It seemed to be a regular night in Bethlehem over two thousand years ago. Shepherds on the hillsides were caring for their sheep. I imagine it was dark and dreary, because they were astounded when angels appeared with a message: "Do not be afraid, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be for all people." Even more exciting were the words: "For there is born to you this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord" (Luke 2: 10-11).

The shepherds hurried to Bethlehem and found Baby Jesus lying in a manger, just as they were told. Years later, when Jesus began his ministry, we read in John 8:12 that he said, "I am the Light of the world. All who follow me shall not walk in darkness but have the light of life."

There is only One whose light has been the answer to a walk in the dark. When we chose that Light, our lives are filled with His peace, His presence and His power.

But many choose to live on the hillsides of life. They have not, or will not, accept the Light into their lives. They settle for artificial light that comes from different sources. At Christmas, the lights on Christmas trees seem to shout to the onlooker, "Hey look at me, I'm so beautiful." And yes, the Christmas tree lights are beautiful, but they are gone within a few weeks.

Another light that does not last more than a few weeks is described in a joyful song the composer wrote of a reindeer that had a special light on his nose. It has brought laughter and great joy to children of all ages. We can only imagine the little strange nose that was such a great help at this special time of year.

An advertising clerk for Montgomery-Ward in Chicago was working at his desk in the fall of 1939 when his boss walked by and asked: "Can you come up with a new gimmick for the Christmas shoppers this year? Sales were slow last Christmas."

The clerk, Robert May, set to work. The simple request gave birth to an idea that was eventually to explode into the popular-music phenomenon recognized world-wide as "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer." May drew a cartoon-style reindeer and wrote a poem about its life.

That 1939 creation brought lighthearted laughter to many people and was credited with selling lots of extra toys for the store and mail-order company. Thousands of poems were distributed and the funny little reindeer with a red nose began to acquire a life of its own. Most are familiar with the poem, but few realize that the story is actually auto-biographical. Robert May apparently reached into his own life to portray the personality of Rudolph - the sad little reindeer who was laughed at and not allowed to play with the others.

The author's daughter, Virginia Herz, has revealed that the poem tells a story similar to her father's life. "He was a very shy man and felt like an underdog", she says.

With his shining red nose, Rudolph was the only reindeer who could provide a guiding light to Santa. That Christmas Eve night was dark, and only Rudolph could lead the sleigh. He fulfilled a lofty purpose for his life. Suddenly he was important and his friends changed their attitude. They even shouted out - with glee - that he would go down in history.

Ten years later, the poem became the basis for a short movie cartoon. Rudolph's fame spread when music was added. Popular cowboy singer Gene Autry recorded it and millions of records were sold.

By the time it was made into a television special in 1974, it had become a part of America's Christmas tradition. The original poem with Rudolph memorabilia is on display at Robert May's alma mater, Dartmouth College in Hanover, NH.

The light of Rudolph's nose is a joy to behold in pictures. But it is only a symbol of a temporary light that serves a purpose for a little while but is soon gone.

There is a Light that never grows dim. However, there was a period of my life when I did not have that Light, even though I thought I did. I was raised in a Christian home, attended church all my life, married a minister, and we became missionaries in another country.