Friday, December 24 - Christmas Eve
Joshua bounced from one foot to the other on the sidewalk outside the church, listening to the crunch of a fresh layer of snow underfoot and trying to stay warm. His dad stood outside the large wooden church doors, fumbling with the keys on his enormous key ring. His bare fingers were too numb to be nimble.
As the young son of one of the church's caretakers, Joshua was almost always among the first to arrive and the last to leave. This wasn't necessarily a bad thing, but that December 24th was particularly cold and Joshua was ready for the warmth and light of the sanctuary.
The evening was dark and the sky was heavy with clouds promising more snow. Just to the left of the sidewalk, Joshua could make out the dark shapes of the church's nativity.
"Oh, come on," his dad grumbled as the key ring clattered to the ground and he stooped to retrieve it. Chilled and tired of standing in one place, Joshua wandered toward the nativity.
This nativity had always been a cherished centerpiece of his childhood Christmas memories. It wasn't fancy. The barn was just a small wooden structure. The shepherds, the wise men, Mary, and Joseph were all there, little plastic statuettes in front of the stable. There was a cow, a sheep, and a donkey, and of course a manger filled with hay. No baby Jesus yet.... Joshua and his dad would be back in the morning to add him to the display.
But as Joshua looked at the empty manger, he found himself wondering, "Why? If God is so powerful, why would he want to come to earth as a helpless little baby?"
Joshua heard the key turn in the lock and the church's front door creaked open. He should've run straight for the warmth, but instead found himself transfixed on the manger, lost in his thoughts. Soon he heard his father's footsteps draw closer.
"Dad?" Joshua asked.
"Why do you think God came to earth as a baby? Why not come to earth as God? You know, with flashes of lightening and a voice like thunder?" said Joshua. "Wouldn't that make people listen?"
His dad was quiet for a moment, and then said, "Yes, that would've made an impact. But maybe what people needed most was a role model. They needed someone who looked like them, walked like them, and talked like them who could show them how to live."
"I believe God sent Jesus so we would have a very human example of what it means to live a godly life." His dad was quiet another moment, then walked behind the nativity toward the electrical box. Joshua had to squint in the sudden brightness as the floodlights began to burn, illuminating the nativity scene.
His dad appeared beside him again. "Jesus was like a light for this dark world," he said quietly.
The two stood in silence for a short while, admiring the old, weathered figures kneeling expectantly before the empty trough. Finally, Joshua's dad broke the spell.
"C'mon, son. Let's get ready for my favorite service of the year." And together they walked into the welcoming warmth of the church.
- Ginger Heidel