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It was Christmas Eve and I was miserable.

Eleven days before I’d been in a car accident that would lead to neurosurgery, but that surgery would be months in coming. I couldn’t write, I had stinging pain in my neck and back, and I was scared.  But my daughter was singing in the angel choir at our church that night and I had to be there.

When I sat in the pew—an impossibly uncomfortable pew—I realized that showing up had been a very bad idea. As the choir began to sing, I could hardly bear the pain. I would have to leave, but I couldn’t move quickly, and I couldn’t hobble out while the angel choir was singing…

O, come all ye faithful
Joyful and triumphant…

Joyful and triumphant I was not. I looked desperately around.  Maybe I could stand by the wall and get some relief.  But suddenly, small, aimless sheep appeared holding hands, waving at their parents. Shepherds came down the aisle slowly, really slowly, and forgive me, I turned my head as best as I could to see Mary and Joseph waiting for their cue, and I thought, Please walk faster than the shepherds…I have to go home!

They didn’t.

Then I remembered.

Every year our pastor asked a couple with a new baby to play Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus in the Christmas pageant. This year he had asked a young couple with a particular heartache. Their baby had been born with severe physical challenges. And that baby was our baby Jesus that night. Mary and Joseph began their walk. This mother’s face was shining as she carried her baby down the aisle and laid him in the manger.

In that moment, brokenness gave way to light, and I wept, thankful I was there to witness such a journey of courage and a new Christmas miracle.