I received a wonderful Christmas present today. It's hard to imagine I'll receive another that will top it. An old friend called to check on our pastor and his wife's baby, Silas, who has had a rough entrance into the world. She let me know she has been praying non-stop for him, especially for Sara, his mother. My friend understands all too well the aching heart of a mother feeling helpless to help her child.
The last time I talked with this friend she had recently had a miscarriage. We had a long conversation about God. I explained that as tough as it is to lose a child, it wasn't God's way of expressing how He felt about her. She told me, in so many words, she really didn't care what God thought about her. She hated and didn't want anything to do with him.
I told her that by nature we're all pretty self-centered so it's hard to understand God's world looking at it through the eyes of how we want the world to look and feel. We're prone to measuring how closely our real lives look compared to the ones we've imagined and often devoted our lives to achieving, and using that outcome to decide how much God loves us. When in reality, God's love for us has nothing to do with our plan and everything to do with his, the one we don't often understand. When I said that, I think she started hating me as much as she hated God. I hadn't talked to her since then, well over a year, until today.
It's amazing how praying for a complete stranger's baby would lead her to call me. Amazing that she had been praying, maybe she didn't hate God anymore, and that she would call me at all, maybe she didn't hate me anymore.
My friend spent the better half of the next hour telling me about challenges she had experienced this past year. But she also told me about miracles that had happened in her life. All of them after she discovered several churches in her area had been praying for her and her family. She told me, through them, she had heard God talk to her this year, and that he completely understood that she had been angry with him. Believe it or not, God completely understands when we get angry with him.
We talked about a lot of challenges in life, some past and some to come. But the greatest present of all was when she told me we shared the hope God brings to each and every one of those challenges.
That is why Christmas means so much to me, why it is at the center of all I stand for. It represents the birth of hope in my life. The answer to every challenge I encounter - which by know means makes them less challenging, but hope allows you to overcome. Tonight we celebrate a birth that occurred a couple of thousand years ago, but it can come alive again in each of us at unexpected times, and fill us with a hope that will lives forever.
Hope was born this night. This one is for you my friend.