Posted by Marjorie Ainsborough Decker text© 2011 on Dec 3rd, 2011
Merry Christmas Dear Friends of the fellowship of the Blog,
Christmastime is here! This week, it brought plunging temperatures and frosty cold that made us welcome the season’s first cheery blaze in our fireplace. Kevin and I consider the lit fireplace almost another member of the family – “swaddling” us in the comfort of its warmth.
When I grew up in England, homes depended entirely on fireplaces for heat. Our coal man would deliver coal in 100 lb. sacks. The living room fireplace was indeed the heart of the home. This forever remained a symbol to me, especially when I encountered the snowy winters of Colorado. Later, when my husband Dale and I bought a house in Grand Junction, Colorado that had no fireplace, it seemed forlorn and entirely “unswaddled.”
So, being a man of many talents, Dale set to work to build a fireplace of his own design. It took nearly nine months! But, if you knew Dale’s penchant for “built-to-last” projects, you would not be surprised that the fireplace went through numerous architectural stages. It was the only fireplace I ever saw where the ashes could be emptied from outside the house. It also drew admiration for its sturdiness when our boys said it could withstand a tornado! The brick exterior concealed reinforced concrete that was poured around the firebrick flue chamber all the way to the top of the chimney!
By Christmas time, the fireplace was finished. And just before snow began to fall, the house was warmly swaddled with a big fireplace blazing cheerily. As we sat together around the fireside glow, we gave Father Dale a big round of applause for building this big “heart of the home.” Humpty Dumpty’s Christmas Song of “togetherness” fit right in to the happy scene.
A few nights later, we set off in the snow to see eight-year-old Bradley, and five-year-old Kevin, perform in the Nativity play at church. At the mention of “Nativity Play,” the annual Christmas household phenomenon appears: it’s the exodus of countless thousands of terry cloth bathrobes, striped towels and white sheets – all en route from homes across the nation to become costumes in large and small churches everywhere.
Ah…but it’s Christmastime! and what a transformation those ordinary domestic items have undergone. They are now the ancient garb of multitudes of little shepherds, wise men and angels. And, clustering around the nation’s manger scenes of Joseph, Mary and the Baby Jesus, are “Little Boy Blues” by the thousands – waiting to blow their horns.
Well…the program at our small church proceeded quite nicely; that is, until the lights were lowered for the night scene of the advent of angels. Kevin, playing an angel, stood frozen at center stage, with his lines frozen, too. But at the same time, there suddenly appeared another performance going on at left stage.
The large curtain at left stage (where other children awaited their cue) had become a shadow box of curious shadow-charades in the soft light behind the thin curtain. One shadow-shepherd hooked an angel with his crook, while a fellow shadow-shepherd neatly hooked a wise man’s crown. Smaller shepherds, without crooks, hung on to their own endangered terry cloth headgear, dodging errant crooks right and left. And, together with the thumps and bumps for sound effect, the shadow performance quite stole the audience away from Kevin’s frozen, angelic form. A blessing in disguise? The suppressed chuckles from the audience must have thought so.
But when the light behind the curtain was hurriedly shut off, the shadow show disappeared in silence. But Kevin, still at center stage, remained frozen. Then his teacher came to the rescue, whispering his lines to him from the front row: “Other angels joined that one, to tell of peace through God’s Dear Son.” Kevin thawed, smiled at her, and said, “Yes, that’s right,” and left the stage contented, gliding like an angel.
The rest of the program went according to script, with the troop of shadow performers now the picture of decorum and etiquette – undoubtedly hoping they could “balance the books” before they got home.
On the way home, I mused about the whole evening, and I couldn’t help but smile over the unexpected antics of children, even in a Nativity Play. Whatever would the Heavenly host think, watching the whole affair?
Then I remembered the words of The Lord Jesus Who said, “Suffer the little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not; for of such is the kingdom of God. And He took them up in His arms, put His hands upon them, and blessed them.” (Mark 10: v14, and 16) And His blessing remains today, for every child across the world.
And I would even say that our amateur Nativity Play, although filled with the foibles of little children, was as precious to our Savior as one expertly performed in the Canterbury Cathedral.
After all, it was not in a palace or cathedral that the shepherds made haste to find the One of whom the angel said to them: “Fear not; for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, Who is Christ The Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:10-12)
The birth of The Lord Jesus Christ was not heralded with trumpets and a royal parade; not accompanied by a legion of angelic hosts on white horses. The shepherds were told to look for the sign of a Savior wrapped in swaddling clothes – a baby in a manger!
What a miracle! A Christmas miracle! The One Who lit the furnace of the sun, was the One the shepherds found wrapped in linen strips of swaddling clothes to keep warm. The One Who is the Word of God, they found silent in the first hours of His humanity! God incarnate: Jesus – very God and very Man.
What sacred mysteries surround the love of God, to pour out His love and redemption in the Person of His Son to this needy world.
At last, after thousands of years containing hundreds of prophecies foretelling His coming, The Christ child was born!
This Christmastime, God’s open invitation still rings out to all earthlings. No one is too high or too low to accept the free Gift of God, which is eternal life through Jesus Christ, our Lord.
May this earth ring with: “Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable Gift!”
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