Saturday, December 25, 2004

A Midnight Clear

Christmas Eve was clear and cold. A near full moon rode high in the sky, silvering deep snow and weighted boughs, and casting the dark shadows of bare black branches across the road. A deer, full grown and huge, perhaps the one who visited at church a year or two ago, met us on the road. He stood his ground. We swerved and screamed and whispered thanksgiving. Strange how shadows and branches and antlers blend. One moment the way is quite clear and the next, a woodland creature is standing sentinel right in the path. I wonder how this deer told his tale, when all the animals gave voice at midnight?
Our impromptu nativity went quite well. Some of the children we expected didn't show up, but others came in their place. My own wee grandchildren sprouted angels wings and acted their parts as they perched on sheet draped chairs. Some older kids helped out, and four children I had never met before took roles as wiseperson, shepherds and lamb. The lamb was most touching of all. He really got into the spirit of the thing, curling up in fetal position at the infant Jesus' feet. This lamb child, from a simple country family, had the absolutely right response to the Christmas story. Peace. Then too, "I a child and Thou a lamb"...a William Blake moment.
Oh yes, and our live baby Jesus was a no show. The instant 'baby' I crafted out of rolled sheeting and soft 'lambskin' looked realistic enough...better than a doll really, which sometimes has that stiff fake look. The actors were suitably reverent, and the audience managed a credible "suspension of disbelief." Indeed I thought the wiseperson carrying myrrh was never going to get up off his knees. We could have closed in prayer right then and there.
In fact, it was magical. Worthy. Well worth a couple of sleepless nights getting costumes assembled. And I'm grateful for the eternal relevance of the Christmas story, for the innocence of children, for their eagerness and creativity, for the child-like capacity to invent, and be real in the moment. I'm grateful for the clarity a simple staging of an old story brings, and for the heightened awareness of an encounter with a deer by moonlight.

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