“Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.” Matthew 1:23
A soldier was concluding sentry duty on Christmas morning. It had been his custom in other years to attend worship in his home church on Christmas Day, but here in the outlying areas of London, it was not possible. And so, with some of his buddies, the soldier walked down the road that led into the city just as dawn was breaking. Soon the soldiers came upon an old graystone building over whose main entrance were carved the words, “Queen Anne’s Orphanage.” They decided to knock and see what kind of celebration was taking place inside. In response to their knock, a matron came and explained that the children were war orphans whose parents had been killed in the bombings.
The soldiers went inside just as the children were tumbling out of their beds. There was no Christmas tree in the corner and no presents. The soldiers moved around the room, wishing the children a Merry Christmas and giving as gifts whatever they had in their pockets: a stick of chewing gum, a Life Saver, a nickel or a dime, a pencil, a knife, a good luck charm. The soldier noticed a little fellow standing alone in the corner. He looked a lot like his own nephew back home, so he approached and asked, “And you, little guy, what do you want for Christmas?” The lad replied, “Will you hold me?” The soldier, with tears brimming his eyes, picked up the boy, nestled him in his arms, and held him close.
Emmanuel means “God with us.” But more than that, Emmanuel means God does not keep us at arm’s distance. God is with us with open arms and with hands on us.
If Christ is born in us this Christmas, we too will reach with open arms to those in need; we too will have a hands-on relationship with life and love. (As retold by preacher Donald J. Shelby.)
His name was George Bishop and he was a member of my first church in Houston, St. Andrew UMC, Houston-South District. A few days before Christmas he said, “What are you doing Christmas morning?” I said, “Nothing.” He replied, “Be ready at 6:00 AM, I am coming by to pick you up.” He gave no explanation of where we were going or what the agenda was for that morning. One day I will say about George in his funeral sermon… He challenged my religion during church committee meetings. On this and only this Christmas Day, he came by to pick me up and we went to the Juvenile Detention Center in Houston. It was early. George was dressed in a Santa Outfit. He had a bundle of presents for the young men and women. He wished them a Merry Christmas.
God was with us that morning. That moment was so out of character for George, yet I saw the inside of a soul that I came to appreciate, love and admire. Yes, we did argue about church matters. But we had such a respect for each other, which I treasure and remember to this day…and that particular Christmas had to have been in and around 1989 – 1991.
I do not know what you did this past Christmas Day. I would only say, I hope that it was memorable. I came across this Nigerian proverb: “The heart gives. The fingers just let go.” Thanks George for reminding me to “…just let go.” I trust that 2020 will be exciting, challenging, and where God will continue to lead us and love us, so that we will remain faithful together… And nothing less….
Jeremiah 29:11-12, For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you.
Blessings from Duncanville,