Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The Power of Christmas - An Advent Story, Part 5

This year, it has once again been my privilege to participate in the celebration of the Advent Season with my church family. 
The story that God has prompted me to write has appeared here on my blog each week this month. I was thrilled to be able to share these writings with you and I hope the story has been a blessing to you and your families this season. The story is a continuing tale that took us through a contemporary application of the biblical truth of Christmas

Here are the links for the first four parts of the story:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3 
Part 4

With a Courageous Heart, 

The laughter coming from around the dinner table was contagious and it gave the room a warmth it had rarely felt before. Izzy was playing host tonight, enjoying the presence of his family and friends as they celebrated Christmas together.

As he gazed around the table, his eyes took in the smiles and happy contentment on the faces there. Each one important to him in a way that he’d never thought possible. Had it really been a year?  Just one year since he’d asked Jesus to fix his broken life and broken heart? He shook his head slowly, hardly believing how much his life had changed, how he had changed as he had let go of his anger and bitterness. Izzy remembered how he’d felt that night, last Christmas Eve, the weight of 10 years of pain falling from his shoulders. It was as if he’d been released from a prison – one of his own making – yet one that couldn’t stop the deep, deep love of Christ from reaching through those thick walls. He knew then that he’d never be the same again, and he had been right.

When the small service in the boys shelter had finished, Izzy talked with Juan, the pastor – his pastor now - long into the evening. Juan had shown him passages in the Bible that helped explain more fully what his decision to follow Jesus had really meant. When he had finally left for his sister’s home he could hardly contain himself as he thought about how happy Mary Beth and Joe would be.

He’d been right about that too. He remembered the tears Mary Beth had cried when he shared his good news with her. Looking at her tonight as she and her family shared his table, you’d never remember the pain in her eyes that used to settle there when she’d spent time with him before. Izzy hadn’t realized just how much his rejection of Jesus had affected her and he was so glad that now, they were not only brother and sister in the flesh, but also brother and sister in Christ. And it would always be so, for nothing could take that away from them. Ever.

This past year, Izzy had been like a sponge, absorbing all he could about Jesus. Studying the Bible like crazy and finding he was always thirsty for more. He’d come to love certain passages and verses, the book of Romans was one of his favorites, it’s boldness speaking right to the heart of his reporter’s logical thought processes. The power of God’s word was amazing and he was evidence of that. What was that verse in Luke? “Nothing shall be impossible with God.” That had been him, hard-headed, hard-hearted, but even his broken life could be healed by the power of God. 
It still amazed him that God would love him that much. 
Enough to never give up on him, that was truly a miracle.

Izzy had been especially grateful for Juan and the time he had taken with him to help him learn to really study God’s word and to apply it to his life. He knew now that it was no chance meeting at the mall last year. God knew exactly what he’d been up to with that. Look where this friendship had led – to Izzy volunteering at the boys shelter, helping teenagers much like himself at that age. Lonely, angry, confused and struggling to find a purpose for their lives.

Last year, Izzy had wondered about those boys in the church service. Wondered what their stories were, why they were in the shelter that night. It didn’t take him long to discover that many had stories similar to his own. Parents dead, or left; no homes; runaways; all living on the fringe of community and desperate for a decent life. He’d come to understand that God never wastes an experience and all that he had been through as a teen, losing his parents, his anger at God, his rejection of friendships and attachment, his stubborn drive to prove himself, all of that God was using to allow him to reach out with a real understanding of what many of these lost boys were living daily.
He was seeing the power of God in their lives now too and he loved seeing them transformed by it’s simple truth. The gospel – Jesus – is powerful enough to save anyone, anywhere, no matter what you’ve done or where you’ve been. Is there anyone else that can love you that way? 

For so many years, Izzy had believed that he didn’t belong anywhere, to anyone – he’d had no roots anymore, no place in this world. But Jesus had changed that and he marveled at the truth of it all. Romans 1:6 had become his life verse and its beautiful promise brought new healing to his heart each time he read it. “And you also are among those who are called to BELONG to Jesus Christ.” That meant everyone in this room, all his loved ones, his friends and family and yes, even him. 
Izzy had a place. 
He had a purpose for his life and he belonged. 
Belonged to Jesus.  
That was the Power of Christmas.

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