the people living in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death
a light has dawned.
Matthew 4:16 NIV
I clasped my grandson’s gloved hand, and together we navigated the dark entryway of our church building and pushed open the heavy main door. Normally the main entrance is well lit inside and out, and a greeter opens the heavy door as people enter, but on this night the door was untended.
The sun had set two hours ago, and heavy rain deepened the darkness outside. We left the brightly lit, warm, and safe fellowship hall to walk around the church parking lot and view the stations of our annual live nativity. Cardboard covered the fellowship hall windows, and the lights of the main entrance were switched off so that visitors weren’t distracted by the activity inside or stray lights when doors open and shut.
We stood on the wet sidewalk, waiting for our eyes to adjust to the darkness and watched the “traffic shepherd” instruct the visitors to dim or douse their car lights and steer their vehicles through the parking lot on a path laid out by rope lights and candles in emptied grape juice bottles.
The first scene was of sheep and their shepherds, who were gathered around a fire, pointing toward the stable.
When no cars were coming, we crossed the tiny stream of lights and splashed through the rivulets of rain to stand near the shepherds. One sheep bleated an alto baaa and a sheep from the as-yet unseen manger scene responded with a bass baaa.
We hurried across the parking lot, back toward the main station of the live nativity, but we had to wait near pine trees while cars parked, paused, and pondered the manger scene. Parking lights from the cars reflected in the rain-splashed blacktop of the parking lot.
We waited for a lull in traffic near an evergreen and were showered by coat-soaking raindrops falling from the tree, until we could safely walk in front of the manger.
We paused briefly at the nativity scene–the rain was still falling–but long enough to smell wet wool, hear the donkey pull on his tether, and see the baby resting in a feed trough.
A baby who was born one inky night to be the light of us all.
I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. John 8:12 NIV
I led my grandson back into the chatter and bright lights and steaming soup of the fellowship hall. I wonder what will he remember years from now? What part of the Nativity story will resonate with his five-year-old heart?
I went outside again later with my camera tucked under my coat because the live nativity, for me this year, was about light:
Light that comes into darkness, the darkness of our hearts, souls, and minds,
Light that creates beautiful reflections when shining on the seemingly insignificant events in history (and their modern-day recreations), events such as a baby being born, gifts being offered, and the baaing of shepherds’ flocks. The sheep calling to sheep was really deep calling to deep, another kind of reflection.
The live nativity reminded me that even tiny lights produce significant reflections.
We always invite the viewers of the live nativity to park their cars and come inside, to have a bowl of soup, or to wear a costume and be a part of the nativity recreation.
We invite them to come in from the dark and cold, to come in to the light and fellowship, but few do. (Eyes accustomed to darkness should find it easy to enter the church building.) I hope you have seen the light shining through cracks in opened doors this Christmas season. I hope you have seen God’s light reflecting into a dark world. I hope you have left the “dark and stormy night” to bask in the light.
He is calling you . . . and me. Let’s come in from the inky, dripping night, leave our sodden shoes at the door, and celebrate the light this Christmas. Let’s go inside where it’s bright and warm and savor a bowl of hot soup.
that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 1 Peter 2:9
My prayer for us all this Christmas day:
May we recognize Jesus as the Light of the World.
May we let His light illuminate our everyday lives.
May we reflect that light in a dark world.
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.
Isaiah 9:2 NIV
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all the good photos are by Barb Briggs