O Holy Night is tonight

It’s Christmas Eve! Tonight is recognized by Christians throughout the world as the Holy Night when The Star appeared in the sky, the Star that shone so brightly above a humble stable in a small village called Bethlehem.
What will you be doing tonight? You may still be shopping and getting everything prepared for Christmas Day, but I hope we all take time to gather our families around us and read the Christmas Story. This is a tradition that our family has observed since Rick and I got married. We read the story in Matthew and then in Luke and talk about the things each apostle bore evidence of. Many people don’t even know the accounts have some differences.
We have plenty of farmers and outdoorsmen and women here. Most of us have been out in the evening and have looked at the night sky. How immense! How beautiful! The stars are like the sparkles of light’s last breath on the ripples of a lake or stream as the sun sets.
We have walked or ridden a horse in the silence of the nighttime. I loved it! I well remember riding my mare around our pond late one night. No sounds of traffic. Just the soft clop-clop of her hooves on the soft dusty trail. I thought about how it would’ve been to be alive in the days before automobiles, when those sounds and other so-called ‘civilized’ sounds would have been absent. Everything around me was beautiful and I could feel the presence of God again. It was a feeling I have been privileged to relive many times.
Having had the wonderful experience of bringing in large cattle herds from the mountain ranges in Utah, I enjoyed my time with other wranglers, and alone with my horse as we worked. To be out there, just doing what we needed to do; yet pausing now and then to acknowledge the Creator’s Hand. His presence was everywhere.
So, too, the shepherds must have been about their tasks as they watched their sheep bed down for the night. Did they know the prophecy and the significance of the Star? Even if they knew those things, I’m sure the appearance of an angel would have come as a great surprise and it would’ve taken some time for them to regroup. I’m equally sure that Heavenly Father knew such an appearance would frighten the shepherds, thus the angel’s first words, “Fear not,” are understandable.
Quickly the shepherds departed to look for the Holy Babe. We know this because the scriptures tell us they went ‘with haste.’ How quickly would we go?
The Star must have been a remarkable sight. We know it had never been seen before, so that was sure to have been noticed by shepherds who spend so much time outdoors. I’m sure they marveled over its size, its brightness and beauty. Do you suppose any of them mentioned the prophecy about a Star that would appear the Night before the Savior’s Birth?
These were simple men, but they were not the only ones that noticed such a Star. In the east, wise men also saw the Star and they knew its symbolism. They gathered their gifts and their camels and went to look for the Babe.
We are simple and learned in many ways. We can read. We can purchase many things we want. What would we take to Him if we had the opportunity? He received gold, frankincense, and myrrh; considered to be gifts fit for a King. What gifts would be appropriate for Him today if we were to take Him one? He doesn’t need or want the material things. They are not eternal. All He wants is for us to be obedient to His Father’s teachings. These are the very teachings the Savior himself brought to the world. He wants us to be happy and to return to live with Him and our Heavenly Father and our families in eternal glory. All we need to give is our love, our obedience, and to show love to other through service.
As the shepherds and wise men finally found their way to the stable, just imagine how they must’ve approached the small structure. How it must have taken time to find Him! The stable would have been warm and cozy, the animals adding a sense of tranquility.
I used to love going down to our barn and checking on the cattle and horses each evening. It was often after dark that I’d find a newborn calf on those rounds. Quiet, peaceful and so beautiful to behold the little one. Whenever I discovered a calf in this fashion, the cow always allowed me to kneel next to it, inspect it and love it. She trusted me and I guess I trusted her too.
It must have been such a night in that little stable in Bethlehem.
Consider the new mother and father, Mary and Joseph. Their little son was such a miracle – truly a gift from God. When our sons were born, Rick and I knew we were holding a sacred, precious bit of Heaven. Mary held the Son of God. She knew He would be the Savior of the World. Joseph knew he would be raising God’s Son. How those parents must have prayed for guidance.
Our sons and daughters are children of our Heavenly Father. They have been sent to us, entrusted to us, to be taught the things they need to know about Him and His teachings. I wonder if Mary and Joseph knew just how much Heavenly Father would help them in raising His Son. I wonder if we miss the many moments He must help us to do the same.
Years ago, I read a short fictional story about a dream Mary might have had. In it she saw a birthday party for Jesus and described the festive preparations that went into it. She saw the decorations, the shopping trips, and the many presents. She saw the happiness, but was confused by the gift exchange. When she awoke she told Joseph about the dream and said the people gave gifts to each other, not to Jesus, and that they never seemed to even know about Him. She asked Joseph a question:
“Doesn’t it seem odd for people to go to all that trouble to celebrate someone’s birthday if they don’t know Him?”
Mary was troubled by the dream, feeling that even if Jesus had come to the party he would have been intruding. Once she shared her dream with her husband, she was relieved it was only a dream.
But, it wasn’t a dream, was it? Much of it depicts how our holiday preparations are. I hope we won’t leave Christ out of His own celebration. Share the Christmas Story with your family and others. Share its significance. The Holy Babe has done for us what we could not do for ourselves and brought meaning to our mortal existence. He has given us “the greatest gift” of all, eternal life. Enjoy the beautiful Christmas hymns and songs that carry His spirit. Be sure to tell those you love, that you cherish them. Revel in the time you have with your family and friends. Try to ‘take them back’ to how it must have been on that Holy Night so long ago. (Caught you humming the tune by now, didn’t I?) Merry Christmas!

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