MILLIGAN MOUSE tells the Christmas Story
It all happened a very long time ago the old mouse said, peering over his bifocals at the little mice gathered around his feet but let me tell you the story my grandfather told me and his grandfather told him and so on.
Once upon a time a very long time ago in a small village called Bethlehem there lived a mouse by the name of Milligan. Milligan was the tiniest mouse you ever saw, not much over an inch tall from the tip of his nose to the tip of his tail. The other mice picked on Milligan and laughed at him. The innkeeper’s cats even ignored Milligan except when the occasionally wanted to play a game of bat the mouse. He was too tiny to even be worth the chase as far as a cat and mouse chase went and barely a snack should they catch him.
Milligan was much too tiny to be of any use and it seemed like he was always underfoot and in the way. The other mice would stumble over Milligan and send him sprawling across the floor to end up in a heap in a corner. Sometimes the other mice would do it deliberately, give him a push or a kick, sending tiny Milligan head over heals to land with a thump wherever he landed. It was always Milligan move, you’re right underfoot. Milligan get out of the way; Milligan, Milligan, Milligan and Milligan would scurry and scoot but someone would always end up giving him the boot and there he would go, head over heals into a corner with a thump.
Milligan couldn’t snitch more than a nibble of cheese or a tiny crust of bread from the innkeeper’s kitchen without making several trips and when he did manage to snitch some food to take back to their nest the other mice took it away from him. Milligan soon learned to eat quick and run fast. Poor Milligan, most of the time he stayed hidden out of sight and out of the way, a sad and friendless little mouse.
Milligan did have one friend though, a dog named Ashabah. Ashabah was the shepherd dog that belonged to the little shepherd boy that helped care for the innkeeper’s sheep with his older brothers. The soft fur beneath Ashabah’s collar was the perfect hiding place for a teeny-tiny mouse
and Ashabah didn’t mind at all that the little mouse hid there. In return for the safe place to hide Milligan kept an eye open for any sand fleas that might hop onto Ashabah’s back. Milligan would scare them and chase them right back off again. Milligan wasn’t bigger than much but he was bigger than a flea. When Milligan squinted up his beady little eyes and showed his sharp, pointy little teeth and growled in his tiny little mouse voice he looked as fearsome as Goliath the Giant to those teeny-tiny fleas and they ran away as fast as they could. That made Ashabah a very happy dog. Ashabah and Milligan soon developed a very amicable relationship. They became very good friends.
One day something very exciting and wonderful happened. It all began when lots and lots of people from other places began crowding into the little town of Bethlehem. Many of them came to stay at the inn where Milligan lived. The inn was very noisy and crowded with all these people and it was very dangerous for a tiny little mouse to try and scurry around looking for crumbs and bits of cheese to eat. Twice Milligan had nearly been squashed beneath the innkeeper’s big feet as the innkeeper rushed around waiting on his guest. This was no place for a tiny little mouse so Milligan scurried, scooted and dashed his way across the dining room, through the kitchen and out the back door. He ran all the way to the stable looking for his friend Ashabah. Milligan scurried onto Ashabah’s back and wiggled under his collar peeking out to see what all the excitement was about. Ashabah said there were so many people milling around the streets that he and the shepherds had barely been able to squeeze their way through to get to the stable to tend the sheep.
After a short time the older shepherd boys began herding the sheep toward the hillside to graze. They didn’t plan to come back for several days, once the crowds had gone away. For now they would camp on the hillside with their sheep. The little shepherd stayed behind to clean the stable. He and Ashabah would come to the pasture later and bring food to eat. Milligan stayed hidden safely beneath Ashabah’s collar.
Towards evening, just before the sun began to set, the innkeeper called to the little shepherd boy and handed him a sack of rolls and chunks of cheese to take to the shepherds on the hillside to eat. He gave the little shepherd boy a roll and a piece of cheese too and told him he should stay and help with the sheep in the pasture. They should not return with the sheep until the crowds had left the village.
The little shepherd boy ran toward the hillside with his dog racing along beside him. Milligan hung on tightly so he would not to be bounced right off Ashabah’s back.
Before long they came to where the shepherds were tending their flocks on the hillside. The little shepherd gave them their food and told them what the innkeeper had said.
“Good,” the older of the shepherds said. “I have just the job for you, little shepherd. Ewe Nellie gave birth to her lamb today. It is very small and needs to be kept extra warm. Wrap the lamb in your cloak and keep it close to you. You will be responsible for caring for the new baby lamb.”
As night fell and darkness covered the hillside the shepherds built a campfire and gathered ‘round it to stay warm. They talked about what was going on in the village and kept a close eye on the flock that grazed nearby.
The little shepherd boy ate his roll and cheese and cuddle the new little lamb close in his arms pulling his cloak around them. Milligan scurried off Ashabah’s back and into the pocket of the little shepherd’s cloak to nibble on any crumbs he might find there. He was very hungry.
Suddenly an angel appeared before them. The shepherds were very afraid. They had never seen an angel before. The angel appeared in a magnificently bright light, a light so bright the shepherds had to shade their eyes to see and they trembled with fear until the angel spoke to them.
And the angel said to them, “Fear not, be not afraid for behold, I bring you glad tidings of great joy which will come to all people; for unto you is born this day in the City of David, a Savior who is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of heavenly host praising God and saying,“Glory to God in the highest and on Earth peace, good will toward men.” And then the angel and the heavenly host disappeared from their sight but a new star now shone in the sky over the City of David, called Bethlehem.
The shepherds quickly gathered up their things and hurried to Bethlehem with the little shepherd carrying the baby lamb, Ashabah and Milligan close behind them. They left the sheep grazing on the hillside. The shepherds hurried as quickly as they could to Bethlehem to see this new baby the angel had told them about and when they came to the stable and the manger where Jesus laid, they praised God and began to tell others the good news. The King and Savior had come, been born this day just as the angel had told them.
When Milligan heard these things and saw the baby in the manger he was filled with awe and then trembled with excitement. The King, the Messiah had been born. The Savior had come. Milligan scrambled down off Ashabah’s back and raced as fast as he could to the inn. He slipped inside the back door just as the innkeeper was tossing out the trash. Milligan raced around the inn calling all the other mice to join him in the pantry. He had exciting news. “Come, come quickly, hurry.” He shouted to them.
One by one the other mice followed Milligan to the pantry. They had never seen that bothersome little mouse so excited.
“Milligan, what is all this excitement about,” Grandfather Mouse asked him? “What is wrong?”
“Nothing is wrong. It’s wonderful,” Milligan squeaked excitedly. “It’s the Savior, the Lord, the Son of God is come. He’s been born and is lying in the manger in the stable. It’s the Messiah, the King has been born. Come and see. Come quickly.”
The mice all looked from one to another wondering if Milligan was playing a trick on them for all the mean things they had done to him. They looked at Grandfather Mouse.
“I shall go see for myself, go to the stable and see this babe that Milligan has told us about,” Grandfather Mouse said and even though he said the other mice should all follow him there was a hint of doubt in Grandfather’s voice. He wasn’t quite sure Milligan wasn’t making this all up. Surely the Son of God would not have been born into the world in a lowly stable behind an inn in a little town like Bethlehem. Surely the Son of God, the Creator, the Son of God Most High would be born in a great palace, maybe even the temple and at the very least in Jerusalem but not here and not in a stable. Grandfather Mouse thought Milligan must be mistaken or maybe even playing a trick on them. This he would have to see for himself. The mice all hurried toward the stable with Milligan racing along beside Grandfather Mouse.
Grandfather Mouse quietly made his way inside and tip-toed up to the manger and peered inside. He stood there silently for the longest time and suddenly a big smile covered his face as tears of joy trickled down his cheeks. It was him; God’s only begotten Son, the Messiah, the Savior come to the world. The King had been born. One by one the other mice slipped into the stable to peek at the baby in the manger and with joy in their hearts they quietly left.
Once outside they danced and sang with joy and then began racing through the village and to the farms round about to share the good news. Jesus had been born, the Messiah was here. “Glory to God in the Highest and on Earth peace, good will, joy to the world the Son of God is come.” They shouted and sang as they raced from house to house and into the alleys and fields and woods to share the good news with the other animals.
The little shepherd boy quietly sat down next to the manger cuddling the new little lamb close to his heart. “The Lamb of the world, the Savior, the King,” Mary whispered to the little shepherd boy as she lifted Jesus out of the manger and cuddled him close to her heart.