Monday, December 24, 2012

A Fresh Look at Advent - Part 4

Well friends, here we are - we've made it to Christmas Eve once again. In my home, if the cookies aren't baked by now and the gifts aren't wrapped by now, it's just not gonna happen. Ha!
I was up early this morning, enjoying my coffee by the fireplace before everyone else got up. It was lovely to sit alone for a few moments and reflect on the season. Our Decembers are always a bit frantic, much like Sherri's in part one of our Advent story. Between my wedding anniversary, my daughter's birthday, travel for her skating competition and the local ice show - Christmas could really get pushed to the side if we allowed it to happen. But thankfully, all three of us are committed to finding those pockets of time that let us sit quietly together and enjoy a cup of cocoa and some warm cookies. 

Jesus came to this world to give us life - and life abundant - not a crazy whirlwind of activity that leaves us panting for breath and pushes Him aside. 
So friends, my Christmas wish for you all is that you have opportunity to rest and reflect. And most of all to remember that Jesus came to be our light, our refuge and our salvation.
Last week, I shared Part 3 of a series I've been writing for my church this Advent season. Today's post is Part 4 of that series.  In case you missed Parts 1,2 and 3, here are the links to those posts:  
A Fresh Look at Advent - Part 1

A Fresh Look at Advent - Part 2

The story centers around one family, giving a glimpse at real life during this season. I invite you to read along as we find our way to the heart of Christmas.  

"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly." - John 10:10

They could hear the sound of laughter as it carried down the hall from the kitchen. The scent of fresh baked gingerbread cookies came along with it as Sherri sat next to Jon on the sofa, reveling in the wonderful aroma and sounds of Christmas. The fire was warm and it felt so good to be enjoying this time of rest from their busy day. She snuggled a little deeper into Jon’s side and let out a contented sigh.

So much had happened over the course of the past few weeks that had completely reshaped the way they were all thinking about Christmas. Even with the tough things they’d had to deal with like Jon’s disappointment at work and Jenna’s concern for Ashley, their family had never felt the meaning of Advent more than this year.

Just hearing those girls laughing together again as they made the cookies – and probably a big mess –  was worth all that they’d dealt with this past week. When Jenna had come to her about Ashley’s troubled relationship, her heart had responded as if it were her own child. She had listened intently to what Jenna told her, and after praying about it and consulting Jon, she arranged to have Ashley and her Mom over for dinner the next night.

After their meal, all four women sat together in this room and not only opened up their hearts to each other, but opened God’s word and allowed his Holy Spirit to speak to them all. As Sherri had read aloud from the book of John, Chapter 10, great big tears had rolled down Ashley’s face when she got to the last part of verse 10. Jesus was talking to his disciples about how the thief comes to steal and destroy, but that He came to give life, and give it more abundantly. It was truly amazing to see how the Holy Spirit moved Ashley to see how being with Brian had stolen her away from her relationship with Christ. She recognized in that moment that she had been living anything but an abundant life – she’d been living a lie and it had made her miserable. Even better was seeing how Ashley opened up to her Mom and it was clear that their relationship was on its way to restoration and the healing only Jesus could bring.

As Jon held Sherri close, he was lost in his own thoughts as he recalled their evening of caroling with their church last night. He hadn’t been prepared for what he discovered as their group stopped in front of a plain brick home with a small covered porch. They’d been half-way through the first verse of Joy to the World when the front door opened and a man pushed a wheelchair out onto the porch. It was all Jon could do to keep singing as he realized that the man was his new boss Stan and the young girl in the wheelchair was obviously his daughter. She looked so tiny sitting in her chair, but as he discovered later, she was almost Jenna’s age.

As they’d stood on the porch, clearly enjoying the cheerful music, Jon observed how tender Stan was with his daughter. He’d bent down to pull the blanket tighter around her shoulders and kissed her cheek as she smiled with delight at the singers. Jon had that sick feeling in his gut again, but this time, he felt shame. Shame at his arrogance and pride that had kept him from feeling anything but anger at Stan.

Their group finished the carol and sang one more before they offered a Christmas greeting and started to move on. Jon quickly whispered to Sherri to go on with them that he would catch up and made it up the porch stairs in time to hold the door for Stan to wheel his daughter back inside their warm home. The two men stayed and talked together on the porch and through their conversation the Holy Spirit had opened up Jon’s eyes to all that he had been unwilling to see just a few weeks ago. 

Thinking back on it now, he’d missed so many clues that there was more to Stan’s life than met the eye. It turns out that the new job and position had come just in time to save their family from having to move – his daughter’s medical bills had eaten up all their savings and the blessing of his new benefits was giving them much needed breathing room at just the right time. All the brown bag lunches and the times Jon had seen Stan rush out of the office right at 5 all made sense to him now – and he could now see how the Lord’s hand had been in every bit of their work situation. Without a doubt he knew God was changing his heart and helping him to see that He did indeed work all things out for good – and to bring glory to himself. Christmas would never be the same for him again.

Sherri and Jon were both startled out of their reverie as Jenna and Ashley bounced into the family room carrying a plate of warm gingerbread cookies. The girls were talking excitedly about their school party the next day and they all laughed together as they planned what they were wearing for the Ugly Christmas Sweater contest. As they ate and talked, Ashley looked over at the nativity scene on the hearth and stared for a moment. Sherri saw the direction of her gaze and realized that Ashley had noticed that Baby Jesus was missing from the scene.

“So, I guess Jenna’s told you how we’ve lost Baby Jesus this year, huh?” Sherri asked Ashley. Ashley looked up at her and replied, “Actually no, Ms. Sherri, she hadn’t, but you know something? Your home doesn’t need a Baby Jesus figure to complete the nativity scene. Jesus lives in your hearts and anyone can see that.” 

 With a Courageous Heart, 

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