This Story for Christmas comes compliments of my cousin, Tim Hetzner, the (semi-retired) Ambassador for Spiritual Growth for Lutheran Church Charities of Chicago. This was from his daily email devotion of yesterday. As you read it, the suggestion is that you consider these words given to us by St. Paul: “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” (2 Corinthians 9.15). Here is the story:
One afternoon a little girl stood outside Pete Richardson’s antique shop studying the treasures in the window. Then she went in and asked to see a string of blue beads. When Pete set them on the counter, she said, “They’re perfect. Will you gift wrap them, please? They’re for my sister. She takes care of me. This will be our first Christmas since Mum died, and I’ve been looking for the perfect present.”
“How much do you have?” asked Pete cautiously. Pouring a stack of coins on the counter, she said, “I emptied my bank.” Pete picked up the necklace, the price tag visible to him and not her. “What’s your name?” he asked, walking into the back room. “Jean Grace,” she replied. Pete returned with a beautifully wrapped package, and the little girl thanked him and left.
On Christmas Eve when the last customer had left and he was locking up, a young woman rushed into the store and handed him a familiar package. “Do you remember who you sold this to?” she asked. “A girl called Jean bought them for her big sister,” he replied. “How much are they worth?” she inquired. “The price,” Pete replied, “is always confidential between the seller and his customer.” Her sister asked, “But how could she pay for them?” Carefully rewrapping the present, Pete handed it back to her and said, “She paid the biggest price anyone can ever pay. She gave everything she had.”
When “God sent forth his Son” (Galatians 4.4) to redeem us, he gave everything he had. Thank God for his gift that is too wonderful for words! To this I primarily include the rest of Paul’s thoughts there: “When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ So, you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.” (Galatians 4.4-7)
Christmas is quite different for us this year. For the first time in forever Monica will not be singing with a choir, and I will be sitting with her at the church services. We will miss seeing the hundreds of familiar faces with whom we have celebrated our Savior’s birth over the years. As much as I enjoy the more relaxed pace of not having to plan and prepare for the services, there also are symptoms of withdrawal that I am experiencing (there is always the recognition that “no-one does it just like we did” … which is both good and bad news). Yes, Christmas will be different for us this year.
While I may comment more on this at a later date, Christmas always comes with a mixture of “sameness” and “annual change”. Whether we are talking about decorations, celebrations, family, friends, or customs, the mixture holds true. We grow older, families experience deaths, separations and new beginnings, things break, new items appear, tastes and menus morph … yet much of the music stays the same, as do our gatherings, customs, and expectations. And, while the style of telling the story may vary, the Good News of Matthew 1.18-2.12 and Luke 1.5-2.20 remains the same. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1.14).
For those of you who view Christmas as a bitter-sweet time because of the changes, I will simply suggest this. It is true that ever since sin and death were introduced into our world in Genesis 3, there is a rancid bitterness in every human life experience. And, without “God’s indescribable gift” (2 Corinthians 9.15) that is all we would know. However, “Thanks be to God ” (2 Corinthians 9.15) with the true and sweet Story of Christmas life is no longer just bitter. The Gospel of Jesus Christ has the power to make our lives bitter-SWEET (note the emphasis that our God of hope offers) … along with the promise that the day is coming when “he will wipe away every tear from our eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things will have passed away.” (Revelation 21.4)
A Blessed and Merry Christmas to you, my friends, and “may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” (Romans 15.13)
JOY TO THE WORLD, THE LORD IS COME – LET EARTH RECEIVE HER KING!