It is one humanity’s oldest stories — the plight of a young couple more than 2000 years ago — journeying to Bethlehem, but they couldn’t find lodging so they stopped at a stable.
And the young woman, a virgin, gave birth to a child who would be celebrated as the light of the world.
Thousands of people filled churches across the region Tuesday, Christmas Eve, to commemorate the birth of Jesus with candlelight services.
Many, like First Methodist Mansfield, held multiple services throughout the day. Officials there estimated that about 6,000 people chose to attend the candlelight services, a nice break from the bustle of last-minute shopping.
Executive Pastor Sharon Reid told the congregation that Jesus’ nativity reflects the spiritual struggles of a modern person. She said Mary and Joseph were tired and overwhelmed, and when they realized the baby was coming, they had no decent place to stay.
“It’s difficult to find faith,” Reid said. “And not just finding a room for the night, but faith in God to be present, not just an afterthought. At times we have allowed God to be squeezed out of our lives; we have so much to do.
“But Jesus is still coming at Christmas.”
His birth, added Tina Schramme, children’s pastor, fulfilled what the prophet Isaiah said several hundred years earlier: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
Costumed children reenacted the nativity.
First, Mary and Joseph entered the sanctuary carrying a doll representing Jesus, and they placed him in a manger. Next came shepherds, barn animals, angels and three kings.
“We know the story doesn’t end there,” Schramme said. “Jesus grew up and taught us how to live.”
The congregation sang Silent Night, and on the last verse, they held their candles high.
“I hope,” Reid concluded, “you’ll remember something Jesus once said: ‘ I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never live in darkness. They will have the light that gives life.’”