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KATHERINE SHONFIELD

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It came to pass that on the first of May a promise of new life for the world was announced by an angel, Peter, spinning in the sky up above.

And among those who heard this angel, so loud and clear she could almost imagine his message was directed especially at her, was Mary. She was a young woman, unmarried, who at the same time became certain she was going to have a baby. Just before she was due, Mary moved out of her home because Caesar Antonius declared that all the world would be taxed. Or rather, he didn't. He was afraid that the rich would refuse him their money and make him an object of scorn. So instead he decreed a tax on all new mothers, those like Mary, without husbands, and who had no work.

Now at this time Mary had arranged a shelter where she could be with her baby, and her new boyfriend. It wasn't much, in fact it was a shed. Just before Christmas the pub landlord who owned it asked her for the £10.95, which Mary no longer had. So when the shepherds and wise men came with their gifts, they could not find Mary and the baby. Because the bright star of hope, which everyone had predicted would accompany this millennium, had unaccountably dimmed.

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