The Gospel according to Luke, the 2nd chapter (2:1-7)
It was December 23rd. Marlena stared out the window at the passing scenery, as the van made its way down the highway. Next to her was her husband Jim. In the back of the van her kids Lizzie, 13 and David, 11. They were watching movies or listening to music or playing video games on their devices. In the middle of that van were family friends Miriam and Jesse, between them was an infant car seat and behind them their 4 year old had nodded off in his carseat.
There was also a mountain of luggage, groceries and Christmas presents in the cargo area of the van.
As they zipped down the highway, Marlena spied a very familiar motel.
“Look Jim! Miriam! Jesse! There it is!”
It was 5 years ago that Marlena and her family had met Jesse and Miriam at a roadside motel in a Christmas snow storm. 4 year old Christopher had been born on Christmas Eve. Marlena had helped Miriam through the birth while they waited for the ambulance to arrive. The rest of the guests had put together an impromptu Christmas dinner. It was quite the experience.
Still, they had lost contact after that extraordinary time. But last Christmas, they found each other again, when Jim and and Marlena wound up delivering a Christmas hamper to Jesse and Miriam. After the two families reconnect, Jim gave Jesse a job at his food supplier business and the two families had grown close over the past year.
Jesse and Miriam weren’t going to have any relatives over the Holidays, so Marlena insisted that they come along for Christmas at the lake house.
Unlike the blizzard 5 years ago, this year as they drove down the highway, the skies were bright and sunny, the highways clear of ice and snow.
When they pulled up to the lake house, Marlena’s parents met the van in the driveway. The house was more like a large rustic bed and breakfast than small summer cabin. There were rooms for everyone and great room big enough to spread out in, with spacious kitchen and dinning.
Marlena’s parents quickly welcomed Jesse and Miriam, and began fawning over 4 year old Christopher and 1 year old Lilly. The whole crew unpacked the van and settled in to their Christmas abode.
The next day, the kids played out in the snow, and the adults puttered around the house baking and cooking, wrapping presents, chopping firewood and taking many coffee breaks. Soon they would be ready for Christmas Eve Dinner and church. Marlena’s dad kept the kids entertained with all kinds of grandfatherly antics. Everyone seemed to be settling in for a cozy evening.
As the sun began to set, the group grazed over a Christmas Eve buffet supper. Jim set up the projector from work and connected his phone, so that they could stream the Christmas Eve Service from St. David’s. Everyone found comfy spots on couches and easy chairs, the kids in Christmas PJs and wrapped in blankets. Jesse lit a roaring fire in the fireplace, and everyone had their own candle (or glow stick depending on age), for the service.
The procession began at St. David’s. The sanctuary glowed with candles and Christmas garland, with tree lights and gathered congregation. The processional party looked like Angels floating down the aisle, carrying torches and candles. They joined in singing O Come all Ye Faithful with the congregation. After all they had been through in the past 2 years, it finally seemed like a normal, peaceful moment.
Then all of a sudden the screen and all the lights in the house went dark. There was loud sound outside followed by something that looked like fireworks going off outside. Baby Lily started crying, Christopher rushed to his dad, Marlena’s mom gasped.
Jim rushed to the front door.
“The power poll down the street is sparking.”
Jim and Jesse put on their boots and coats to go out and get a closer look. As they hurried down the road, the air was crisp, the night sky was dark with no clouds, and the snow crunched under their feet.
They came upon the flashing lights of a power company truck, and they could hear a loud electrical buzz and something that sounded like whip.
When the truck came into view, they saw the bucket lift was halfway down the ground, and a severed electrical line was sparking and whipping the road. And right in the middle of all was a man in an orange reflective jumpsuit, laying on the ground.
As Jim stepped closer, he felt a hand on his shoulder.
“That’s a live wire. You need to stay back. Phone 911.” Jesse said seriously.
Jim pulled out his phone and dialled.
As Jim connected to the 911 operator ,he saw Jesse dart past him into the ditch. Jesse was collecting dead wood and rocks. He found the biggest logs or rock he could carry, and took them over to the far side of the live wire. Began throwing on the back side of the wire to see if could pin it down. He slowly made his way down the wire, until he had most of it trapped like an angry snow snake.
Then Jesse rushed over to the man laying on the ground. Jim could hear the man moaning. Jesse quickly but carefully checked for broken bones and then hauled the man off the ground and over his shoulder. He carried the power company worker over to Jim.
Jim and Jesse then carried the man in the orange jump suit between them back to the house, assuring him that an ambulance was on the way.
Once back at the house, they wrapped him in a blanket and gave him a chair to sit on.
Jim waited outside and before long the familiar red flashing lights of an ambulance arrived. A couple of burly EMTs knocked on the door.
One went to check the power company worker, the other one checked in with Jim.
“Whoever went and covered that power line with logs and rocks was really stupid.” He said.
“But also brave, because you probably saved this guy’s life,” he said gesturing to the worker.
Then the EMT furrowed his brow. “Hold on a second, do I know you?”
Jim looked the name tag on the EMT’s coat – John Shepherd.
John looked around the house.
“You are the people from the motel 5 years ago!”
“And you were the one who made it through the blizzard to take Jesse and Miriam and baby Christopher to the hospital!” Jim said.
The group greeted and welcomed John Shepherd, reminiscing about the miracle birth in the blizzard 5 years ago, and they all shared where they now. Christopher stood proud and tall, showing how much he had grown.
“I don’t know if you folks should be together on Christmas anymore “John Shepherd joked. “This is twice that it has brought me trouble.”
They all laughed.
Soon the EMTs were gone with the worker, and another power company truck was out restoring power.
Jim grabbed his portable power bank, hooked up the projector and got the Christmas Eve service running again. The fire place kept them more than warm. They picked up with the usual Christmas Eve readings.
“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.”
The listened to the Christmas story that began “In those days, a decree went out from Emperor Caesar Augustus”
Father Angelo, the priest at St. David’s, reminded them that despite all they had been through in the past two years, that God was still sending light and hope into the world. The same Light and hope that came into the world in the Messiah, the baby born in a manger.
Finally, it came time to light the candles for Silent Night. As the lights were dimmed in the church, the small flames of candle light began to spread and glow across the sanctuary. The group at the lake house also lit their candles.
The congregation began singing Silent Night.
As the families joined in, Miriam helped Christopher hold his candle. Lizzie and David sat with their grandparents, singing intently. Jesse held a sleeping Lily in his arms.
Marlena and Jim were snuggled next to one another. Marlena leaned back to her husband.
“Our Christmas night hasn’t been that silent, has it?” She whispered.
Jim shook his head and smiled. “Something tells me that the first Christmas wasn’t all that silent either, with the manger stalls, travellers in the city, Shepherd from the field, angels singing in the heavens.”
“Maybe the bright lights and drama under the starry night, the unexpected Shepherds and miracles are more like the first Christmas than we really know.” Marlena mused.
As the service neared its conclusion, Father Angelo gave the blessing:
“May the Christmas Star illuminate your path and show you the light.
May the Miracle Messiah, born this night, reveal God’s grace and mercy given for you.
May the the incarnate love of God found in the Christ, move us to see the divine in our neighbour.
And may the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, bless you on this Holy and Joyous night of the Angel’s song and forever more.