Shine Brightly

Note: Adapted from, December 13, 2017

Even the sun realizes it’s impossible to shine brightly at 5 AM. With sleepy eyes and dragging feet, I lug my suitcases, much lighter than when I arrived, down the steps of the little upstairs apartment that had been my home for a few days, toward my friends and their car that would take me to the airport. It’s the day to leave. It feels like I’ve been gone longer than the number of days passed would suggest, and it has been a blessed and encouraging time in Cuba.

It is too dark outside to capture any of the moments passing outside my non-rolling-down window. Almost all the pictures I take are from the seat of a car, through a window, on the way to the next training or visit. I like capturing moments of real life in the places the Lord takes us. I try to keep my phone balanced on the windowsill of the door and subtly snap the shot. Many are blurry, yet some bring the life on the side of the road into focus.

Two Wise Men

As we drive to the airport, we pass a scene that has come to mind often since leaving. On top of a small cement-block home with bars on the windows is a wooden manger covered with rows of Christmas lights. It is maybe six feet wide and four feet tall. Inside the stable scene where you would expect to see the people of the nativity, there are tall figures made out of hard plastic, and only the red of their clothes still visible in faded colors.

It isn’t Jesus. There is no Mary or Joseph. The only figures inside the stable are two wise men. My assumption is that over the years, the other figures must have been broken or lost somehow and had been irreplaceable. My friend told us that for many years there were no Christmas decorations available in the country. They could only decorate inside churches, and they could only use what Christmas decorations they already had before the revolution. Nevertheless, on the roof of this home, even with the figures that are lacking to fulfill the full nativity scene, all of the same care and work of putting up those decorations had been given. They only had two wise men, but they proudly and reverently put those guys up there to shine brightly into the night. Anyone who saw them shining would know the holy night and the birth of our Savior which they represent. The people sleeping under the roof below made the best and brightest of what they had been given, and their joy multiplies at least to me, and probably to many others.

I imagine their kids and grandkids still loved to see those two wise men lit up in all their faded plastic glory at Christmas. Having come to know more about the heart and the spirit of the Cuban people, I imagine they didn’t take much time to regret the figures that had been lost over the years. I imagine the contented sighs and thrill of the moment when those two light up is still as sweet as it ever was, year after year.

What You Have Been Given

I have been given much and I am missing much. Probably, anyone reading this could say the same, no matter what their nativity scene looks like as people pass by it in cars on the street. At the very least, I certainly have two wise men. I am so thankful to climb up on the rooftop of the life I’ve been given and string up the lights around the stable and excitedly plug in all I have so I can shine brightly into the dark to represent the scene of the One I worship and adore.

Maybe you only have two wise men. Maybe you have two wise men, a donkey, and Mary. Hopefully, you have Jesus. Whatever you have, practice plugging in what is yours and shine brightly.

Haley Scully, MA, is the Vice President of Strategic and Ministry Projects with Hope for the Heart. In 2011, she began her work in the ministry’s counseling department before moving into the international work. She serves to develop partnerships, coordinate resources and distribution methods, and provide basic counseling and care ministry training for church leaders and parachurch organizations in over 25 countries around the world. Haley concurrently helps provide leadership for professional development initiatives that include training and resourcing Christian caregivers, life coaches, and counselors. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Communications from Oklahoma State University and Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Counseling from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Haley is passionate about connecting hurting hearts to hope in Christ and the practical application of God’s Word to their everyday lives. She is a speaker, author, trainer, and serves as a guest host on June Hunt’s live, one-hour, call-in counseling program, Hope In The Night.

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