Holiness in our midst – Session 4


We were all together in one pew, the four “J”s (big sister Janet, me Janis, younger brother Jerry, and little sister Jill) with our parents on Christmas Eve, awaiting the re-enactment of the Christmas story at a small, white clapboard Church of the Brethren. The location was Fernald, Iowa, a tiny town with a towering grain elevator. Train tracks ran through it. There was a general store that sold everything from auto parts to Popsicles and a Consolidated School.

I was five, going on six, a happy-go-lucky farm kid from nearby Nevada, ready to start kindergarten at that school in a month. The annual Christmas Pageant was about to start. I was on the edge of my seat. The makeshift curtain was parted on the Holy Scene. The Manger, lined with straw from a local farmer’s barn, glowed as bright as on that First Night. I was transfixed, so much so that I darted from my seat, before any of the church ladies could corral me, and headed for the front. I would see Jesus first hand. I climbed the steps, danced around first, peered inside the Manger, and got the shock of my young life. I said what I saw: “IT’S A LIGHTBULB! JESUS ISN’T REALLY HERE! IT’S JUST A LIGHTBULB!” I shook my head and repeated the lightbulb line for dramatic effect several times throughout the program. Not everyone was smiling. Within two years of that Christmas Eve, my innocence would be lost. My mother would pass away from breast cancer and our family would move many times before I graduated from high school.

But my first encounter with the Christmas Story gets to the core of the Nativity question for me. It frames the question I ask myself each year at this time: Is Jesus the Light of the World, the Light of my Life, or is He just a lightbulb to me? Some years I see Him brightly, others only dimly. But my faith has stood the test of time; my 1000-watt Jesus remains very real to me as my travelling Companion and Friend.

Do you have a Nativity story?

STORY CIRCLE QUESTION: Do you have a story surrounding a special Creche or a particular Christmas play or pageant? Why is it memorable?


  1. Read the narrative about Jesus’ birth and early life (Luke 2). Reflect on this question in your journal: Which character/characters do I resonate with today: Mary, Joseph, the innkeeper, the Wise Men….?
  2. Read the above story aloud. Write a reflection on the Story Circle Question?


  1. Read aloud Session IV.
  2. Ask each person to answer the Story Circle Question. Alternate story suggestion: Share about a time when you felt the true meaning of Christmas.