The night before Jesus was born; shepherds came into the town of Bethlehem to tell the people of a great gift that would soon come to them. They told the story of the herald angels who had announced the coming of the Christ child, and naturally, everyone wanted to go to see the newborn king.
The people gathered their families and began to wend their way through the streets toward the stable where the baby had been born. Two young boys were tossed and jostled by the crowd. They watched and wondered, and they, too, wanted to see the Christ child.
“I hope I’ll see God’s Son,” one boy gasped with wonder, and the other boy turned to laugh at him. But just as he was about to laugh, he grew quiet, for he saw that the first lad was blind.
“You can’t see,” said the other child.
“No, but someone will lead me to the stable.”
“I would lead you,” said the second lad, “but I must find a gift for the baby. Everyone is bringing gifts, and I’m so poor. I’ve no idea what to bring.”
“You must bring a gift,” said the blind boy, and he held up his own armful of flowers. “You must have something to present to God’s child.”
“I’ll go and find something,” said the second boy, “and I will meet you at the stable.”
“Agreed,” said the first boy, and the two parted ways.
The poor boy who had no gift went running this way and that, hurrying down alleys, searching for something he might bring to the new king. He found pebbles on the ground, but he shook his head. Those wouldn’t do. He looked up at the sky and wished he could bring stars. “Only stars would be a proper gift for our new king,” he whispered to himself, and then he began to feel sad, for he could think of nothing he might give the newborn king.
At last, he gave up and began to follow the crowds of people making their way toward the manger. He needed to see the child, even if he had to go empty-handed. He would be there. He pondered as he walked, for he was a clever lad, and he knew he would think of something. Somehow he would find some way to show his respect.
Meanwhile, the blind boy searched for someone to lead him to the stable, but everyone was excitedly rushing this way and that. In their eagerness and anticipation, they ignored him and passed him by. “Please,” he called to one man, but the man was already gone. “I’d like your help,” he called to another, but he too disappeared. And soon the blind boy realized he was alone. He stopped to listen, and he realized he was surrounded by the silence of the night.
“Everyone’s gone,” he said, and he sat down to think. “I’ll never find my way alone.” At first, he felt like crying, but then he was filled with hope. “Something will lead me to the stable,” he said aloud. He felt the same trusting hope the other boy felt about his gift.
Then, in the silence, the boy heard the faint tinkling of a cow’s bell in the distance. He cocked his head and listened, and sure enough, he heard the tinkling sound again. “That bell is on a cow,” the boy said under his breath, “and I am certain the cow is in the very stable where the child was born.”
His heart swelling with excitement, he stood up and began to walk, and with each few steps, he stopped to listen again. Again he heard the tinkling, and following the sound, he walked on through the night, all alone. As he walked, the sound of the bell grew louder, and he knew he nearly had found the cow.
Sure enough, his journey was successful. He reached the stable, and there the crowds had gathered, and there lay the child, the newborn king. The blind boy knelt down before the cow and gave thanks, and then he whispered to the people around him. “I found the child because I heard the tinkling of the bells.”
“Tonight is a night of miracles,” a man said.
Just at that moment, the other boy, the poor lad, came to the blind boy’s side. “I am so glad you have made it,” he said.
“And you?” the blind boy asked, “did you find a gift?”
“I did not,” he said, “but I am going to show our newborn king something special,” and with that, he stepped forward. In his hand, he held six balls. He tossed them in the air, one by one, and began to juggle.
The crowd grew silent, amazed at the skill of the poor lad. And suddenly, in the silence, they heard something still more wonderful. The newborn child laughed.
More than one miracle happened that night and all of these we celebrate today. Among them were the stories of these two boys, of the cow’s bell that led one child to find God’s child, and of the little boy who made the child laugh. People today still herald the coming of Christmas night with ringing bells, and they hang balls upon Christmas trees to remember the laughter of God.