There’s an old story about a teacher who wanted to show a little boy in her classroom just how ridiculous his exaggerated tales had become. So she made up one of her own, telling the child that she had seen a grizzly bear in her backyard eating from a garbage can, and that a little black dog came along, pulled that grizzly out of the garbage can and killed that bear right there on the spot.
“Now, do you believe that story,” the teacher asked.
“You bet I do,” the little boy said. “That was my little black dog, and that was the fourth grizzly he’s killed this week.”
That’s one of hundreds of jokes that have been told by the late, great Minnie Pearl, a comedian who graced the stage of the Grand Ole Opry for decades and who was a regular on the long-running TV series Hee Haw. My friend Judy Williams gave me a book containing many of Minnie’s best-loved stories, including the one about the little boy prone to exaggeration.
Did you ever notice that some true stories need no exaggeration to make them spellbinding? That tends to be the case for all those involving Jesus. Everything about Him is enthralling, including his birth, which we celebrate each Christmas. Let’s listen to Luke tell about the night of Jesus’ birth:
“And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
“And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
“And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
“And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
“And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.
“And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them” (Luke 2:1-20).
Now that, my friends, is a true story about God’s only begotten Son being born in a stable in Bethlehem, about God’s perfect gift to mankind being wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger.
The little boy prone to exaggeration could tell that magnificent story over and over without ever feeling the need to embellish in the least, because that is, of course, the greatest story ever told.
Roger Alford is pastor of South Fork Baptist Church. Reach him at 502-524-6857 or by writing to P.O. Box 673, Owenton, Ky. 40359.