Three year old Lori spent the early evening nights leading up to Christmas as a little angel. Not an angel in the sense of a super well behaved small human, but actually dressed up like a little angel…pipe cleaner halo & all…standing outside Buckner Baptist Church in a make-shift barn with her parents & many of their friends in a live nativity scene.
Live nativities were all the rage in the mid-80s & we made amazing memories wrapped in layers of sweaters under snowsuits, trying hard not to wave at strangers as they drove by admiring our display. (Angels are supposed to be still.)
Every night when we checked in to pick up costumes in my Dad’s Sunday school classroom (temporarily transitioned into the “backstage” space) Mrs. Holly, one of the oldest founding members of the church, had hot cocoa brewing on a hot plate in the corner that she made from scratch. None of that stir in water substitute. Somehow always the perfect temperature.
My Dad was usually a shepherd, sometimes promoted to Joseph, & mom helped however needed. Sometimes a larger angel to keep my small angel in check & sometimes organizing costumes & keeping things clean behind the scenes. It was wild, & a little weird, but that’s kind of us so we loved it.
There are a couple of live nativities around town today, but they’re novelty now, not the norm. Anytime I see one I get crazy nostalgic, & can almost feel the itch of the wool robe on the back of my neck & taste the cocoa on my tongue. But it wasn’t those things that made the biggest impact on me, it was the star, shining on the baby.
I can remember clearly, standing in the cold watching whoever was playing Mary tend to the doll in the manger. I knew the story of Christmas. I also knew it was too cold to have a real baby outside, so the toy had to play Jesus. I knew there was nothing magical about that baby itself, but the way it seemed to shine always amazed me.
At age three I didn’t notice the lights rigged throughout the display to showcase specific features, primarily the infant. He just seemed to glow. My child mind believed that the Christmas star was helping us with our nativity the way it helped shine a light for the kings. I had no concept of how long ago that took place, or of astrology & the wild anomaly a star of that magnitude had to be to draw Eastern Magi to follow its lead.
I only knew that it was strong & it pointed to the most important thing in the scene, the baby.
30+ years have passed & I’ve lived through many wonderful & horrible things. I’ve feared for my life. I’ve suffered loss. I’ve also experienced great joys. Even when I’ve had next to nothing, I’ve always been wealthy in love. Through all of this life lived, every up & down, one thing has remained.
You see, as I grew that star came to mean something to me that was bigger than the nativity. I am a person of faith, even though my choices don’t always point to that. That faith has guided me when I’ve allowed it to. That faith, like that star, always points to what it most important…the baby, or “God in a bod” as my pastor would say. It calls me to focus, to center, to breathe, to let go & be amazed. It’s there no matter the choices I’m making, no matter the season I’m in.
It’s my Christmas star.
I’ve never done things in traditional ways. I’ve never been eager to get married or have kids, although I wouldn’t reject either opportunity if the timing & partner were right. I didn’t pick one “career path” & stick with it, locked in to retirement. I’m a bit eccentric or “artsy” according to some family members. I love things “of the world” as others would say. I can be too spontaneous, & maybe a little dramatic at times, but only because I feel things so big.
Like all of you, I’m me & that doesn’t fit any mold. But no matter who I grow into, I’ve never outgrown the Star & I hope I never stop seeking it. Because no matter what, I know that it will always point to what is most important & I count on that every day.
Merry Christmas, Everyone! No matter your tradition, I hope you find the Star to guide you through this time & all that is to come.