Friday, January 8, 2021



- written by Aurrsa.

Come October and I am certain I spotted a cluster of reindeer lights at the mall. Stopped me dead in my tracks! Did Christmas come early to Sydney? (Yeah, this was in the Land of Down Under; wonder why its called that, btw🤔).

I asked my friend Maria and she told me that celebrations begin early because people leave for their native lands to be with family in December.

So decorations go up in homes as early as November probably after Halloween decorations come down. And suddenly, SANTALAND is in town!! 

With this convenient way of raising stock sales, the true meaning of Christmas goes for a toss as Santa and his goodie-ness makes the grand entry. 

'Better be nice, he's checking his list twice'. And you muster up a picture of a shortsighted Santa peering into a long list of all your many many mistakes aka sins and shaking his head in despair. No gifts for you this year, little one. NO WAY!

There was a time I wore a Santa cap, kept milk and cookies near my Christmas tree, belted out 'Jingle Bells' and 'I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus' just like every one else. 

I recall having a ball dancing to merry songs bringing in Christmas cheer at Christmas parties that we went to right after doing the obligatory Mass at church. 

For me then, Christmas was all about new dresses, partying all night and presents, presents, lots of presents. I hadn't even heard of a season called Advent nor of Christmastide. 

Fast forward two decades, and I'm now a mother of five adorable children and homeschooling four at the time, when a friend Anna introduces me to the beauty of Advent. 


Advent songs, the Advent wreath, and soon after, I discovered the Jesse tree tradition. It was a Revelation, I tell you.

I learnt that silly Santa is actually a distorted version of St Nicholas, a saint that I have grown to admire for he's never bothered if I'm naughty or nice. December 6th gets me all excited as I fill the stockings with gold coins (chocolate ones, of course) and leave oranges or little gifts in the children's shoes.

In Advent, we only play and sing Advent songs. Wonderful songs like 'Light one Candle' and 'Come Lord Jesus Come'. As we light the candles, we pray for the Second Coming of Christ. 

The children still love hearing the stories of the Jesse tree, how God traced His finger through history and brought forth a Saviour time and again. Joseph, Moses and finally,  JESUS.

And as the Advent season draws to a close, the decorations go up in my home, not to welcome Santa on his sleigh, but Jesus in His manger. A Birthday Party to look forward to. No more giddy-headed, drunken Christmas ones for me. 

Time to light the Christ candle, play the toy drum, offer Jesus a gift and then adore Him, who is God, Man and Sacrifice. Can you accuse me of not having the Christmas spirit because I won't sing Santa songs? 

For, as I sit looking at the sleeping Baby and at the serene calm of the crib, all I can sing is:


 I'm so glad its Christmas,

All the tinsels and lights, 

And the presents are nice, 



I'm so glad its Christmas,

All the carols and bells,

Make the holidays swell,




Monday, January 4, 2021



(continued from THE PALACE ON THE HILL)

- stories for children by Aurrsa.

The three wise men sat down to a splendid spread, set on an ornate table. They ate to their heart's content, sipping wine from sparkling goblets in between mouthfuls of well cooked lamb and venison. Then,   reclining on silk-laden couches, they prepared for a well deserved nap. Soon they were fast asleep.

Meanwhile, King Herod sent the captain of the guard to bring him the chief priest. When the chief priest arrived, he questioned him at length about the new star. He learnt that the prophecies of old were coming true. Dismissing the priest with a handsome bribe and warning him not to reveal anything to the people, Herod went back to his chambers and woke up the sleeping travellers. 

"Arise, there is no time to lose." he exclaimed. "You must make haste to find this king, for he is meant to fulfill the prophecies of our people,"  "And" he added, "when you find him, you must return back to tell me where he is so that I too may pay him homage."

The wise men saddled their camels with more food and water for they did not know how far their final destination might be. 

"We will need to give the newborn king some gift," Gaspar said. He took out his bag of coins. "I have only these few coins. Much was spent on the journey." 

Melchior had ONLY one thing to give: he could  give only that. "I'll give my jar of frankincense."he said,  showing the other two his priceless possession.

Balthazar said nothing. He looked dismayed. The other two looked at each other, then asked in unison, "Balthazar, what will you give the child king?"

"I have this." he said sadly, showing them the jar of myrrh  "It connects me with my dead son. How can I possibly part with it?"

"See if you have anything else to give then." said Gaspar kindly. Although not a father yet, he could well imagine the pain in  Balthazar's heart. Melchior too understood. Although his loss had been monetary, the pain was the same.

Balthazar shook his head. He had nothing worthy to give other than the myrrh. He had to part with it. There - he had made his decision. No turning back now!

The three wise men bid farewell to King Herod, promising to return soon with the whereabouts of the new king. Mounting their camels, they proceeded to the city gates and - lo and behold! the star was waiting for them there.

They followed the star to a place called Bethlehem, some 4000 miles from Jerusalem. The star led them straight to Farmer Shalom's stable, hovering over it and filling the interior with a radiant light. 

As they arrived, they were greeted with singing. A chorus of angels and shepherds welcomed them in. What a wondrous sight they saw when they entered the stable. Mary, Joseph and a little baby were enveloped in the warm glow of the Spirit. 

The three wise men knew that they were in the presence of something divine. Suddenly, their gifts made sense. Gold for a king, frankincense for a God and myrrh for a mortal being. Bowing reverently,they placed their gifts at the feet of the newborn king.

When they looked up, what do you think they saw? The baby Jesus was smiling sweetly at them. Mary and Joseph thanked them for the valuable gifts, (for in those days, all three were very costly). 

Later, the farmer and his wife took the three wise men to rest at the inn (for by then the census being taken, the inn was empty again except for a few holidaymakers). In the night, however, they were warned in a dream not to go back to Herod. So,  they left the inn in the dead of the night without waking a soul and took another route back to Jamal.

Once they reached the caravan, Balthazar gave Gaspar a bag of coins for his journey back home. Melchior, well, he stayed with Balthazar, and became chief trader in due course. And Balthazar got the best gift of all. His wife whispered her good news into his ears as soon as they were alone in the tent.

Wiping away tears of joy, Balthazar placed in his son's clay plate what he had brought back with him from the stable of Bethlehem.



Children, this is the last story for these days of Christmas, but I cannot leave without asking you


Think hard and make sure to give it to Him when you place the three wise men in the crib today. Shalom and may God bless you with patience of an ox, humility of a donkey, gentleness of sheep, simplicity of the shepherds, and sacrificial generosity of the three wise men.

Sunday, January 3, 2021



(continued from FOLLOW YONDER STAR)

- stories for children by Aurrsa.

The three wise men followed the star as it led them across deserts and high roads, into valleys and over hills till at last it hovered over a majestic city. Then, just as suddenly as it had appeared outside Jamal, it disappeared once again. 

The men waited two whole days, thinking the star would reappear - but NOTHING! So Balthazar, being the impatient one, said to the others, "Maybe this city is where the new king is. Let's go and ask the inhabitants whether they know anything about him."

Melchior was hesitant, but it was two against one when Gaspar nodded at the idea. So the three travellers made their way through the gates till they reached the marketplace. 

On enquiring around, they were told that there was ONLY one king in Jerusalem, King Herod. He lived in an opulent palace built on a hill. 

The three wise men decided to visit the king and see whether he had any knowledge about the new king. Little did they know what they were getting into. 

They proceeded to the hill where the palace was and climb arduously up its slope till they arrived at the huge drawbridge. The name Antilia was blazoned on the outer wall of the palace near this bridge. 

"We wish to meet His Majesty, the King. We were following a new star that led us here to your city.", Gaspar told the guard. One of the royal servants was sent to convey this message to King Herod.

On hearing the strange news, King Herod was immediately curious and summoned the three wise men to his private chambers. There he questioned the three about every minute detail regarding the star and their quest. In his mind, he mulled over all this information, and cunning, as he was, he knew at once that this posed a threat to him. 

But he pretended to be hospitable and deeply concerned about the welfare of the three men and this new king they were seeking. 

"Come, come. You must be tired and hungry after such a long journey. Freshen up and I will send you some food and drink " Saying this, he left them, but not before summoning his royal guards and posting them outside so the visitors would not escape.


Children, I am sure you are waiting to hear what happened next. We'll see tomorrow. Sleep well now and maybe you'll see the star before the wise men do.




Saturday, January 2, 2021



(continued from THE HORSE TRADER)

- stories for children by Aurrsa.

Balthazar soon reached the city gates and, to his relief, the two men and the stallion were still where he had left them. The star it seemed had been delayed. 

He dismounted from Bahadur, and sheepishly made his way to them, apologizing profusely for daring to disturb them. 

"Friends, please forgive me for my arrogance earlier. I am used to getting my way and forgot my manners."

He then surprised himself by saying, "I too would like to join you'll on this quest. I am intrigued by your story."

Gaspar looked at the trader, then at the beggar and he was at a loss for words. How could the three of them go across the desert or wherever the star led them without adequate transport? The horses would tire out after a while. Besides, they didn't have any food or water. What was he even thinking!

Sensing his dilemma, Balthazar spoke up. "If you don't mind me making a suggestion, why don't we take three of my sturdiest camels along with some provisions from my abundant stock. You can leave your horse with my right hand man. He knows how to handle horses well. In fact, he trains them too."

"Yes, thats a great idea. Thank you for offering. Let's go and get the camels right away." 

Balthazar and Gaspar rode quickly to the caravan and handed Jhanjar and Bahadur over to Balthazar's right hand man. The two animals settled down and began feeding hungrily. 

Choosing three camels from his caravan (he had twenty), Balthazar got his servants to load them with enough food and water for the journey. 

He mounted one, Gaspar mounted the other and one of the servants mounted the third camel. They proceeded as fast as the camels could take them to the city gates.

At the city gates, the servant got down from his camel and handed the reins to Melchior. With a salaam to his master, he returned back to the camp on foot.

The three men looked up at the sky in unison, and, as if by cue, there it was! The star that had brought Gaspar to Jamal reappeared as if by magic and began moving westward again. 

The three men quickly mounted their camels and followed the star, excited to begin an adventure and eager to know what their final destination would be. 

Children, wouldn't you have liked to be sitting on one of those camels right now? I sure would. 

We'll see where the star leads them tomorrow. Sleep well dears and if you can't get sleep quickly, count camels instead of sheep!




Tuesday, December 29, 2020



(continued from THE JAR AND MELCHIOR)

At the same time that Melchior and Gaspar were waiting at the city gates for the star, a caravan of camels were heading towards the nearby desert. The leader of the group was a dealer in horses. He entered the gates and made his way to the stables of a renowned horse merchant.  

The merchant took him to see the horses and eventually after testing a few he thought were worth buying, and bargaining relentlessly, he bought a couple of the best stallions. 

Making his way back to the caravan, he happened to cross the two star gazers. They had a magnificent stallion with them and he was immediately drawn to the beauty of the beast. 

"What a fine specimen indeed! I have never seen one like this in a long time." 

He approached the two men, and the horses greeted each other with loud neighs as they neared.

"Pardon me, kind sirs, but is that horse for sale?" Balthazar was nothing if not direct. What he wanted, he always asked for. Or took. 

The young man shook his head in reply. But Balthazar, knowing the value of the horse, started bargaining with Gaspar. Perceiving that the latter was getting increasingly agitated by the trader's persistence, Melchior said, "He is waiting for a star to guide him to his destination. He will need the horse to take him there so I'm afraid that he cannot sell it to you."

Balthazar's face fell. He left the two men and slowly made his way to the caravan. Giving the reins to his servant boy, he made his way to the tent that had been erected for him and his family.

It was only him and his wife now. He had just lost his only son, a boy so dear to him. His heart heavy, he lifted the curtain and entered, greeting his wife as he removed the turban and gave it to her. 

Near the bed, lay a delicately carved table. On it, he had kept a keepsake of his son, a clay bowl that the boy used to eat out of.  Next to it was the jar of myrrh, some of which had been used to embalm the boy's body for burial.

A tiny tear trickled down the corner of one eye and he wiped it away. A sign of weakness. He wouldn't want his wife to see it. 

Turning to her, he boasted of his purchases as he sat down to eat the meal she had laid out but he did not mention about the two men and their horse till much later when they had retired for the night. His wife reassured him that the next day would bring him better luck. 

Sleep alluded him however. He could see the majestic beast in his mind's eye and he knew he just had to have it. So he arose quietly, and saddled his horse and made his way back to the city gates.

"I hope I'm not too late," he  thought. Make haste, Bahadur, make haste!"

Rest tomorrow, children. Sleep well for the night is long and full of exciting events. Tomorrow we will know what happened.






(continued from A STAR IS BORN)

The rising sun shone warmly over the city of Jamal. In the city square, the market was bustling with life, vendors making their way to the usual places, traders unpacking their wares and a few local women haggling relentlessly to get the right price they wanted to pay for the goods they were purchasing.

A lone man sat in a corner, clasping a jar close to his chest. Once a rich merchant, he was now reduced by poverty to begging in the streets. 

In the jar, there was frankincense, the only treasure he had from his former life. He held it close, rubbing it from time to time, like one would a magic lamp. Perhaps he hoped his luck would change. 

As he sat there, he saw a stranger enter through the gates from afar and ride across to where he was sitting. As the man dismounted from his horse, a bag fell from his cloak. The man did not seem to notice it. 

Melchior (for that was our beggar's name) arose and went over to where the bag had fallen. He picked it up and, realising from the weight, that it must hold gold coins, was tempted for a moment to keep it for himself. Then the voice of his mother ran through his thoughts, "Son, when you take something that is not yours, you steal from God."

Melchior ran the distance to where the rider and his stead were standing and called out, "Kind Sir, here is something that is yours."

Gaspar looked back and saw his bag of coins in the hands of a total stranger, and he stretched out his hand to take it. Putting it into the deep recesses of his pocket, he turned to clasp Melchior's hand. 

"Brother, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for returning this to me. Without it, I wouldn't have been able to continue my journey."

The two men continued talking as if they were long lost friends even though one was old enough to be the father of the other. They exchanged information about their past and then Gaspar told him why he was in Jamal. 

"I followed the star and it led me here and then it disappeared. I will wait for it to reappear tonight. Will you wait with me?" Melchior was intrigued and readily agreed to accompany Gaspar to the gates to wait for the star he spoke of. 

By sunset they both walked slowly to the city gates, Gaspar holding the reins and Melchior clutching his precious jar. There, they waited for the star to reappear and tell them where to go next.

Rest of the story tomorrow. When are the camels coming? Soon, very soon.