Tuesday, December 17, 2013

A True Story: A Christmas Star and a Cross

A Christmas Star turned Cross

Marvin and I were quietly talking as we sat looking at the stately pine tree gracing the platform of the century-old church's sanctuary where we both attend.  He said to me.  “I put it up again.”

“The star?” I asked.  He nodded.  We both sat quietly remembering back to Christmas of 2002.  A melancholy feeling enveloped me and a smile came to my eyes.  “That was really something,” I said.  “It’s a story that should be told.”  Tears lightly glistened in his eyes as he glanced away, touched by the memory.

One of my jobs I've done in our small country church is to direct the Christmas program which is a whole-church effort with children and adults participating as musicians, actors, narrators, and a few helpers to make or arrange the props and what-not.  It is a worthy undertaking, one that I have agreed to plan and supervise some years. Part of this noteworthy challenge I believe, is coming up with a script rich in dialogue, a dialogue that will tug at the heart and pull in the listeners.  I want the audience to be interested observers and maybe, hopefully, moved to see the Savior’s birth for the true miracle it is, also portraying in some form the purpose, the redemptive gift of his life.  

 The second component is finding just the right Christmas music to compliment the play, incorporating children and adult voices in musical variations and choirs.  To accomplish this endeavor, I begin a few months ahead by sorting through my own ideas, thoughtfully matching people’s skills and talents with my storyline concept (do we have someone who can do this part, sing this song, what props will we need, etc.), then the task of putting it all on paper.  As the writer of the script, it is always my intention to make the words speak for themselves, clearly and with passion.

The star was my idea, one of my innovations to blend the baby in the manger with the Christ on the cross.

The play that year was about two pre-teen boys having a conversation about life in general.  As the dialogue ensues the boy who has yet to believe in Christ is commenting about differing views and in the discussion he happens to ask the other boy, who believes in Christian truth, why Jesus is a part of Christmas.  The second boy begins to share the reasons by telling the real Christmas story, while at the same time answering corresponding questions his friend asks.  As the boys dialogue back and forth, the Christmas pageant unfolds with angels, shepherds, innkeepers, Mary, Joseph and the holy infant,  King Herod and the wisemen, all parading through the sanctuary, speaking their lines then leaving on cue, the music and scenes eventually leading up to the conclusion.

That year I asked Marvin if he would make something for me.  He is a faithful helper who gets the stage ready with prop supports and lighting.  “I’d like to have a large star shining on center stage.  Inside the star I’d like to have a cross made with red lights.  But the cross and the star need to have separate switches.”
“Okay, I’ll see what I can do.” replied Marvin, “I already have a star.  I’ll arrange a cross on the inside of it.”  So he went to work on my request, taking down the star from his exterior house Christmas decorations and adding a shape of a cross in red lights intersecting the white lights of the star.  When finished, he put the star with its newly lit cross back up on his house until we would need it for the play.
A couple of Sundays later both Marvin’s wife and then Marvin came to me with eyes shining.  “You won’t believe what happened this week,” they said to me.  And then they shared this marvelous story that still gives me a thrill when I think about it. 
It seems that a neighbor of theirs has the difficult situation of having grandchildren who are forbidden to attend church.  She is saddened by this and has desired to share her faith with her grandchildren but she has little opportunity to do so.  That week she had come over to Marvin and Mary’s home full of excitement and happy tears.  She wanted them to know what had occurred the night before.   The evening before she had been driving her grandson to town when he noticed the star shining on Marvin and Mary's house. 

“Grandma,” he exclaimed, “There’s a cross in the star on that house!”  After thinking a moment he asked her, “Why do you think it has a cross in it?”  It was a perfect opening.  So as they traveled the twenty minutes to a neighboring town, she explained to him about Jesus' birth and the need for Jesus Christ to come to earth so he could save sinful people by dying on the cross, and she tied it to the significance of His resurrection.  When she parked the car he said, “Grandma, I want to ask Jesus to be my Savior.”  She thought he probably was speaking on impulse and it didn’t seem to be the right time or place, so she hesitated.  But he insisted. He meant it.  Right then and there in a grocery store parking lot her young grandson understood the message of salvation and believed, giving his life to Christ.  As Marvin was relating the story, I could tell he was moved by the simplicity of being so humbly used by God.

The night of the Christmas program the star is brightly shining center stage as the angels, shepherds and wise men tell their stories, skillfully guiding us to the climactic moment.  “So you see, Jesus Christ came because he loves you and he loves me and he wants to have a relationship with us,” the boy states to the other boy.  “And that is why it matters that Jesus came to this earth.” 

The friend quickly responds, “Um…hm.., Well, gotta go. See ya later.” 

“Later.” They slightly nod their heads, the conversation is over.
The boy rushes to leave, and then he slows down.  Looking up he sees the bright white star and stops.  The red lights of the cross come on, glowing and shimmering in the white star.  He gazes a moment at the cross in the star and ponders its meaning.  “It makes sense. … It must be true.  Wow, Jesus did that for me…”  He walks a bit, drops to his knees near the stage steps, bends his head, and speaks with feeling. “God, I know you love me, you died for me and my sins.  I want you to be my Savior and my friend.  I believe in you.   

Quietly the entire cast gathers on stage and begins to whisper-sing, “Mary had a baby born in Bethlehem…the greatest story of them all…”  The boy lifts his head, stands a moment with a softened expression, glances at the star, and then moves to join the others.  Immediately all the stage lights are ablaze, and we triumphantly sing the finale in full voice, “Come on ring those bells, light the Christmas tree, Jesus He was born, born for you and me…”

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