This year, it is once again my privilege to participate in the celebration of the Advent Season with my church family.
The story that God has prompted me to write will appear here on my blog each Monday this month. I am thrilled to be able to share these writings with you and I hope the story will be a blessing to you and your families this season. The story is a continuing tale that will take us through a contemporary application of the biblical truth of Christmas
Here are the links for the first three parts of the story:
With a Courageous Heart,
“You’re meant for so much more.” Mary Beth’s words echoed in his head as Izzy sat in the back row of chairs. A month ago he’d never imagined that Christmas Eve would find him sitting here, in a church service, in a shelter for teenage boys. Crazy, but yep, here he was.
Juan, the preacher he’d met on Black Friday, had invited him to stop by when Izzy had called him to try and meet up. He had questions and something told him that Juan would be able to answer them. Juan was leading the group in worship at the moment. He had a warm tone to his voice that blended with his acoustic guitar and had the attention of the entire group of boys in the room.
After meeting his sister last week over coffee, Izzy tried to ignore the nagging irritation he’d felt when she called him out about the life he’d been living. As much as he wanted to be angry with her, to deny the truth of what she’d said, he couldn’t, because she was right.
He had been running, and he was tired. Tired of throwing himself into his job, working crazy hours and volunteering for every assignment that would put another notch in his resume belt. Tired of filling his free time with ball games, workouts at the gym or watching ESPN on his 60” flat screen.
His friends were all casual acquaintances, he was close with no one- it was easier that way. Izzy didn’t like attachment – no chance of being hurt or left behind when you didn’t let anyone into your life to begin with. He’d built a solid wall around his heart and the only chink in the brickwork was Mary Beth and her family. This week he’d finally realized that he was lonely, and even his relationship with his sister couldn’t fill that empty spot. He’d tried to deny that too, but the young boy that was still inside him somewhere was crying out for something solid to count on. The kind of solid ground and bonds that he’d known with his parents and his boyhood friends, but that was so long ago and he’d buried those memories so deep he’d almost forgotten what it had felt like.
What was it that Mary Beth had said? That God was the Father to the Fatherless? If that was true, then that included him too, didn’t it? And this roomful of boys, right? Izzy began to wonder what their stories were. Where did they all come from? What had happened to them? Why were they here tonight? He’d been fortunate, he knew, there were relatives who’d taken him in and cared for him until Mary Beth graduated college and married Joe. By then, he was a college student himself and home was whatever dorm he was assigned each year.
Juan’s firm baritone voice suddenly jarred him out of his thoughts as he began to speak to the assembled boys. He pulled out his Bible and read from it, beginning in John chapter 1. Izzy followed along on the app on his iPhone as Juan read, drawing out the story, his voice painting a picture with each word he spoke.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Izzy knew “the Word” meant Jesus, something from Sunday School had stuck with him after all, and he felt a slight relief that the phrasing didn’t puzzle him. “the Word was God.” Hmmph. Jesus was God. He used to believe that, right?
Juan continued to read, “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” That struck a chord with Izzy, there was darkness all around him, every day. In his job, he was surrounded by the ugly, the hurting. Criminals and victims were what he reported on, there were rarely any good news stories and it had been so easy to become cynical. But listening to Juan read these verses, it was clear that the dark things don’t win out. “the darkness has not overcome it.” If he still believed that anyway. Izzy’s mind was racing as Juan read on: “He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.”
That’s actually pretty heartbreaking, Izzy mused. It’s clear from the text that Jesus had created the world and yet when he came to be with the people he’d created, they’d rejected him. That had to have hurt, had to have caused him to feel lonely, at least you’d think so. Was that even possible for a man who claimed to be God’s son? Izzy didn’t ever let anyone get close enough to him to reject him, but he sure knew how being lonely felt and it hurt, a lot.
He looked up as the tone of Juan’s voice changed and to his surprise what he heard next shattered any defensiveness Izzy had left. “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, children who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”
That’s what Mary Beth had meant. Father to the fatherless. She believes in Jesus and she has a Father. And so could he. It all made sense to him now. He didn’t have to be alone. He wasn’t abandoned. There was a Father who loved him, if he would only believe in His son Jesus. In that moment Izzy knew he couldn’t run anymore. He had a choice to make. He could reject Jesus and continue living the life that he’d dreamed, and let’s face it, that really wasn’t all he’d made it out to be. Or, he could just let go. If it were really true that God had a plan and a purpose for his miserable life, then it had to be better than what he had now.
Izzy stared at the screen on his phone for a minute as hot tears rolled slowly down his face. He put it in his pocket then, eliminating the distraction.
Staring down at the floor , he began to speak quietly, not knowing what else to do. “Um, Jesus, I’m not sure what to say, but if you’re God, you probably already know what it is anyway. Listen, uh, I’m not sure how all this works, but I guess I can’t run from you anymore. I need You. I’ve made a mess of my life trying to do it all on my own and I’ve been pretty angry at you for a long time. I’m tired, and I’m sorry. I’m tired of being angry and I’m tired of being alone.
Can you forgive me?
Can you fix it? Fix me?
God, please be my Father. I want to be your child.
I don’t want to live this way anymore.”
As he finished, Izzy heard the soft chords of Juan’s guitar in the front of the room again. It was a carol he remembered from going to church with his parents all those years ago and as the familiar notes filled the room, he felt lighter than he had in a very long time. The cynical, hardened reporter hadn’t believed in miracles since he couldn’t remember when, but tonight, he knew that he was one. Born of God. Christmas would never be the same.