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
* * * * *
all the good photos are by Barb Briggs
When I saw the golden glow of light spilling in through the east windows of the house, I suspected the sunrise might be special. Still in my pajamas and bathrobe, I threw on an extra pair of heavy socks and old slippers (with a split in the sole) and crossed the creaking boards of the front porch until I could see the southeastern sky.
Yes! The colors were gorgeous, so I hurried back in the house, hung the camera around my neck, and poked my arms into the sleeves of a winter coat and my feet into my son’s several-sizes-too-big chore boots. Early morning colors change so rapidly; time and sunrise wait for no woman.
If you drove past my house just before sunrise a few days ago and were startled to see a wild-haired woman, shuffling through the snow, bathrobe flapping under a down coat, I apologize for my appearance.
My predawn dash was motivated by excitement, anticipation, and awe–I didn’t want to miss any of this sunrise, so I didn’t wait to get cleaned up and dressed.
Neither did the shepherds in the Christmas story. They didn’t stop to make themselves “presentable.” They hurried.
As the angel choir withdrew into heaven, the sheepherders talked it over. “Let’s get over to Bethlehem as fast as we can and see for ourselves what God has revealed to us.” They left, running, and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. Seeing was believing. Luke 2 :15-17 MSG
Don’t wait until you’re “presentable” before you hurry to Jesus.
Run with your broken sole/soul,
and unwashed heart.
Run to the manger to see what God has revealed.
But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’ Luke 2:10-12 NIV
God has invited you to a Christmas party, and it’s “come as you are.” Hurry. You don’t want to miss a thing.
Photos #4 and #6 by Barb Briggs
linked with Jennifer Dukes Lee
linked with Emily Wierenga