(Adapted from the opera ‘Amahl and the Night Visitors’ by Gian Carlo Menotti and read at the Family Service by Marilyn Jones.)

Do you know anyone who tells stories, pretending that something is so when it isn’t at all? And some people tell stories to make everyone laugh just so they will be liked too.

Well, Amahl, loved to tell jokes and make up stories, especially since he had had an accident and become lame, needing a crutch to help him walk about. He felt a bit special when people laughed, but then of course they didn’t believe him when he told the truth. So of course when he told his mother he had seen a giant star in the sky, she thought he was making it all up, and just ruffled his hair affectionately. ‘You and your tales,’ she would say.

And when he wasn’t making jokes, he would play his shepherd pipes with a merry tune. Amahl’s mother, Hannah, was sad for him because she was so worried about his future. They used to have many sheep, but had to sell them when Amahl had his accident, and work was hard to come by.

One night there was a knock at the door just as they were sitting down for some bread and cheese. To Hannah’s astonishment there were three richly dress gentleman, kings in their own lands. Their journey had been long that day, and although they were nearing their destination they and their camels needed rest. They asked for shelter for the night, although they had brought their own food, and all shared their meal together.

The Kings were Kaspar, Melchior and Balthazar, and they had with them a page boy of Amahl’s age named Ali who looked after the camels.

Amahl was delighted at the many wonderful true tales they told about their travels and their kingdoms. Amahl was fascinated, taking in every word. One of the Kings, Kaspar, showed him his box of beautiful jewel stones and toys that he had brought for the baby King born in Bethlehem, and he gave Amahl some of the sweet liquorice too.

The others had brought gold and incense.

That night Amahl was nearly asleep dreaming of all the wonderful stories that had been told, when suddenly he heard a commotion. He came out to find that his mother had been caught taking a few gold coins from one of the chests, and Ali was wrestling with her to take them back. Amahl tried to rescue his mother, but he was useless with his weak leg.

The Kings awoke to see what was the matter, and when they realised how poor they were, and how worried Hannah was about her son’s future, they were very kind and said she could keep the gold coins after all. Melchior said that the baby King wouldn’t need ALL of the coins and so she was welcome as payment for their stay.

Hannah was so ashamed of herself she wished to give them something to take to the Baby Jesus too. And then Amahl said ‘All I have is my crutch, but I would like to give that as a present to the Baby.’

The Kings agreed with Hannah that Amahl might journey with them to give his gift to the Baby Jesus. As Hannah waved goodbye to them all, she suddenly caught a glimpse of the great star far away in the sky, and knew that Amahl had been telling the truth. Amahl was given a ride on a camel and as they journeyed he and Ali became great friends.

As they approached the stable where the Baby Jesus was lying in the manger, the Star above them shone down. The Kings gave their gifts, and knelt with great respect, and Ali the page gave Mary the Mother a beautiful little shawl.

There was such quiet and peace in the little room with the soft breath of the cows and sheep warming them all. Then Amahl came close to the crib and laid his crutch before the Mother and Child – and as he did so, he gave a little cry, for something had happened - he realised his leg was cured! In giving the only thing he had left in the world, he became whole again.

They all rested in the peace of the stable in the soft light from the Star above, listening to Mary singing a lullaby with the pipes of the shepherds.....just watching the Baby of Light, watching his gentle breath as he gave a tiny smile for each one of them.

When at last it was time to go home the Star could still be seen as they reached Amahl’s house, where glow of the beautiful journey shone from their hearts. And Hannah was overjoyed to see her son restored to health. It was such a happy day!