Christmas Night 2022
Hope’s husband,Tim is a nurse. He worked today. Hope came to the Candlelight service last night and returned for the Christmas service today then she spent Christmas Day with us on Bittersweet Farm. The services were so beautiful. The Bethel people braved the cold and snow and wind and we had brass and bells and singers and organ and candles and all the Christmas things we love so much this time of year. After church we feasted well. Lois made a roast. A few minutes ago Hope drove away into the snowy night with Hazard and now the house is quiet again.
Tonight I want to share a true story I told as a part of my Christmas Eve service at Bethel last night. The message emphasised the longing for more that Christmas stirs up. I called it “Christmas in the Shadowlands.” I have added a link of the service at the end…
Last week I had a visitor in my study who told me a memorable story. He lived with his family in a summer cottage between two lakes that had been turned into rental home. He’s 70 now but he still has a very powerful memory of a sad Christmas when he was just seven years old.
His dad had too much to drink. Things got out of control. His dad mistreated his mother. He pulled a knife. Family members were called. Loud arguments began. He got his younger brothers and his younger sister away from the shouting. They hid away in a closet. Things got worse. The police were called. It took a while for them to get there. By the time they did his dad had settled some but the boy was still in hiding with his siblings. The police arrived and they told him he was going to have to spend the night in jail. He begged them to let him stay. He promised not to do anything violent. He told them, “It’s Christmas. Please don’t take me to jail.”
They said they had no choice. He was going to jail. The little boy could hear his father pleading in the next room. “If I have to go to jail tonight can I at least watch my children open their presents?”
The officers were merciful. “Alright, they said, get them out here.”
The children were afraid to come out of hiding. The little girl never did that night but the boy now 70 years old told me that he remembered, “We were all opening our Christmas gifts but we were weeping…” It was a sad, lingering Christmas memory. 63 years ago, but still the pain of the memory is vivid.
They were invited to a church and attended but they did not feel welcome so they never returned. A worker invited them to another church. They tried it. At that church they received a warm welcome and more than come to understand who Jesus is. For all their lives they had heard about Jesus. They knew about Jesus, but at that warm and welcoming, friendly church they came to know Jesus personally and they moved from Cultural Christianity to Personal Christianity. They celebrated their last, sad cultural Christmas and from then on they would celebrate the birthday of Jesus who they had come to know. He had forgiven them. He had transformed them.
The oldest boy drifted from following the Lord and exposed other truth claims but he found them false and empty. One day he met a woman who could not see, but had keep spiritual insight. He went with her to church. The old songs stirred up something deep within and soon he was back on the Jesus way.
Today he no longer celebrates a cultural Christmas. He is a fully-devoted follower of Jesus. In fact tonight he and that young lady who could not see but had keep spiritual insight. Well they are married and they sang for us tonight.
While you pass the light from the Christ candle to your neighbor may you know and never doubt that Jesus is the light of the world, our savior from sin, the one who will return to earth a King is his heavenly glory and bring goodwill to men, peace on earth and JOY to the World, forever.
For the final time this year
Merry Christmas from Bittersweet Farm
Christmas Day 2022