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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Christmas Cards (11/06/08)

TITLE: In Thy Dark Streets Shineth
By Kenneth Bridge


He turned the card over in his hands, running his fingers around the edges, as if this could somehow coax it into revealing its mysteries. Generic, religiously themed, it portrayed the Magi on camels cresting a hill, a star in the distance over a stable. “Wise men still seek Him” read the inscription. “Merry Christmas, and God’s richest blessings for you” the script inside appeared familiar enough to bring some comfort, yet impossible to identify. There was no name.

The envelope was stock and bore a local postmark. His name and address appeared in block letters in blue ink. There was no return address. It was the only card he had received yet and this was Christmas Eve. Although disappointed, he understood that no one would yet have learned his new address. Other than immediate family he hadn’t bothered to tell anyone. Everything had been so sudden.

Thanksgiving dinner over, about to settle in for the second football game, he found his life turned upside down. “ I need to tell you,” she had said, “I’ve rented a new place for me and the children and closed the lease for this one on December 1st. You’ll need to find a new place to live.” With those matter of fact words, twelve years of marriage, eight years of Pastoral ministry, and all his hopes and dreams were blown to bits as if by some errant missile, or crushed under the weight of a toppling tractor trailer in some freak freeway accident.

She had occasionally complained, to be sure. And they’d visited counselors a few times. At other times she would wax rhapsodically about how blessed they were and how others envied them their happiness. He learned to discount her swinging hyperboles and settled in to a reasonable middle. Until that thankless Thanksgiving Day.

Now a month later, ensconced in a rented room, he hid from the glare of accusation that greeted him like too bright sunshine when he ventured out. Grocery shopping was painful, if occasionally necessary. Couples shopping together, children in grocery carts, families passing in cars, each a crushing drumbeat in a never ending crescendo of despair, bam! Loser; crash! Alone again; rat-a-tat: unfit for human habitat.

He’d resigned his church by letter and had been unable to find any place to worship in the neighboring city where he’d relocated. Not that he had any desire. He opened his Bible to find dry ink on paper. His eyes would scan over empty words without drawing in anything. He was drowning one moment, the next a fish gasping on dry land. He tried to pray, but the heavens were brass and sealed tight at ceiling level. Sleep brought tormenting dreams instead of comfortable oblivion, and was never enough to replenish his dwindling strength.

He’d managed to buy presents for the kids. After he finished wrapping them he put them on the table and sat and sobbed for hours, unable to banish images of them playing with their new toys in his absence. Taking a break, (from what?) he went out to check the mail and found, along with the requisite junk mail (he was appreciated by somebody!) this one card.

The card and envelope fit into the side pocket of his heavy coat. He patted it for reassurance as he stepped out the front door. It was dark and he felt something cold and wet on his cheek, refreshing after the scalding, salty tears that had so recently claimed that territory for their own. Against the streetlights he saw the softening edge of falling snow transforming their glare into something warm and inviting. Floating on the flurries the gentle, joyful notes of a familiar Christmas carol greeted his listening, suddenly hungry ears. Peaceful and profound, “yet in thy dark streets shineth, the everlasting light, the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight,” as the words flooded him with warmth, he felt a stirring of joy and hope for the first time in weeks.

As he strode past the store fronts, closing down their shops in anticipation of church services and family gatherings he noticed the twinkling lights, the train sets circling tracks around trees in store windows, and inhaled it all with a sudden, voracious hunger.

He climbed the steps of the old stone church on the corner, drawn by the light and warmth. “Merry Christmas, and richest blessings,” came the greeting.

“Yes, and wise men still seek Him,” he answered.

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This article has been read 586 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Chrissi Dunn11/14/08
This was very well written. I was drawn into the story straight away through your characterisation. Very moving. Well done!
Marita Vandertogt11/16/08
I like the title, and the thread of hope that it seems to weave throughout the piece, making the ending just perfect. Nicely written.
Mary Alice Bowles11/16/08
At the end of this pitiful story, there is a new beginning. I really enjoyed the way you worked it all to the glory of God. Thank you.
Gregory Kane11/18/08
Excellent. Dark and brooding, you explored the man's pain and despair without giving in to cheap solutions. Nevertheless you ended on a positive note, a faint light in the darkness. Definitely one to watch, come Thursday.
Celeste Ammirata11/18/08
This is very well written. I felt the man's pain and struggle, and in the end, his hope. Great job!
Glynis Becker11/18/08
Both beautiful and sad, but most certainly honest. Love the imagery and emotion. Wonderfully done.
Marlene Austin11/19/08
Well done. Excellent story. :)
Loren T. Lowery11/19/08
Powerfully written, deep and profound. Its honesty pulls it far ahead of some of the other entries this week as we get a glimpse of how some men emotionally respond to the tragedies in their lives. I especially like the way this was concluded because it verified what I felt about this man's mettle, in that in the end he, as a wise man, still sought a power greater than himself. His walking up the steps to the church says so much. Great job!
Betty Castleberry11/19/08
Good descriptions. You put me right in the midst of the story. Great ending.
Marijo Phelps11/19/08
The reader was drawn in and flet the darkness, paon and questions. Loved the ending which was really just the beginning,eh?
Leah Nichols 11/20/08
Excellent writing....that's about all I can say. Very profound and emotional. Nice work!