December clouds gathered and scudded. They shuttered the light of the stars; they locked the moon behind their black velvet veil. Blackness prevailed everywhere.
One edge of the clouds bumped the south side of a snow-peaked mountain. Lightening flashed and a battle of cold and warmth, of dark and light ensued. Parts of the cloud shattered and fell to slide down the mountain to the valley below.
Overcome by the stealth and power of this winter’s night, the valley surrendered its sunlit warmth to the northern winds. A white, phosphorescent mist, beautiful but for the darkness peppered in its belly rose from the ground like tulle fog.
Cold, silent, mysterious, with winter’s wind flouncing its wisps into billowing sails, it floated up the dell’s quick slope to the edge of a tiny, sleeping village nestled in the mountains. Here it paused, here it waited.
Christmas lights strung across the stilled village streets, reflected off the hazy membrane of the lingering mist, creating shadows on its skin, like weevils hiding in flour. Red, green, yellow and blue lights blinked and oscillated – each trading silent, valiant punches at the enigma lurking at its borders.
In the darkened town, heralding time and playing tag with the hushed silence, a clock tower chimed eleven times
Two men, warmly bundled stood alone in the abandoned streets, looking up at the lights.
“Eleven. Harry, you sure these lights will go off at midnight. I don’t want no ranting tomorrow about us wasting power.”
“Mayor, I set the switch myself. All the lights save the one over the Manger in the town square will go dark. Somehow, I feel it must be left on.”
“A star of hope in darkness?”
“Ah yep, my understanding.”
“You’re a good steward, Harry. Now off to sleep safe and warm. There seems to be a chill in the air tonight.”
“And black as pitch; don’t recall it ever being this dark. No moon, no stars – just dark.”
“The light over the Manger after midnight; that’ll have to do.” The Mayor pulled his coat around his neck. “Ever notice how cold it seems without lights?”
“That I have, Mayor.”
The two men left, going their separate ways just as the clock tower chimed the half hour. The winter wind puffed its chest against the lighted streets, nudging the fog, coaxing it deeper into the city. Be it wavered and waited, as if its power were better practiced in stealth and darkness.
The chimes struck midnight, the Christmas lights, once colorful lances foiling the night at bay, blinked out. Darkness crept into the streets, cold snake-like tendrils undulating, sniffing, and swallowing what ever lay before it.
The unlit cooling lamplights strung across the streets hung as blackened fruit from stilted trees as the phosphorescent mist, carried in the bosom of the intruding darkness chilled the air.
As one, mist and darkness met to surround the Manger that anchored the shinning Star of Bethlehem. Surrounding it, the phantom stood, ominous and daunting in its presence. Enjoined by the wind, it whistled; a siren in a black sea beckoning Light’s surrender.
But the Star did not dim, nor its source betray its power. More brightly it shone, made brighter by the darkness surrounding the Manger’s arena. Its Light a shield hard as diamonds with ten thousand prisms raised as swords against the encroaching enemy.
Out of this Light flew a Dove; and as she flew, she ripped the darkness with a lightening bolt carried in her talons. There was a scream of agony as fire spewed from the wound, lighting the sky with bursting flares of crimson, purple and gold.
The flares burst a light greater than a million stars and fell in delicate swirls upon the sleeping village below. The flecks of light fell in a flurry of twinkling, iridescent slivers caught in a snow globe.
They fell to coat the mountains with a crystalline shimmer. They fell to dance among the tree boughs as winter fireflies blinking in rhythm to the heartbeat of angels.
They fell softly to muffle the wind, to blanket the village from the chill and chase the darkness away.
Yet their brilliance was dimmed by one Light brighter still. The one above the Manger, the one left on by the good steward. The man with a servant’s heart who knew it to be a ray of hope in a night of despair.
And, by this and before dawn, the villagers awoke to celebrate a Festival of Lights this simple understanding had allowed.
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