It was Sunday evening in 1993. The Christmas program had been performed by the Sunday School Department and the children had done their parts well with the program we had written. The children and their parents had already been ushered down to the Fellowship Hall in the church basement and indulged in all the goodies they had grown accustomed to in their years of taking part.
Chairs had been set up in circles in the room and people had wandered around, plates grasped tightly. sounding like a drove of bees near a honeycomb. The children, subdued by now, had sat around their smaller tables and munched on the dozen or so cookies they each had grabbed at the serving table.
It was a pleasant scene and I enjoyed it. Some people had even shared their memories of other programs they had witnessed or been a part of in the past.
Parents and grandparents wore pleased expressions on their faces. Their offspring had done well and so, at least for this evening, they could visualize all the potential that might emerge from this revelation.
This was a time when parents would gladly have laid down their lives for their children…a special pocket of time when they forgot the exasperation they felt when the children’s rooms were a mess on Saturday, or the prodding they had to exert when they took their time to respond to clean the garage, take out the trash, or clear the table.
Life was wonderful…and all was right with the world…at least for the moment.
I trudged upstairs to the darkened auditorium of the church. The moonlight shone on the bare stage carpet. In the middle of the floor were two pieces of straw by the manger bed, empty now of the herd of children that had performed the Christmas story just an hour before…the angels that seemed so angelic. the shepherds so quaint, the wise men so intellectual, and Mary and Joseph, so touched by the miracle of their baby’s birth.
But now they were all back in their homes, probably being human again!
I sat on the bale of hay where Mary had sat and held the stalks of straw in my hand and just as she had done, pondered these miracles in my mind. “How could the Christmas Story, done over and over through out the years. still seem like something new and wonderful each time it was presented. Why did we always witness the magical transition of the children when at practice we almost threw up our hands in exasperation?
The children, who at practice seemed so casual and their attention seemed as remote as the sun on a cold day, were truly into what they were doing with all their heart. As the program continued with the Christmas story, it was as if they were living in another period of time and they could feel the holiness of the season. Where did that come from?
And then I knew! Because they were acting out the Christmas story with all their memorized lines, it had become part of them…in the hush of the darkened stage, they had felt the love and warmth of God’s love and it affected them…for a little while, at least, they felt the love of God to us in His willingness to send His son down to this earth to be ridiculed, laughed and spit upon, nailed to a cross, all this so He could die for the people He had created. It filled our hearts with God’s love.
I felt the smoothness of the straw in my hand and suddenly I understood.
It’s like holding the last straw. At times we grow weary of all of life’s frustrations, the world’s trashing of God and the seeming downfall of the things we hold dear.
That is why the coming of Christ at Christmas is still such a joy. God the father knew that because of our sinfulness we could never be truly happy within ourselves so He made a way for us. Jesus came so He could take all that upon himself so that by believing on Him, we might have joy. We do not have to worry what might come in this world. If we are part of His family, we KNOW we have eternal life and will go to heaven some day. Like Mary in Luke 2:19, we can ponder on this and be happy, no matter what happens to our world now!
We who are born again are children of God and God is all-powerful, all-knowing and everywhere present. Let’s ponder on that!
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