animals — to a rich man’s tomb, the gift of another Joseph.

His unexpected birth while Mary & Joseph were just visiting in Bethlehem was paralleled by an unexpected death, when he and his followers were “just visiting” Jerusalem.

But the thing that stood out the most to me — what I’d never noticed before that made me drop my jaw and say, “Wow!” aloud, to the Bear? The story began with an angel appearing to a woman named Mary, telling the Good News of the arrival of the Son of God. And the story ended with an angel, appearing to a woman named Mary, who’d arrived at the tomb to mourn — but the angel had Good News — Jesus was alive again!

From that first announcement of the impending imminence, to the final telling of His death-defeating transcendence, it is a story that a writer just relishes to read. The very re-telling of it, simplified into a children’s Bible, is still awe-inspiring.

This simple and unexpected parallel made me consider how Jesus’ story absolutely began with the end in mind.

And what does it mean for us now? Could it serve to remind us that Christmas and the Crucifixion are rightly seen as inseparable, first and final acts in the greatest story ever told? Could the Christmas trees lighting up our homes remind us that the One who hung on a dead tree brought life and light to all of us?

And the angels we sing of, we speak of, we decorate our trees with — could they remind us of those twin bookends to that greatest of stories? That miraculous, angelic Good News bringing, that had all of heaven excited? Couldn’t it serve to remind us that you and I, and all the earth, should continue to celebrate the Good News, live the Good News, and share the Good News all year long?

He is the gift wrapped up from God to all the world, with swaddling clothes at the beginning and grave clothes at the end. Planned from the beginning, foretold by the Law and the prophets, announced by the angels, born at night to symbolize the Light arriving into the darkness, rising again in Glorious Day to signify that the Light had fully come.

He is a gift too large to fit under any tree, but the right size to grow our hearts a few sizes the instant we understand the meaning.

What a glorious story to savor, start to finish!

Whether the lights are still twinkling on your tree, or the wreath no longer graces the door, hold it tightly in your heart.

Merry, merry Christmas.