Her name was Sophie. Of course, I didn’t know that at first. Who could? I only saw her from across a crowded room and I wasn’t about to try to make the acquaintance of a small child. In our culture, talking to strangers, particularly when those strangers are someone else’s small children, can get you into a heap of trouble. And I wasn’t interested in trouble on this quiet, star-filled night in chilly Colorado.
She was dressed quite differently from all the other children and to be totally honest, she looked a little old-fashioned. With her pink pants, her kelly green wool coat that extended to her knees, her orangey puff of a hat, complete with an animal face, and her plain brown shoes, she seemed to me to have stepped out of the past, possibly even out of the past from another country. Germany perhaps. The little girl couldn’t have been more than about seven years old. Her skin was pale, almost translucent it seemed, in the artificial light of the barn in which we were all standing and waiting. The sleigh would be here shortly. At least, that was what we’d been told.
Christmas this year had been just okay for me. Oh, it had been filled to the brim with lots and lots of activities, tons of food, acres of smiles and “Thank you’s” and people saying they were happy with their gifts, but inside of me there was an ache and I couldn’t quite identify the cause. We’d started the holiday season with a trip to see and hear the Trans-Siberian orchestra, light show and all. It had just been okay for me. Oh, it had been spectacular as the world measures spectacles, with its light shows and fire and enthusiastic musicians parading back in forth in endless fits of frenzy ’til it almost made my head spin. But it lacked beauty. And truth. And goodness. To be totally honest, it was boring. Throughout the course of the evening, I’d had to nudge my husband several times to keep him from yawning and I’d stifled more than one yawn myself. I applauded the performers attempts to get to the heart of the matter. They had all the necessary elements for a good show; the story, the excellence in musicianship, the wham, the bam, the POW! By all accounts, it should have pleased me intensely but it didn’t. Something was missing and that something, as far as I was concerned, was the ability to touch the soul. It hadn’t touched mine and as far as I could see, it hadn’t touched the hearts of those around me either as evidenced by how many got up and left before the end of the performance.
Our brief sojourn into the combined world of heavy metal and classical had been five nights previous. Christmas, the actual day, had come and gone, and here we were waiting in an old red barn for the sleigh to arrive outside that would take us into a night journey of sparkling light and color. As I sipped my hot cider, I watched the little girl standing across the room from me. She had a long blond braid that poked out from under her fuzzy animal cap and extended halfway down her back. At times, her tiny face turned upward to talk to her Daddy, whose presence minimized hers with visible incongruence. She was tiny. He was tall. She was demure. He was not. He had a commanding presence. She almost disappeared from sight by virtue of her size and her demeanor.
From out of the corner of my eye, I saw our guide motioning us to move in the direction of the carriage. I climbed aboard and took a seat feeling a warm sense of satisfaction when I realized that the people who would be joining us on this particular carriage ride were the child, her father and her mother. There was only one blanket in the carriage so we shared it. Soon the horse moved, the carriage began to bump noisily along dirt-worn pathways and the little girl started to talk. She spoke quietly at first with lots of starts and stops, and then with a little more volume and fluidity as she gained confidence that these strange people seated across from her were really nothing to be frightened of at all.
Midway through our ride was when it happened. A lull in the conversation had briefly left each of us to our private thoughts. I was wondering what to talk about next when Sophie, who had timidly introduced herself to us early in the carriage ride, leaned forward. Glancing back and forth between my husband and me, she asked, “Would you like me to sing you a song?”
What adult would say no to a small timid child wanting to sing a song? Certainly not me and not my husband either. Her tenderness and her bravery were enough to make us want to know more of this tiny wraith-like individual with the old-fashioned clothes and the long blond braid. We nodded and snuggled closer to each other in anticipation of the song Sophie was preparing to deliver.
With clarity and simplicity, the child began to sing and she accompanied her song with simple hand motions.
“Away in a manger, no room for a bed….”
In the darkness, tears sprang unbidden to my eyes. In one little phrase, this child had sung to a needy place in my soul.
“The little Lord Jesus laid down His sweet head…”
Cradling her miniature “Lord” in her precious little arms, she continued,
“The stars in the sky looked down where He lay…”
We were riding ‘neath the stars on a night very much like what that first Christmas night might have been like so many years ago. People were all around us, walking, talking, viewing the sights. ALL were completely unaware of the beauty of a child’s voice proclaiming His worth in the sanctity of that carriage that dark night on the day after Christmas. No one around me, inside the carriage or without, was aware of the wonder that had just invaded and completely captivated my heart and my soul, bringing tears to my eyes and a sense of joy to my heart, as I listened to the tiny child voice singing praise to her Maker, to my Maker, to the God of the Universe, the One who stooped to walk this earth for me.
“The little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay.”
The sound of her voice reverberated in my ears and in my soul as her last note faded into obscurity. Sophie, pleased with her delivery, nestled back in between her parents with a sideways look at their faces for signs of approval, but she wasn’t quite done. Within moments, the little girl with the big heart for the One who had come to earth for her, was leaning forward and quietly asking, “I could tell you a poem too. Would you like to hear it?”
There was a long pause in the conversation. Words escaped me. I knew if I spoke again my voice would crack. I could only nod and I prayed she couldn’t see the tears in my eyes and mistake them for sadness.
Glancing briefly at her mother’s face for the encouragement to continue, Sophie began to recite words from a very familiar poem,
“What can I give Him, poor as I am…”
In the hustle and bustle of a busy Christmas season, it’s so very easy to forget that the reason that He came was because He wanted to establish a relationship with me. With ME! The lowly sinner. The nobody. The person who had nothing to offer Him. Nothing. It’s the most beautiful rags to riches story EVER. The king chose to descend to a lowly stable, to live in a sin-filled world for thirty-three long years, which must have seemed like an eternity to Him who had lived an eternity already in a world with no sin.
“If I were a shelter, I would bring a lamb.”
God gave us THE Lamb on that first Christmas night AND He provides shelter from all of life’s adversities if we’ll only come in from the cold. It was a simple shelter He provided for His only begotten Son on that first Christmas night, but the shelter He’s established for me is one of joy and peace and hope and light in a world that is completely enveloped in darkness.
“If I were a wise man, I would do my part.”
I’m not wise. I’m not even astute. Sometimes I can string words together in a way that blesses people’s souls; most of the time I just sit and wonder at what my part is in the whole story that God set in motion on that first Christmas day. The wise men rode into history simply by getting on camels and following a star. None of us knows if by simple obedience to what He’s given us to do while on this earth, we might also do the same. Or not. We each might be one of the nameless, faceless persons in the history of the world who live and who die with no one hearing our name. And that’s okay. The only One who matters knows us BY our name and He has chosen to walk alongside us on this journey we call “life.”
“What can I give Him? I can give Him my heart.”
Christ doesn’t demand. He doesn’t come to us with all the pomp and circumstance of earthly fame and glory and demand that we bow the knee to Him and his commands. No, he comes to us in the stillness and the silence of dark wintry nights and lifts our chins to view the incomparable majesty of a heavenly kingdom brought down to earth in the tiny, helpless estate of a newborn baby. We have nothing….NOTHING…to offer Him, and yet He chooses…he chose….to live among us and to die in our place.
A heart is a little thing, but a surrendered heart can move mountains. Little Sophie blessed my heart on December 26 with her simple faith and the unchallenged beauty and simplicity of her song and her poem. She knew nothing about us. We could have been atheists or people who hated God, but bravely she spoke of the one truth the world knows nothing about, the miracle of a king descending to earth in order to establish a relationship with poor, needy men and women like you and like me.
May we never tire of listening to the story that changed the course of history. And may we, like Sophie, choose regularly to share the good news with hearts that desperately need a dose of wonder.