A newly crafted lantern, shined and bejeweled through hours of careful attention, sat proudly on the shelf in all its glory, waiting to fulfill its purpose. The shop hummed busily with browsers, many hands touching, grabbing, turning, checking the lantern from all angles. Did it meet their needs, was it just right for their intent, would it function as they desired? Long days went by and still the lantern waited on the shelf. Finally purchased, with a group of other lamps, the lantern was moved…to yet another shop, another shelf.
Knocked to the floor more than once by a hurried patron, the lantern lost a bit of luster, though still was of use and worth. Several times it had been lit, tried for display, examined for value, tested for brilliance. Still, never purchased. Never quite just right.
Years went by and for unknown reasons the lantern was never chosen. Humbled from its loftiness, it became dusty and old fashioned, pushed back behind the newly-styled creations. Still the shop owner kept it in working order. One never knew when the right buyer would happen by. It was unique, one of a kind, whatever that meant to the rush-a-by world. Yet the cracks and dents it now wore deterred those who craved glitter and shine. The lantern had long given up its dreams of brilliance. It just sat on the shelf, reconciled to dust.
A tiny child scurried through the shop door one cold winter evening, as if blown in by a gale. “Child, what is it?” asked the kind shopkeeper. “Why are you out so late this dark night?” Rubbing her arms through her thin coat, she looked up at him as her words came tumbling forth…“A lantern, I need a lantern for the stable.” “Whatever for, child?” the proprietor patiently asked. There was no need for a child to request such a thing, a potential fire hazard. He would not lend to that possibility. And on a night like tonight? She should be home in bed! “It’s not for me, sir,” she replied, as though understanding the reasons for his hesitation. “My father, the inn keeper, needs it for guests.” “Guests? Guests in a stable?” “Oh, yes sir, and please hurry. The lady is near to having her baby. We need a good lantern that will last through the night and for several days. Please hurry, sir! The lady is in pain!”
“Yes, yes, alright child. Let me find the one I have in mind.” The shop keeper knew of the inn in the neighboring district, and that during this time of census the city was filled with travelers. Considering the child’s story plausible he searched his shelves for the old lantern, his mind resolved he would offer it in charity. It was a little thing he could do, and the lantern would go to a place of need. Lifting the lantern gently from its dusty spot, he wiped it clean, filled it with oil, and wrapped it carefully for the child to carry. “Mind your steps now, will you?” he spoke, suddenly feeling quite grandfatherly towards the girl. “Oh, yes sir,” she smiled widely, bending slightly in respectful bow before cradling the lantern and rushing out the door.
“Father! Father! Here is the lantern!” she shouted running up the path to the stable. “Thank you, daughter,” her father smiled with appreciation. “You are just in time. All is ready here, and we will leave this lovely couple with your lantern to give them light and warmth through the night.” Lighting the old lantern the inn keeper hung it on a post near the place the husband was tending to his wife.
As the night transpired a wondrous event occurred in that stable, under the watchful eyes of the barn animals, and the glowing warmth of the lantern. A tiny child through long labor was born, a child who would one day give up His life for the whole world. Over all a holiness covered that stable, and somehow for many days the lantern glowed on and on, its oil never diminishing. Its light shone on visitors, shepherds and lambs, those who brought gifts. It provided warmth and comfort for the young family and their tiny babe. It moved with them to a nearby humble home, til suddenly one day news came that they must flee.
“Dear child,” the baby’s mother spoke softly to the girl, who could not seem to stay away from the beautiful three, “We must leave now, and wish to thank you and your family for the kind care you have given us in our time of need, and for this light you brought to us. Please give our blessing also…we shall never forget you.” While the husband tenderly helped his wife and child onto the back of their trusted donkey, the small girl looked on in wonder. “I shall never forget you either,” she whispered as the family carefully, yet with haste, began their long journey.
Having taken the lantern from their hands the girl walked slowly to the inn. “They’ve gone,” she told her father, “with blessings and thanks for all we’ve done.” “Yes,” the father replied gravely. “It was time.”
Walking toward the lantern shop, her father having instructed her to return the borrowed gift, the girl wondered at all she had seen. She wondered, too, that the lantern had burned so long without additional oil. “Did you fill this with special oil?” she politely asked the old shop keeper. “No, no my dear. Why do you ask?” Cocking her head with a puzzled look she replied, “It has been burning constantly since you lent it. No oil was added. How can that be?”
The old man, a seeker of truth, had wondered at the birth of the child in the stable, the visitations to that humble place, the brilliant star that had marked its location. “I believe, child, there has been a miracle or two. This old broken lantern has been waiting for its purpose to be fulfilled. And while it was being used for such, it burned brightly. Only Yahweh knows and works to completion His purposes for each of us, and for all things.” The girl nodded slowly, as she recalled the events that had occurred since she had first come to this shop. Miracles indeed. Miracles that would enlighten her whole life.
The lantern was spent. Though it had performed brilliantly, gone were its desires for recognition and glory. Looking at the lantern one would never know the mystery of its transformation. Broken, yet fulfilled. Imperfect, yet chosen. Limited, yet supplied. In humility it had shone for the King of Kings.
Isaiah 9:6 NKJV
“For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”