Written for the fourth and final week of Advent, representing human beings.
It was Christmas Eve, and it was snowing, and David was on his way home.
The headlights of his car cut a path through the snowflakes as he rumbled on, thinking about his wife at home, and his two kids, and his brother. He was thinking about lights all over the house and a brightly-decorated tree and warm food—lots of it. In the back seat were a number of presents that he had picked up and gift-wrapped, all for his family. They were going to listen to old and scratchy records and drink hot chocolate. Then they’d fall asleep, he supposed, and wake up on Christmas morning to cinnamon cupcakes and gifts to unwrap.
The snow was a swirling grey and white, and David was just thinking that it was only another couple of kilometers and a turn round a corner until he got home, when the engine sputtered, gasped its last and died.
David’s eyes widened. “Oh…no!”
He was all alone in an empty, small road, and there were nothing but trees all around, and snowflakes everywhere.
David sat in the car and stared out the front window as the wipers continued clearing the snow away.
It’s cold, he thought.
It was cold too, a long time ago, in the fields around Bethlehem. A young shepherd boy drew his wool cloak firmly around him. He was with three other men of his village, and they were all trying to stay awake and watchful of the sheep around them.
Yet despite his best efforts, the shepherd boy found himself dozing off…ever so softly, that he didn’t notice it until he was aware of a bright light shining down upon him.
It was a light without heat, and streamed down from a star high up above, a star that burned brighter than all the rest.
And the boy heard singing.
And he wasn’t quite sure of the words, but he awoke with one thought in mind:
Follow the star.
Months later, the same phenomenon occurred, but now the star shone in the skies of the East. From his balcony, an old king observed its glow. He knew its presence meant that the world would never be quite the same again.
The sound of hoofbeats reached his ears, and he saw, from afar, a white horse with a brightly-clad rider on its back gallop through the gate and towards his palace. The king left the balcony. By the time he made it downstairs and outside, the rider had stopped, but had not dismounted.
“Greetings, Balthazar!” he cried. Then he sobered. “You know what this means, don’t you?”
“I do,” the king said. “Wait here for me as I saddle my horse, Caspar.”
“We must tell Melchior, too.”
“Yes,” Balthazar said. “Then we shall follow this star together.” He hastened toward the stables.
“And don’t forget to bring a gift!” Caspar called after him.
“Will we ever see it again?”
The shepherd boy stood at the top of the hill with his uncle, watching the last of the star’s light wash over Bethlehem.
His uncle leaned on his shepherds’ crook. “No. Not us. But maybe others will. Forever and ever.”
Before they parted ways, the wise man Melchior asked the same thing of his companions.
“Will we see it again?”
“We won’t,” said Balthazar. “But it will always be there. For people who need it, and for those who know where to look…”
It was a story David had told his children year after year, the kind of story that nobody is too old to believe in, part-bedtime tale and part-valuable history. He remembered it just before he dozed off behind the wheel, waiting for the snow to stop falling, waiting for a trucker (or someone, anyone) to come by and give him a ride, waiting for the whole thing to suddenly prove itself to be a dream. Then he would put the key back in ignition, hear the engine rumble again, and hit the gas and be home in a few minutes.
David woke up, suddenly, joltingly. He wasn’t sure why, but in the back of his head, there was a ringing like a chorus of voices in a heavenly tune that he would not remember again. He looked out the window.
The snow had stopped falling. And the sky was clear; dark as a plum, but bright with a few distant stars.
One of them shone brighter than all the others.
David remembered the story—how a star had shone brightly above shepherds and wise men alike, both at different times, yet leading to the same place. How those who had seen it had not waited for someone to take them there or for a better time to leave; or even, thought of what they would leave behind.
He looked at the snowy ground. It was bright enough to see his way home. He tilted his head up at the star, shining right above the place where he knew the house to be…
David opened the door and got out of the car. He opened the trunk and found a brown sack inside. He opened the passenger door and piled all of the presents inside.
Then he put on his bright red hat and slung the sack over his back.
Below him gleamed the freshly-fallen snow, and above him glittered the stars. David started walking. Walking, all the way home.
David was named after the Biblical king, because I read somewhere that Jesus was like his descendant or something? I forget. Anyway, he also emulates a popular holiday figure at the end of this story 🙂