"Alive!" is a bi-monthly topical evangelistic tract, which has been published since the 1960s. The present editor is Gordon Smith from Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Copies are available at £8.00 per 100 (plus postage). Generous discounts are available for quantity, and the tract can be personalised at £1.00 extra per 100. Christmas and Easter editions are produced, but otherwise the tracts are undated and can be used at any time of the year. To order Alive!, send us an e-mail via the Contact Us page to take out your subscription.
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From the current issue of Alive!
Three witnesses to the events in Bethlehem give their account...
A Shepherd’s Tale
by Maurice Richardson
I want you to imagine you were with me, some long time ago, as a shepherd on a Middle Eastern hillside. As usual we, with other shepherds, were wrapped up against the wind and sitting round a fire to keep warm. It was very warm during the day, but when the sun went down it could get very cold. We had sorted out the guard rota to keep the sheep as safe as possible. Shepherding out here was not an attractive job. It could be difficult, always having to find food and water for the flocks and it could be dangerous, when there were wild animals in the area – but at least it was a job.
The night was now dark, except for the flickering flames of the fire and some stars, when suddenly there appeared a light in the sky. It was so bright that we were terrified; and there was the figure that spoke with a voice like I’d never heard before. Although I’d never seen one before, I knew this was an angel of God and he said, “Don’t be afraid! I have good news for you and everybody else: in Bethlehem, King David’s city, a baby has been born who is Christ the Lord. The sign of this is that you will find the baby wrapped in cloths and lying in an animal feeding trough”.
That wasn’t all. The next thing we knew there were hundreds of them, angels, I mean, all around us. It seemed like the sky was full of them. They were praising God and saying, “Peace on earth and goodwill to all men”.
When the angels had gone away and we had recovered from our initial shock, we looked at each other trying to understand what had happened. Someone then suggested we should go down to Bethlehem and see if it was true. Sure enough, we found the stable with no bother and inside were a couple, called Mary and Joseph, and just as the angel had said, there was a new-born baby in a feeding trough.
We had forgotten about the sheep and all we could do was kneel down in front of this Baby – this was the Christ, the Saviour, whom all the teachers had talked about, yet we poor shepherds had been told first! When we left the stable we told anyone we could find what we had seen and heard that night. Everyone was amazed. I know some thought we were crazy, but I know what I saw and I’ll always remember. We headed back to our sheep singing praises to God as we went. Even though we had been away for hours, all the sheep were still there and unharmed.
That night changed my life. I was still a shepherd, but I know that Baby was who the angels said He was and I believe He was the Saviour!
Read Luke chapter 2
A Wise Man’s Story
by Rhoda Fairbairn
My wife had been rather unhappy about this particular trip and when we arrived at the palace of King Herod, I really was beginning to think her reservations might not have been unreasonable! “You don’t actually know where you’re going, do you?” she had said. “How long do you think you’ll be away? We need you here too, you know!” As it turned out, the folks in the palace were very put out when we told them the significance of the star we had seen – no special prince had been born here nor were they expecting a baby anytime soon!
Herod didn’t strike me as a kind man, but my companions did not doubt his motives when he sent us off to find the baby, insisting we return with news. According to their own ancient documents, the promised prince was to be born in a place called Bethlehem. A bit of a run-down farming community as far as I could gather; it all seemed most odd. However, we journeyed on and when we got there it became clear that the star we had been following was leading us to a particular house. We had not expected it to be so accurate!
The family were very gracious about their unexpected, and rather strange, visitors and treated us with much kindness, despite their obvious lack of means. The child was clearly much loved and the parents were not at all surprised to discover what we told them about our studies of the star and the conclusions we had drawn. They too had been given signs to indicate how special this boy, Jesus, was.
Realising that this was the ultimate conclusion of the years we had spent searching the stars and the old writings, we brought out the gifts we had brought with us. We had not known the Prince would be so young and perhaps our gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh were peculiar but these were the items we knew from our work that such a person would be worthy of, and perhaps in need of. They represented what appeared to us to be a little contradictory – gold for a king, frankincense for a priest and myrrh spoke of death, but we were sure these were correct.
It is not my custom to kneel or bow before a child. However this child was of such significance, such worth, that no other action seemed appropriate. How privileged I am to have actually met Him!
Reluctantly, we took our leave and went to the lodgings our servants had secured for us. During the night we all dreamt the same, most-staggering dream. All of us were clearly warned that we should by no means return to Herod, instead taking a different route back to our homeland. I cannot say that I was at all disappointed! We hurried on our way home as we were so eager to tell of all the wonderful things we had seen and done. No one had heard anything like it before, I believe we will be telling of this for the rest of our lives!
Read Matthew chapter 2 verses 1-12
The Innkeeper’s Tale
by Gordon Smith
It was some night! It had been one of those weeks. The city – Bethlehem that is – was packed, all because of some Roman decree that everyone had to return to where they were born. The inn was full, or we thought it was, as was nearly everywhere else. You couldn’t find a bed anywhere!
Just as we thought everything had settled down, another knock on the door. In the half-light of my lantern, I could see a couple, looking tired and dusty from travelling. He was a mature individual and who I thought was his wife, was younger. She was clearly pregnant and looked the wearier of the two. “We’ve just arrived from Nazareth and my....Mary needs to rest”. His hesitation told me they weren’t married and she was not wearing the jewellery married Jewish ladies usually wore.
They were from Nazareth, of all places, and unmarried and she was pregnant. My first thought was to turn them away without another word, but something was nagging me to do something. My wife appeared and after a quick discussion we agreed the only place still available was the stable under the house. We quickly cleared an area, as best we could, and found some sleeping mats for the couple.
Later that same night when all seemed to be quiet, I heard voices outside and came down to find out what was happening. Outside our stable door were a group of shepherds trying to look in, then I heard the sound of a baby crying. I realised that the girl must have given birth right there in the stable and when I managed to look in, she had wrapped Him in strips of cloth and put Him in the animal feeding trough.
These shepherds were very excited and were talking about angels and a message from God and that this baby was to be the Saviour. I was too tired to argue and after asking them to keep the noise down I left.
The next morning, the shepherds were gone but the couple with their baby were still in our stable. After a couple of days, most of the crowds had left and we moved the little family into one of our rooms. They didn’t want to travel with the little one and wished to stay a little longer. It turns out the man, Joseph, was a carpenter – a good one at that – so we agreed to look after them in return for him doing wood work for the locals.
They stayed for some time – almost 2 years in fact – and were becoming part of the local community. Then one afternoon everything changed. This party of wealthy men arrived with camels, donkeys and servants. They had been to Jerusalem and were now here in Bethlehem. Just like the shepherds, they asked for the Boy that was born King. I directed them inside and, leaving their servants, they went up to the room where the girl and the Baby were. He was a toddler by now, but no bother – not like some children. I didn’t want to intrude but, to a man, they knelt down in front of the Child and left gifts. They said very little, as far as I could hear. After some time they left the house and found lodging further up the street.
The next morning Joseph and Mary and the Child Jesus were up and dressed before any of us. Joseph looked very anxious as he told me they had to go. It was not safe for them to remain any longer in Bethlehem and he would not be persuaded otherwise. I gave them a donkey and some food and water for the journey and before anyone realised what had happened they were gone. I found out later that the wealthy men who arrived the previous day had also left early.
I can’t remember whether it was 2 or 3 days later, but what happened next was horrendous. A troop of soldiers arrived from Jerusalem and asked to see any male child who was 2 years old or younger either in the town or the surrounding area. When one was found they killed it on the spot. You can imagine the panic and chaos that followed. I guess Joseph had heard this would happen and it explained why they left in such a hurry.
After a while, I had almost forgotten about these events until my son came back from Jerusalem a few days after the Passover. It must have been at least 25 years after the events I have described, but he was convinced that the Man he saw crucified was the Baby who was born in our stable. He was extremely upset about the whole thing as he thought this man, Jesus, was completely innocent. But the oddest thing he said was that three days after He was crucified, His friends claimed He was alive again!
Maybe those shepherds and wise men were right and the Baby was the Saviour whom God had sent. I believe He was! Do you believe the Baby of Bethlehem and the Man on the cross is the Saviour?
Jesus was born as that baby in Bethlehem, grew up in Nazareth as a perfect Man, pleasing God throughout. He is the Saviour because some thirty or so years later He was nailed to a cross and died to save you and me. It is the basis of my eternal salvation – and yours, if you put your faith in Him.
“If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans chapter 10 verse 9).
Scripture quotations on this page taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION (Anglicised edition) Copyright© 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica (formerly International Bible Society). Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica (formerly International Bible Society). UK trademark number 1448790.