Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Midnight Christmas Eve - Lena Nelson Dooley

About three months after God told me in 1984 to become a professional writer, He told me to use my gift to bless other people at Christmas, instead of sending Christmas cards. So that year I wrote my first short Christmas story. I'm sharing the one today that I wrote in 1996.

Midnight Christmas Eve

Dave Farris clenched his eyes closed as tight as he could, but he could still see that darn light. Why hadn’t he looked around before he chose this broken-down hotel to spend the night? The Christmas star on the top of the steeple of the church across the street hadn’t seemed very bright from the street, but up here on the third floor it was a beacon shining through the cheap drapes as if they weren’t there.

Christmas! Dave had given up celebrating Christmas when he gave up going to church. And he’d done that just as soon as he moved out of his grandparent’s home.

His parents hadn’t taken him to church. When he was just five years old, his parents had gone skiing with some friends. The two of them had been out in the snow late at night when they were covered in a freak avalanche. That’s when he had gone to live with his grandparents. And they’d been good to him—even though they made him go to church.

He hadn’t minded it too much when he was little. They had a lot of fun in all the activities, and even the services weren’t too hard to sit through. But he just couldn’t believe a loving God would take both of his parents away from him when he needed them so much.

His grandfather had even paid his way through college. He just had to keep living with them until he graduated. They couldn’t afford for him to go away. But that was one of the good things about living in a college town. Had it really been ten years since he had left them? Ten years! Back then he had been sure that in ten years he would be at the top of his field. But things changed so fast he had trouble keeping up.
He rolled over and threw his arm across his eyes. There. Finally he couldn’t see even a glimmer of light from that star. He was just dozing off again when it started.

Music. Christmas music. But not regular carolers. It sounded like angels—if he had believed in angels. Nah. It couldn’t be. But the lilting sounds danced around his room and lodged in his head, tugging at his awareness.

Since he was awake anyway, he might as well check it out. When he put his bare foot on the floor, he realized there was some kind of hard floor covering, not warm carpet, and sometime after he had crawled under the covers, the heat had gone off. Shivering, he pulled the blanket from the bed and wrapped it around his shoulders Indian style, but that didn’t help his cold feet. He walked to the window and stood first on one foot and then on the other as he parted the tissue thin drapes.

According to the clock on the front of the bank, it was almost midnight—and this was Christmas Eve. On the snow-covered lawn of the church, there was a lot of activity. He hadn’t noticed the weathered stable when he came in. It had been pretty dark. Now the whole church yard was lit by what seemed to be a million lights. And the stable had footlights flooding the interior with a warmth that encompassed the occupants and spilled out.

There in the manger lay a real live baby. He could see it’s legs kicking from all the way up there. As a beautiful young woman dressed in a flowing robe leaned toward the baby, her long dark hair obscured the baby from his sight. A man in what had to be a biblical costume hovered over them. Shepherds were kneeling in the snow, and angels were singing from a platform high above the stable. There were even some animals staked out near the stable. Dave could see a couple of sheep, a donkey, a cow. And in the shadows a camel hunkered.

The most amazing thing. People. All kinds of people were milling around talking to the shepherds, to Mary and Joseph. It even looked as if someone was trying to say something to one of the angels.

It was not enough that he was almost out of money, so he had to stay someplace cheap. But he had a whole Bible story going on right outside his window. And it was so loud he couldn’t sleep.

Dave had seen live nativity scenes before, but they had been tableaux. Pretty pictures that people looked at from afar. What were all those other people doing down there?

Without conscious thought, he pulled on his clothes. It wouldn’t hurt to go see what was happening. After all, he couldn’t sleep. Maybe a walk in the night air would help.

When he reached the street, he was soon swallowed up in a milling crowd. But ignoring those around him, he pushed toward the warmth spilling from the stable.

“Love has come ... God sent His only Son ... Emmanuel.” Words and an unfamiliar melody flowed around him.

“God! If it were only true.” Words, spoken in disgust, became the prayer of his empty, weary heart. As Dave stood looking down at that baby in the manger, all the sounds faded from his awareness, and a still small voice spoke peace to him.

It is true. The words reverberated through his broken spirit. Dave, I love you.

As Dave fell to his knees and began to sob, bells pealed. The angels sang, “Hallelujah!”

Then Dave became aware of another man kneeling in the snow beside him—his strong arm lending strength to Dave.                                        © 1996 Lena Nelson Dooley, All rights reserved.

This story is my Christmas gift to you this year.

Tell us about the most favorite Christmas gift you ever received.


Debby Mayne said...

Thank you so much for the beautiful story, Lena!

It's hard to pick a favorite Christmas gift because I've received so many blessings. Any time I get to spend Christmas with my children and grandchildren is wonderful!

Lena Nelson Dooley said...

I so agree with that, Debby. I'm very thankful that all my children and grandchildren, except the grandson who is in the Army, live very close to me.

Darrel Nelson said...

Thank you for the story, Lena, and Merry Christmas to you and your family. When our children were young, we would have them re-enact the Nativity, on Christmas Eve. Now we carry on the tradition with our grandchildren. THAT is my favorite Christmas gift: seeing our posterity continuing to love and worship the Savior.

Lena Nelson Dooley said...

Darrel, I always wanted to make a life-sized Nativity for our front yard. I wanted to buy old mannikins and make all the costumes, etc.

James always said, "But where would we store them the rest of the year?"

I was the drama director at our church in the 1980s. One year, I asked the pastor if we could have a Live Nativity Scene. He agreed, and a tradition was started that continues, even though I've been at another church for 11 years.