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Country Pastor: Nativity shed

By Mike Knudson, Pastor of Bethlehem and Eidsvold Lutheran churches

Four sheets of plywood, a dozen 2-by-4s, some scruffy shake shingles and ten bales of straw; that's all we needed to make a life-size nativity shed. We touched it off with a couple spotlights, a boom box for Christmas CDs and a few cables to keep it all standing when the wind blew.

Every night for a week or so we volunteers put robes over our winter coats, towels over stocking caps and headed out to the shed to wave to rush hour traffic. Mary had a bundle of cloth wrapped around a plastic baby. Joseph had a costume beard. The wind chills were near zero.

The Nativity shed was located at the intersection of 30th and Redick, Omaha, Nebraska, several feet above the street, set on the front lawn of the church. There, we pretended to be the Holy Family plus the shepherds and kings. The assistant pastor was dressed as a donkey! All of this in order to give motorists a few moments of Christmas joy. We were having fun—pretending.

Then it turned real.

A figure came up the sidewalk, stopped, turned our direction and looked up. He was a young man wrapped in a thin blanket, eyes wide and mouth open. He took time to look and then walked up to us; still in amazement. His nose was running. He was shivering. He asked us if we were real. One of us said, "We are real."

We were real people. We were real people who offered him hot chocolate and a cookie. He asked if he could come into the shed with us because he was cold. He sat on the straw bale sipping and chewing. We covered him with an extra blanket someone had brought. Eventually he lay down. Once he was settled we turned to face the traffic again. But it wasn't pretend anymore. We were still smiling and waving, as before, but I wonder if our faces had a new look; the look of witnesses.

"Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given."