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The First Noel
By Carlton U. Forbes
Staff Writer & Columnist
The First Noel

It was a night to remember? A night I will never forget? It began one summer evening in 1986. I had just bought my first car—a Volvo 144. It seems the previous owner cared for it like a mobile treasure. So at nine years old, the sound of the engine was smooth and steady. The body was strong and the under carriage was sturdy. My first impression while test-driving it was: "wow! Not a hint of squeaking; no annoying sounds."

One Saturday night, my friends and I had nothing to do. It was rather ironic that among a group of 15 handsome guys and attractive girls, none of us had a date. Still, we all wanted a little excitement. Thankfully, I had a tank- full of gas and I didn't mind driving.

So the fifteen of us squeezed into my Volvo sedan and we set off on the wide-open road. As we entered one of the highways in Brooklyn, we spotted a Volkswagen Beetle heading in the same direction. Immediately, I sped ahead and passed the little car. My friends cheered, and I felt great.

Moments later, I saw an Audi Coup a few meters in front of me. Again, I sped ahead and passed the Audi. So far, we were having fun. After a few miles, I saw a small BMW sedan. One group of my friends urged me to pass it. Another group said: "A BMW is a superior automobile. A Volvo this old should never initiate a race with a BMW."

But as I look closer, I noticed the model in front of me appeared just as old as my car. So I sped ahead and passed the BMW. I was beginning to feel good about my nine-year-old Volvo 144.

A few miles later, I saw a Porch 911 GT. In my mind, using a nine-year Volvo with fifteen people inside to pass a Porsche is the ultimate challenge. However, this time, all my friends advised me against it. Still, I needed to know how my car would perform in a race with a Porsche. So, what do you think I did? I ignored my friends' objections, stepped on the gas, and began to catch up with the Porsche.

Just before passing the Porsche, I looked over and noticed that the driver seemed unaware of the fact that I was trying to race with him. But since I was only seconds from passing him, I continued with the race. Moments later, my car moved ahead of the Porsche and a loud hurrah was heard inside.

My feeling at that time was: "Wow! I used a nine-year-old Volvo 144 carrying fifteen people to pass a Porsche. This was the kind of excitement we were looking for. However, a few miles later, we saw a set of headlamps directly behind us, moving swiftly through the night.

At first we were afraid it might have been a police car. But as the car got within a about a few meters from us, it switched lane and passed us with a gust of wind. My car shook as the vehicle raced ahead with lightening speed. With only a fleeting glimpse, we knew what it was that passed us so hastily. It was the Porsche 911 GT. After that experience, I vowed never to initiate a race with a Porsche again.

Although I haven't done any car chase since then, I still remember that night exactly the way it happened. Another incident that happened one night, about two thousand years ago turned out to be an unforgettable experience for a group of shepherds. While watching their sheep at night, the shepherds saw an angel appeared unto them. Naturally, the mere presence of this divine being frightened them. But they were told, "don't be afraid. "I have good news of great joy."

Today, we live in a world in which bad news is as commonplace as bad weather patterns. There is bad news about an oil spill in the coastal waters of Korea. There is bad news about high oil prices, political crises, widespread corruption, and the threat of economic destabilization. The pages of most major newspapers are filled with bad news about crime, poverty, hunger, terrorist attacks and a host of social problems.

Still, the angelic pronouncement reminds us of the Christ-child, and his redemptive mission. As the savior of souls, Christ was born in a barn but wants to live in our hearts. He was wrapped in swaddling clothes, but shrouded in divine glory. He came as a suckling child, but brought with him the wherewithal to secure our eternal salvation. For the Shepherd, the first Christmas was the night of the angels sang the first Christmas carol: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, goodwill toward men." This was the first Noel, a night to remember.

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Carlton U. Forbes, who serves as staff writer & columnist for The Seoul Times, currently teaches Global English at Dongyang University in S. Korea's Yeongju City. Among the books he authored are "A Few Choice Words" and "ESL Teaching Aids." A resident of S. Korea for over a decade Prof. Forbes can be reached at






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