Thank you for your willingness to serve as a volunteer for the mission’s annual gift delivery endeavor today. Thank you, at least as much if not more so, for writing your thoughts about your visit with Joe and for sending them to the mission workers, which have been forwarded to me.
There is power in the Word, and your thoughts have delivered a powerful message to me. It may be that the effect of your words may go on and on into the future and into the hearts of others beyond our ability to perceive. It is often so with the Divine Word.
You made yourself available this morning to deliver some Christmas presents to a needy man. Your presence was not received with warmth and graciousness. Another person may have driven away or left the packages at the door. You persisted.
Your visit was as uneasy as it will be forever memorable. Joe is unhappy, broken, perhaps unwell, and alienated. Upon hearing his story, it would have been convenient for you to casually wish him well and take your leave. Something made you linger. Some One made you stay.
Now the story you have told is being heard by others. It is gripping the hearts of people. At this moment, I can think of about a dozen people who are processing the story of Ken’s visit to Joe. Within a few hours, it may be that a hundred people will hear the Word within the story and discover meaning in it. By tomorrow, perhaps a thousand souls will hear the Christmas story told once again in a new a very contemporary setting, and as a result, they may never be quite the same again. This is the power of God’s Word.
You entered a home that is darkened by the influences of dreams broken, relationships severed, hopes torn, and health fractured. Your willingness to gently persist in conveying the quiet and positive message of another way is the essence of Christmas itself, for it signifies the Spirit of the One who comes into the world at the first Christmas and ever since. Your presence with Joe today is a reflection of Christ’s presence in and to this world.
He was sent as a gift from God, but the world was largely unaware of His birth. The shepherds came to the scene of His birth, and left rejoicing, but we know nothing of their witness ever again.
In the unlikeliest of times and places, He was born. Mary and Joseph were there, accompanied by a few disreputable sheep-herders who reported a vision of singing angels. Most analysts of the day would have considered them perhaps drunk or at least delusional. The world itself, 2000 years ago, had many more important things to do than to take note of the birth of an illegitimate baby peasant Jewish boy swaddled in cloths and placed in a manger crib.
Nothing seemed less significant.
With God, it is often so.
A little, vulnerable Light came into the world in Bethlehem when Christmas first happened. Anything could have snuffed out that Light. Jesus could have died of infant mortality as many children did back then, He could have been slaughtered in the military massacre that would happen in Bethlehem two years later. He could have been lost to child-traffickers in Jerusalem at the age of 12, He could have drowned in a river as a playful boy or as a young man of 30 about to be baptized.
Anything could have and indeed has threatened the Light, but even today after 2000 years, the darkness of this world has not overcome it.
Ken, you took that Light to Joe’s home today on behalf of a little mission that was born because many Christmases ago, someone else visited another home darkened by abject poverty, and in the despair of that moment, saw Christ.
We never know what happens to light. It can be rejected and refused, but it can also be received. No matter what we do with it, light can never be destroyed.
So it is with Christ and Christmas. We can reject and refuse the Light that it graciously offers, or we can refuse it, but we can never destroy it.
We don’t know what will happen to Joe because you visited him today, we can’t determine what he will do with the Light you presented, but in a strange way, it really doesn’t matter. You already brought Christ, and Christmas, to one of God’s needy children in this world oppressed with the darkness of unkindness, violence, and greed. You shined Light in the darkness, and the darkness, no matter what may come, cannot destroy that Light, in time or in eternity.
The man who pastored the church where Hosanna Industries was born taught me a poem many years ago which he had learned from his father a generation earlier. Back in 1934, these words began to be used in a Christmas Eve candle lighting service, and to the best of my knowledge, they’ve been repeated, somewhere, every Christmas Eve ever since for the last 83 years:
“Lord, it is dark, and the road is rough to go,
I lift an unlit candle in the night, behold it Lord within my upraised hand,
Touch it to flame with Thine own heavenly Light.
This slender waxen thing that is my faith, fire it, Lord,
until its circle, ever widening at my feet, will light my certain path across the dark.
‘Thou will light my candle’, thus assured, I shall go forward through this unknown land.
The way shall never grow too dark, too long, for I shall bear Thy Light within my hand.”
Ken, on behalf of all who have served and are serving the One who has called us at Hosanna Industries, thank you for shining your Light in the darkness today. Nothing can ever be the same once Light has been given.
May the Light of this Sacred Season continue to guide your path,