Otterburne, MB – Sometimes I need a reminder of the true meaning of Christmas. My version of Christmas has many attachments, like Lego pieces attached onto a core truth that becomes obscured.
I have spent most of my life in two places – northern British Columbia and southern Manitoba. Lego attachments began in BC where we would collect a Christmas tree from the woods and spend the day roasting hotdogs and having hot chocolate. Door to door carolling was another Lego piece where I enjoyed trying my bass voice from the back of the pack!
Here in Manitoba, we live on a small farm and my Lego attachments are lighting up the farmyard, decorating the farmhouse, and having our children come home for meals and celebration. There is Christmas Eve service at church and (of course) usually more than enough snow.
Last year, we found ourselves in England visiting our youngest daughter studying at Capernwray. In the days around Christmas, we took a small hotel in an east side neighbourhood of London. There were no lights, no Christmas trees and no Christmas music. The local park was locked up for the holiday but the stores and restaurants remained open.
Here we discovered our hotel was also a front for the drug trade and business was doing well over Christmas. In the middle of one night, it felt hugely unsafe with all the activity outside our door and in the adjacent room. My wife whispered to me in the dark, “I think we are supposed to be here to pray for them.”
The next morning, in a weak attempt to complain, I engaged the young lady at the front desk. I introduced myself and asked for her name which was Sarah. “Oh, Sarah?…That is a very famous name in the Bible,” I found myself saying.
Sarah was a tough looking girl with no easy smiles. Her eyebrows raised up as she responded, “Oh really?”
I was now trapped into an explanation, “Yes, Sarah was the wife of Abraham, and they were both known for their great faith and God gave her a first baby when she was in her 80s or 90s. So, Sarah is a very special name.”
Sarah lit up with a huge smile and thanked me for telling her the story. “Wow, really?” I thought as I held onto my now insignificant complaints.
In Isaiah 42:1-4, we are reminded that God’s Chosen One was long expected even hundreds of years before His birth.
Look at my servant, whom I strengthen.
He is my Chosen One, who pleases me.
I have put my Spirit upon Him.
He will bring justice to the nations.
He will not shout
or raise His voice in public.
He will not crush the weakest reed
or put out a flickering candle.
He will bring justice to all who have been wronged.
He will not falter or lose heart
until justice prevails throughout the earth.
Even distant lands beyond the sea will wait for His instruction.
Sarah and those we prayed for that night in that London hotel are the “flickering candles.” Jesus will not crush them; He wants something better for Sarah. And in Isaiah, it says He will bring justice. Maybe it includes the type of justice where people get to hear the gospel and then rely on Jesus the Redeemer for their salvation.
Christmas last year meant a lot. It was a privilege to be in England and bring prayer to a dark corner of London. Yes, “even distant lands beyond the sea will wait for His instruction!”
This year, as I reflect on our experience in London, I am reminded of the foundation of the Christmas story: God sending His Chosen One into the world. Merry Christmas!
– written by Providence’s own John Johnson, Development Services Coordinator