Column/Inspirational Christmas stories

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 22, 2006

I’ve written before about some of the book I enjoy at Christmas – including Henry Van Dyke’s “The Story of the Fourth Wise Man.”

It is the story of Artaban, a magi who is supposed to meet his three friends to make the journey west when they see the star in the sky.

He leaves as scheduled, but because he stops to help others along the way, he doesn’t make it to see the Christ child.

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I won’t spoil the ending for you, but he does have an unforgettable encounter.

I also enjoy reading Truman Capote’s holiday stories, including “One Christmas” and “A Christmas Memory.”

Both are autobiographical. “One Christmas” is the story of a boy, Buddy, who lives with relatives in Alabama. (Capote, as you may know, spent some of his childhood in Monroeville).

Buddy goes to New Orleans to spend Christmas with his father, who he doesn’t know. It’s a bittersweet book, but a great read, written in Capote’s simple, straightforward style.

In “A Christmas Memory,” we again meet up with Buddy, but this is a much happier story for young Capote to tell.

He is with his precious Sook, his great aunt, who is a best friend throughout his childhood.

He and Sook have adventures preparing for Christmas, including the annual baking of the fruitcakes, which is the event that ushers in the season.

There are a lot of great Christmas stories, including several modern tales, such as John Grisham’s “Skipping Christmas,” made into the movie, “Christmas with the Kranks.”

One you may have missed is “Christmas Past” by Robert Vaughan.

Vaughan is a prolific writer who lives in Orange Beach, Ala.

The book is about a high-powered couple who spend so much time on their careers that their marriage is on the brink of divorce.

Separately, they each receive a travel brochure about a bed and breakfast in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee and decide to take their children for a last family Christmas together.

As they leave civilization, they discover a Victorian era village that seems to exist in a different time altogether.

At first they have trouble adjusting without cell phones, video games and television, but soon re-discover what is most important in their lives. And, as you might have guessed, it has nothing to do with material possessions.

“Christmas Past” is as sweet and syrupy as any Lifetime holiday movie. But, if you long for a simpler time, you’ll enjoy this book.

Of course, there’s other great classics, like Charles Dickens, “A Christmas Carol” and “Old Christmas” by Washington Irving.

There is perhaps no story more inspirational at Christmas than the one in Luke 2:

“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 Joseph also went up from Galilee … unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem … 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, wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.”

Tammy Leytham is editor of The Selma Times-Journal.