As I sit here and write I am missing my dad. This will be our first Christmas without him. I write this story in honor of my dad. He was my ultimate storyteller. The way only he could weave a tale is probably the reason I love to write stories. Most of the time he couldn’t even finish his story because he was laughing so hard which in turn had his listeners busting a gut laughing with him. I think he was his own best audience. His absence leaves a vacuum in my familily’s Christmas this year. I know where he is though and I know what he is doing. He is sitting listening to the Master Storyteller weave a story about a Hero riding in on a white horse and on His thigh are written the words, “King of Kings and Lord of Lords.” Dad is watching the Lord God prepare for Christ’s return. I know there are many of us who have empty seats at our Christmas Gathering. This year I will save that seat for Immanuel – God with us.
In memory of my dad:
This Silent Night
“And Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family line of David, to be registered along with Mary, who was engaged to him and was pregnant. While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. Then she gave birth to her firstborn Son, and she wrapped Him snugly in cloth and laid Him in a feeding trough — because there was no room for them at the lodging place. In the same region, shepherds were staying out in the fields and keeping watch at night over their flock. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: Today a Savior, who is Messiah the Lord, was born for you in the city of David. This will be the sign for you: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in cloth and lying in a feeding trough.” Suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying: Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to people He favors! When the angels had left them and returned to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go straight to Bethlehem and see what has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” They hurried off and found both Mary and Joseph, and the baby who was lying in the feeding trough. After seeing them, they reported the message they were told about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary was treasuring up all these things in her heart and meditating on them. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had seen and heard, just as they had been told.”
Luke 2:4-20 HCSB
Joseph sat helplessly as he watched Mary writhe in pains of childbirth. “It shouldn’t be this way,” he thought to himself as another contraction doubled her over. Her mother should be with her. Family and friends should be waiting to greet the newborn. Mary needs a midwife not his clumsy fingers. She needs boiling water and sterile sheets, not messy smelly hay covered in cow dung. Joseph looked at the animals in this stable. Not friends and relatives but barnyard animals waited for this Birth. This was absurd to him. God was about to make his entrance into this earth by way of a barn. Mary squeezed his hand and brought him back from his reverie. He wiped the sweat of childbirth from her brow, as he did, he had a vision of this Son sweating drops of blood in a garden not far from here. He shook that vision away for the time had come. The Child was ready to make His entrance. He held Mary up as she pushed one final time. He pulled the Baby into the world as he had seen shepherds pull baby lambs from their mothers. Joseph placed Him in Mary’s arms. He whispered, “Your name is Jesus.” The One who had watched and cared for Joseph for all his life was now dependent on Joseph to watch and care for Him. Joseph had trouble dealing with this parody that was being played out in his life.
“Joseph,” Mary nudged. “I need the strips of swaddling cloth I packed for the trip. The Baby needs them,” she whispered as she caressed Jesus’ velvety hair. Joseph wished he had a royal blanket to wrap the Prince of Peace in, instead he watched as Mary bound swaddling cloth around the Child. Again Joseph saw a vision of this Son being wrapped in grave clothes and placed in a rich man’s tomb. The Baby cried; Joseph shook off the vision. The stable was quiet, the cattle were lowing; the Baby slept in His mother’s arm. Joseph held Mary; Mary held God. He bowed his head and worshipped the One sleeping in the manger. No one noticed. No one knew. No one cared in this busy city that Royalty had just entered their world. It was the darkest of nights. There was no pomp and circumstance that usually accompanied a king’s entrance into a city. The tiny sleepy village stayed oblivious to this Royal entrance. Joseph felt the loneliness of the darkness.
The Father looked at the vacated throne next to His. He felt the vacuum of the emptiness. He looked down at the clueless village of Bethlehem. “Aggelos,” He summoned the messenger angel. “It is time to make “The Announcement,” the Father ordered Aggelos. “Don’t go to those who are to busy to care. Don’t go to those who are to self absorbed to see. Go to those who are humble in heart. Do you see the land of misfits?” God pointed to a lowly set of shepherds keeping watch over their sheep by night. These were no ordinary shepherds and these were no ordinary sheep. These were the sheep of Bethlehem. These were the lambs set apart for use in the temple sacrifices. These shepherds were regarded by most pious citizens as unclean and unfit for their religious lifestyle. They were as smelly as their sheep they raised. “Go to them,” the Father pointed out. “Make my announcement known to them alone. For they will remember to worship My Son.”
Aggelos flew off and hovered in the silent night right at the spot The Master had pointed out. He waited as God revealed His Glory that lit up this dark night, The Glory of the Lord shone all about the shepherd’s field. With a deep baritone voice Aggelos spoke,”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 Saviour, which 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.”
Then God sent out His heavenly choir to finish “The Announcement.” A multitude, hundreds upon thousands upon millions strong, filled the skies. Heavenly Angels, sent by God, began to sing and praise the One, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” The praise was loud. The worship was honoring. The sound filled the skies and made believers out of these simple shepherds. “Come let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.”
And when the Angels were gone away back into heaven, Creator God spoke and a new star appeared in the Angels place. God hung it above His Son. Then He caused a group of Astrologers from the east to look up and take note of this new star.
Meanwhile, the motley band of brothers didn’t take time to shower and clean up. They went as they were smelly and all and went in search of this Child they had been told about. And when they had come upon the stable, they found Mary and Joseph and the baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. This was their own personal sign, for they themselves had taken sacrificial lambs straight from the ewes body, and before the sacrificial lambs touched the ground, these shepherds would wrap swaddling cloth around the lamb and place them in a manger. At once the shepherds recognized this sacrificial baby. Jesus had been born to be a sacrifice. He was born for the cross. This humble band of misfits bowed and worshiped the Baby born to die for their sins.
Today Kevin and I will light our last candle in the advent weath. It is a white candle. It is Christ’s Candle. Today I will light it in honor of my dad. It will light up the hole in my heart because of his absence this Christmas Day. I light it for all who have an empty seat this year at their Christmas Table. As I light it, I will remember Jesus still comes into our messy smelly lives. He still comes to the misfits and the lonely. He still comes to us personally. Jesus still comes into the darkest part of our lives to light the way. Jesus is Immanuel. Jesus is God with us. And Jesus will come again!!!