December 2023 Pastor’s Article

Thanks in no small part to Hallmark, there are hundreds and hundreds of Christmas movies and specials that exist.  I always find it interesting how these cultural Christmas stories try to avoid the religious connotations of Christmas while still capturing it as something special.   A lot of these Christmas stories like to focus on “Christmas magic” and “Christmas miracles.”   As a follower of Jesus, I do believe there can be Christmas miracles but not all miracles come easy.  United Methodist pastor Mike Slaughter writes about this in his book Christmas is Not Your Birthday.  Slaughter wrote: “Miracles do not appear out of thin air, like magic.  You cannot receive God’s miracle unless you are willing to pay the cost.  . .Meaning is not found in personal comfort and material luxuries.  So it should be no surprise that a meaningful Christmas is not found in mindless spending, eating, and stress.  Rather we find meaning when we give sacrificially to those in need, because doing so, we are giving to Jesu himself.  It is his birthday after all!”

There is a story that reminds me of how we all can be miracle workers this season, and it is one of my absolute favorites.   Youth Minister Mark Yaconelli writes about a story he observed once.  Mark was out Christmas shopping trying to find the perfect gift for his wife.  After a successful venture to the local mall, he sat down in the food court and noticed the hustle and bustle all around him.  In the midst of this crowd one group of people stood out.  Ten adults with developmental disabilities were being accompanied by two assistants with sweatshirts that read “Redwood Group Home.”  The two assistants helped each person order from one of the many eateries in the food court, except for one man with Down syndrome.  He shrugged off every attempt at help.  This man knew what he wanted.  He got in line at McDonalds, produced a coupon, made some motions, and successfully got his very own 32oz cup of coffee.  He returned to his friends, his face beaming with pride at his accomplishment.

At this point Mark got up to check out one more store before leaving the mall.  As Mark left the mall he found that it was pouring buckets outside.  The people from the group home were taking shelter under the eaves of the mall entrance blocking the way.  One of the assistants had pulled up a 15 passenger van, and the other walked the folks with special needs from the eaves to the van.  The man with the McDonalds coffee was sheltering his hard earned brew, when without any apparent direction he took off for the van.  The rain was harder than he expected, and he froze, unsure of what to do.  The assistant called him to keep coming to the van, while he looked back towards the safety of the overhang.  In this motion he twisted his body and the jerk caused him to drop his cup of coffee.  The coffee began to wash away creating a mudslide on the wet pavement.  In shocked horror the man looked at his lost purchase and began to cry.  Soon his body gave way and he collapsed to the ground sobbing.  It was a pitiful sight to see this young man wailing mournfully, sitting in a growing pond of coffee, the rain soaking his clothes.  Then one of the assistants left the van, sat down beside him, wrapped her arm around him, and put his head on her shoulder to cry.  For several minutes she sat there with the patience of God just holding the young man while the rain poured down.  Once he calmed down, she helped him up, took him to the front seat of the van helped him fasten his seatbelt and kissed him of the forehead before squeezing herself in the backseat.

For that upset young man, the assistant was more than just a woman doing her job.  She was the very hands and soft shoulder of God.   What he witnessed on that rainy December day, was God at work in the world, a miracle, being done by a miracle worker.   She had to sacrifice her time, her pride, and her comfort to get on her knees in the rain and help him.  It would have been easier to just yell at him to get up, but that would not have been miraculous.   We are in a season that is meant to celebrate the greatest miracle of all time.   May we celebrate the miracle of a child being born who was to become the wonderful counselor, Mighty God, everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace by seeking to be his miracle workers.  This Advent, as we prepare for Christmas, may we spend less time looking for the perfect gift and more time looking how we can be someone else’s miracle.

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