This holiday season we’re going to do things a little bit differently than we normally do. Each week this month we’re going to settle into your earbuds and read you a Christmas story. It sounds a little awkward, but I think it’ll be fun!
To kick it off, we’re starting with a little ditty by Leo Tolstoy called “Papa Panov.” It’s a short tale of a shoemaker who learns a valuable lesson about what it means to see Jesus.
Turn on your Christmas lights, grab a warm drink and a cozy blanket and sit down for a little Christmas story.
“For the Lord is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting
and His faithfulness to all generations.”
– Psalm 100:5
This last Sunday a remarkable thing happened. I worshiped at my home church.
Admittedly, this doesn’t sound like such a big deal. But wait…. This was the church building I grew up in, the one I helped pound nails into when I was a little kid. The very building that I watched grow from a tree covered plot of land to a log church at the base of Mt. Hood.
Still, why is that remarkable?
Twenty years ago that church, along with two other churches in the area, decided to have a marriage, so to speak. Three churches became one.
Folks, church merges happen all the time. That’s nothing new. What’s exceptionally rare is when those merges work out.
That’s what happened in this case. Matt and I had already married and moved to Utah so I didn’t get to witness this marriage first-hand, but I heard the good news from family and friends.
And this last Sunday we had a 20-year anniversary reunion to celebrate it all.
Here’s the super cool thing: in that celebration, I got to see people I hadn’t seen in over 20 years. I got to see men and women, now gray and starting to show the effects of age, who helped shape and mold my life as a young believer. It was a beautiful collage of people from varied walks and backgrounds all converging in one place to raise their voices to praise the God who unites us as a family.
But there were several people who weren’t there.
There are those who, like my dad and my former pastor, have already gone to be with the Lord. There were also those missing who had only recently passed away, the wounds still raw from their sudden and early departure. There were those, too, who are coming to the end of their days, their health preventing them from making the trip to join us for such an occasion.
It was a beautiful picture of the Now and the Not Yet.
It was a reminder of the faithfulness of our God who unabashedly pursues us.
I was 7 years old when I asked Jesus to come into my heart and take me to Heaven if I died. I had no idea what I was signing up for. All I knew was that the people around me seemed different and I wanted what they had. I didn’t know it then, but it was hope and joy. They had a confidence that drew me in, wrapping me up in its warm embrace.
In the years that followed that child’s prayer, I continued to watch the older kids and adults that filled my days. I listened to their conversations about their faith and understanding of who God is; I watched as they struggled to put into practice the ideals that the Bible teaches. I saw God’s characteristics being manifested in my family, my youth leaders, my mentors and people who didn’t even know I was watching them.
And little by little, my own faith began to take shape and grow. I had my own struggles and battles to overcome, along with shining moments and clear victories. All the while, there were a handful of adults, wiser and more generous than I, who remained faithful to pray for me as I learned to spread my wings. They came along quietly but boldly, challenging my thinking and encouraging my faith.
In ways big and small, they helped me become the woman I am today. They were gentle and compassionate, full of grace and truth. Without their prayers and willingness to invest in a spiritually clumsy, selfish, and often impetuous kid, it’s impossible to say where I might be now!
As we sang together on Sunday, I closed my eyes and let the music wash over everything. The little church was packed tight and the voices filled it to the rafters with a sweet, sweet sound. And as I looked around afterward and saw the faces of the young and the old, families who were all together from the tiniest babe to the grayest of grays, it was evident that God has indeed been faithful through the generations.
I walked away that day with a sense of awe at how loved by God I am. He has welcomed us each to the table and calls us sons and daughters. He has lavished us with His love and grace. He has gifted us with people to share life with; people that can cheer us on and prod us forward. He has called us to be the same for somebody else.
We are the luckiest people in the world! We are part of the biggest, most inclusive, mixed up, eclectic family. How cool is that?
Who are you investing in? Is there someone in your sphere who needs a spiritual big brother or sister? What are you doing to show them Jesus? If there isn’t anyone like this in your life, why?
I’m just saying…somebody’s watching you. Whether you know it (or want it) or not, if you’ve publicly called yourself a follower of Christ, you are being observed. What are people seeing?
I don’t know about you, but I want to keep this cycle going. I want to sit in church someday with my own children’s children on my lap, knowing that they, too, are being taught the love and truth of a faithful God.
(P.S. To my mountain church family, I’m pretty positive that Dad, Stan, Grandma and Grandpa Wall, Jack, Jason, Ed and all the others who have gone before us were joining in the singing. There were angels in the rafters, I’m sure.)