The Best Christmas Story I’ve Read This Year and a Proposition

This is the illustration by Michael Sevier from the cover of the 1916  edition of Where God Is, There Is Love Also. (You can read the short story online here.) I read it in my collection of Christmas Stories from Everyman’s Library;  I’m so moved by it that I’m going to read it to my family on Christmas Day.
It is about a cobbler, named Martin Avdeitch, who lives in a tiny room in a basement. His wife, and all of his sons have died, and it is hard for Martin to find the desire to live.
One day an old man from Martin’s native village, who had been a pilgrim for the last eight years, called in on his way from Troitsa Monastery. Martin opened his heart to him, and told him of his sorrow.
“I no longer even wish to live, holy man,” he said. “All I ask of God is that I soon may die. I am now quite without hope in the world.”
The old man replied: “You have no right to say such things, Martin. We cannot judge God’s ways. Not our reasoning, but God’s will, decides. If God willed that your son should die and you should live, it must be best so. As to your despair – that comes because you wish to live for your own happiness.”
He advises Martin on how to live, which I will not reveal here, and his words “sank deep into Martin’s heart, and that same day he went and bought himself a Testament in large print, and began to read.”
The story continues Martin’s lessons in happiness, in the fulfillment of the promise revealed to him when he heard quite distinctly one night: “Martin, Martin! Look out into the street to-morrow, for I shall come.”
Martin waits all day, and the visitors who appear change his life forever.
I loved the image of Martin buying a Testament, and eagerly turning its pages every night. I have read through the Bible many times, over many years, but after feeling it more of an obligatory task than one purely of my heart I abandoned that plan in 2010. I am now ready to pick it up again. As the new year begins, so does a new opportunity to read through the Bible in a year. I’m going to post the readings which will take me through the Bible in 2013 in the upper sidebar of my blog. I invite any who choose to accompany me in this year long goal to participate. I will post favorite verses, things I’ve seen in a whole new way, as I go. I’d treasure your presence with me if you so desire to commit to a year. A month. A week.
As Martin did.

15 thoughts on “The Best Christmas Story I’ve Read This Year and a Proposition”

  1. Thanks for sharing the gist of this story–I am more excited now to read this particular story (my book's on the way). What a wonderful “side effect” from this story!

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  2. I need to pick up this book! I would LOVE to join you in reading the bible next year!!

    “If your journey, whatever it is, doesn't lead to God..you will miss the good” from our sermon yesterday.

    Merry Christmas!!

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  3. Ah, if I weren't already in the middle of a year-long read-through of the Bible I'd join in with yours. (I started last February, so won't finish for another couple months. Apparently I missed the Jan 1 to Dec 31 concept of reading the Bible in a year!) Best wishes for this holiday season and Merry Christmas!

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  4. Believe it or not, I read another version of this story a few days ago that was set in the hills of Kentucky. It certainly appears to be an almost paragraph by paragraph adaptation. The beauty of that is that it proves the appeal of the truths the story contains – not to mention the Truth. xoxo

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  5. I read the Bible through in a year several times some years ago in my more religious phase. I remember I used a reading guide which mixed old and new testament readings together each day. I don't know if you have a tablet of smartphone, but there is a very good app called “The Bible” which contains several whole Bible reading plans. I shall follow your progress with interest – certainly nailing your colours to the mast by publishing your progress on your blog should encourage you to keep going

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  6. Last year the King James Bible was published in two volumes as Norton Critical Editions. These books are amazing scholarly and editorial achievements. I am going to work on the Old Testament this year, although at 2200+ pages, a year may be inadequate.

    The editor of the Old Testament calls it a “secular study bible” so it will not fit every readers' purpose, but many readers might find some of the commentary or supplementary material useful.

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  7. Bellezza,
    I am missing something. I cannot seem to find the posts of your Bible-reading in your sidebar. Could you help me? This is a very good idea and reading along with someone else will motivate me.
    Your blog has been such a pleasure for me to read. Your reviews are excellent; they give a real “feel” for each book, without giving away too much of the plot.
    Thank you-
    Paula

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  8. Paula, I was so happy to find your comment about the Bible reading. I've added the list of readings which I'm using to the photograph in my sidebar, and moved it to a place of better prominence. I didn't think that any one was interested in reading along with me, so I'm glad to hear that you are.

    Also, thank you so muich for your sweet comment about enjoying my reviews. If my blog posts give just one person some happiness, or interest, or motivation then it's all worthwhile.

    Best to you, and here's to reading together,
    Bellezza

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