Sunday, December 23, 2007

A Thrill of Hope

Think about it – when Jesus was born, the Jews had not heard from God in about 400 years and they were occupied by the Roman Empire. Songs like “Joy to the World” and “O Holy Night” are exuberant and worshipful because they reflect that sense that Christ has come to bring hope into hopeless places. I think we are losing some of our Christmas hymns, because Christmas here is packaged as a happy time from start to finish. Part of that is because we already know that the Lord has come. But part of it is because happy people buy more stuff, and it’s not fun or good business to look at the bleak parts of life and the world around us (and it doesn’t make for happy blog posts all the time, either).

For me, songs of hope are so, well, hopeful, this season because life around us in Glenwood isn’t always cheery. The Friday before Christmas was a really hard day, and would have been even if we had not put Joe to sleep. First, we had a visit in the morning from one of our friends in the neighborhood who has been struggling for years to get her life on track, to get off of crack and off the streets. She had spent over 6 months in a stable environment, but she has recently lost her father, which send her and her family into a bad place and she has wound up back walking our streets. I believe that Jesus lives in her, and she is closer to freedom than she was a couple of years ago. When she saw me, she said, “I just need a hug and for you to pray for me,” and so we prayed arm in arm on the street, and then she spent an hour or so pouring out hear heart to Diane. She never asked us for anything, and eventually, she left, back into the cold, trying to figure things out.

From there I delivered presents from our church to a family who lives in one of the harshest projects in Greensboro. Though I had agreed to be there at 1:00 and had called their cell phone several times as I drove over, the mother and her sister were not home when I arrived, and I suspect that it was because it’s not easy to receive help for Christmas. Instead a young guy let me in, yelling upstairs that the “adoption guy” was there. There was no furniture in the living room, no lights on, and lots of yelling upstairs.

When I got home, Diane told me that another family had called our friend Melissa, desperate for help. The mom had saved money for Christmas, but their car had to be repaired and the Christmas money had to go to that. Thankfully our church had grocery store and gas station gift cards to help out, and we were also able to find a Wal-mart card for them as well. And in the midst of this, I was also forced to look at selfishness in my own heart as I was reluctant to pass on some of the money that God had freely and graciously given our family, above and beyond what we needed, my unthankfulness showing up dark against the generous Christ who lives within me.

This Friday before Christmas is an example of why it is both a blessing and a heartache to live in Glenwood. The heartache is clear (and there are more stories that I could tell), but the blessing is that the hope of Christ is joy and it is a thrill of hope. Without Jesus coming, we are all lost. If my friends and I don’t prepare Him room in our hearts, we will be forever desperate and wanting.

But the Lord has come, He has come to beat back sin, to bring life and light to all, risen with healing in His wings. God is with us, Emanuel. That is joy to the world.


Brian Mann said...

Hey Bro. I thank God for you and your ministry at Grace, we are certainly recipients of not only God's grace, but God's grace through those like you serving at GCC. Blessings to you and your family this Christmas and always. May the love of God and the grace of Christ and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you. Amen.

askewheels said...

Amen! Merry Christmas to you and your family! It sounds like you are allowing God to do awesome things through you!