The Last Day of February

Yesterday we had a miraculously warm day; 65 degrees—unheard of in February! I took advantage of it and walked around the pond. A lot of the ice has melted, leaving a few slabs to sink slowly out of sight. The ducks were back, chattering and bickering (no doubt about how cold their feet were in the icy water!), paddling around in the open water.

Overhead, six black birds dive-bombed a huge hawk out of their area, squawking as one for it to move on. The intruder finally got the message and took off, and the black birds settled into the tree branches, boasting about their triumph.

Of course, this early in the season, the turtles and frogs are still sleeping soundly in the mud. They won’t surface until their internal clocks go off, letting them know that the water and air is warm. The herons will come back to stake out their favorite fishing spots, and, later on in the summer, perhaps the swans will return in all their fluffy white glory.

There were two red-winged blackbirds swaying on the reeds, scoping out real estate for this spring’s nests. At this time, they are placid but still wary. Once spring and nesting time is in full throttle, the males will be very aggressive in keeping everyone and everything away from their nests. But for now, they merely eyed me as I walked by.

Even now the pussy willows are budding out in their silvery-gray glory. The branches look as though they are filled with tiny gray kittens resting on the limbs. The sun is bright, and even now there is a shift in the air; a faint scent of spring to come.

Each time a new season rolls around, it is breath-taking. We’ve seen it happen over and over again, and yet it never gets old. Every season brings its own special gifts with it. While winter is ending, spring is beginning. Oh, you can’t see it quite yet, but it is coming along.

When, in the last day of February, I see even one red-winged blackbird in the reeds, I know that spring is on the way. All creatures of water, ground and sky know it. And if we are wise enough to stop; listen, catch the scents on the wind, see the subtle changes, watch the creatures, we will know this as well.

Samuel’s Star, Part 2

Note: This is Part 2 of the one-act play I wrote years ago for a Christmas pageant. 


Joshua: “You’ll have to excuse my wife, Abigail. Yes, we had a son, Samuel, our only child. We lost him last year.”

NARRATOR: “I’m sorry,” Joseph said, his kind face sad.

Joshua: “He was 14 years old, and so full of life! The stories I could tell you….he was fishing with his friends, and he cut his foot on a shell. By the time he came home, his foot was red and swollen. Abigail knows how to use herbs for healing, and she did everything she could for him. She never slept for the three days it took for him to die.”

“I know that she still blames herself because she couldn’t save him. But something strange happened the night he died. I’ve never told anyone this, not even Abigail. She had gone to get more water, and I was holding Samuel, singing a little song he liked.”

“Suddenly, he sat up straight in my arms, looked at a spot over my head, and said ‘Father!’ I looked myself, and there was nothing there. His face lit up with joy—and then he was gone. I wish I knew—-”

NARRATOR: Suddenly there was a sharp cry from outside, and Joseph started. “It’s Mary! I must go!” But Joshua held his arm.

Joshua: “Wait—take Mary into our stable. It’s clean and the animals have been fed and will be quiet. I’d be glad to have you stay there.”

NARRATOR:  Joseph thanked him and ran out. Joshua knew that his stable was well-kept and snug, and would at least be shelter from the wind. He remembered well the night Samuel was born. When he picked up his new son from a peaceful and smiling Abigail, he felt as though he held the world in his arms. That sweet warm baby scent, the silky golden-brown fluff of hair already curling into ringlets, and the eyes the color of seawater that seemed to take in everything.

Joshua’s eyes filled with tears, but his grief was mingled with joy at the thought of Joseph and Mary, about to experience all this for themselves. Abigail walked in, and Joshua told her about the coming baby, and where the little family was staying.

Abigail: “Well I hope charged them for it.”

Joshua: “Abigail, it’s their first child. The girl is so young; she needs someone like you to help her. Please, will you help?”

NARRATOR: At this point, Joseph ran in, shouting for Joshua. “The baby’s coming—I need help!”

Joshua looked pleadingly at Abigail. She glared at him, and then at Joseph.

Abigail: “You—go back to the stable. I’ll be there in a minute.”

Joshua: “Thank you for doing this. I know that this is hard for you, but I know you can help.”

NARRATOR: Joshua saw her face work as she bent to pick up the soft bag in which she carried her healing herbs. He put his arms around her and whispered in her ear.

Joshua: “Abby, my heart, my life—it was Samuel’s time to leave this earth. You could have done nothing to stop it, and you have to stop blaming yourself. But this little one about to be born; you can help him.”

NARRATOR: Abigail put her hand on his arm for an instant, and nodded her head as she went out into the night. As she walked toward the stable, her eyes were drawn upward by a soft light. It was an enormous star, right overhead! It glowed and danced and almost seemed to throw off sparks. She had to tear herself away; she had work to do.

Joshua was wiping down the long wooden table, and he too saw the light of the star. It seemed to him as if it bathed the entire building and all the land around it with light. He remembered a night when he and Samuel had sat on the roof, watching the stars and telling each other stories about them. Samuel had pointed to a luminous star that seemed to shimmer in the night sky.

“Father,” he said, “that star is special. It’s bigger and brighter than all the others, and it’s coming closer. In fact, one day it will sit right on our roof with us!”

Joshua chuckled at the memory. Samuel could make up the best stories. But wait—what of the large star in the sky tonight? It couldn’t be Samuel’s star—could it? He walked outside and looked up.

There it was—Samuel’s star! Shaking his head at the lurch in his heart, he slowly climbed up the ladder to the roof. The handful of travelers who had made their beds there were looking up at the great star themselves. Joshua could hear murmurs around him, but no one seemed alarmed or afraid.

In fact, he felt strangely comforted by the sight of the big bright star, and felt Samuel’s presence in his heart. He and the other men began talking, and, as time passed, the star seemed to drift closer.

Suddenly Joshua saw Abigail walk out of the stable. From his perch on the roof, he could see that her step was light and her head was thrown back. He scrambled down the ladder and ran to her.

Joshua: “Well? Is the baby here? Is Mary all right?”

Abigail: “Yes, the baby’s here and Mary is fine. I never saw a faster or easier birth. It’s a boy, and they’ve named him Jesus.”

NARRATOR: She began to cry, and Joshua put his arms around her. Abigail felt the stone around her heart soften, and for a moment the searing grief of losing Samuel took her breath away. Then, almost as quickly, her heart was warmed with quiet comfort.

Suddenly they and all those within earshot heard a beautiful voice singing “glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men!”

Joshua: “Angels! Look, the sky is filled with angels!”

NARRATOR: They fell to their knees, clutching each other, as their eyes took in the wonderful, impossible sight. The angels were indescribably lovely. They were afraid to look upon them, but they could not look away.

The singing angel was in front of all the others; fair, with golden-brown curls and eyes the color of seawater. He looked straight down at Joshua and Abigail as they crouched there on the ground, and he smiled.

Abigail: “Samuel! It’s Samuel, my boy!”

NARRATOR: Joshua saw that the singing angel was indeed his son—tall, strong and very much alive. As the angels surrounded the stable, Samuel told them who the baby named Jesus was, and why He had come to earth. He told them that they, Joshua and Abigail, were an important part of this most holy of nights, and that their lives’ work was just beginning. Many would come, he said, who would want to hear the story of the birth of Jesus and record it for all time.

They must remember, he said, all that they had witnessed and then prepare for those pilgrims who would pass through their inn in the years to come. Joshua and Abigail, still holding each other, heard the marvelous words and promises.

The great star now hung so close to the roof that it seemed to perch there. The voices of the angels grew faint as they began to drift toward the hills. Samuel smiled at his parents once more, then turned to go with the others. Abigail stumbled to her feet, and put out her hand as if to stop him, but Joshua took her hand and pulled her back to him.

Wordlessly, they clung to each other and wept tears of rejoicing. Hand in hand, they walked back to the stable. As Joshua opened the door, they saw Mary peacefully resting in Joseph’s arms, and in her lap lay a tiny perfect boy, his hands open like stars against her robe. All around them was a soft golden light, and the various contented sounds of the animals in the stable made a counterpoint to the little tune Mary hummed to the baby.

She looked up as she saw Abigail, and said, “How can I ever thank you? You’ve been like my own mother to me. Here, Abigail, hold him—he knows you.” To Joshua’s surprise, Abigail took the baby from Mary and cuddled him close in her arms.

On that same night, in an uncharted land on the other side of the world from Bethlehem, Samuel and the angels appeared to others. They sang to all people this song:

*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.”

*From the Bible Isaiah 9:6-7 new King James version.