The Christmas Prayer

Back in ’08, I was inspired by Steven Curtis Chapman’s Christmas song, “All I Really Want for Christmas” and wrote a short story about it. I’ve posted it here before under the tab “My Writings” and thought I would share it again. I have no idea how to get it published or what to do with it, so I’ll just put it here each year. 🙂 Half of it is here; the rest of it is under “My Writings.” I hope you enjoy! **Do not copy or use without written permission from the author.**

             The first time I saw him, it was Christmas Eve at the children’s home. I had volunteered my time, and my husband’s, in order to help distribute Christmas presents to the orphans at the children’s home. We were far from home and family, serving as missionaries in another country, and this seemed like an appropriate thing to do Christmas Eve. Personally, it helped take my mind off of being away from friends and family for the holidays. I needed something totally different to do so I wouldn’t think about being so far from home. My husband tagged along; not because he needed it like I did, but because we were missionaries. This is what missionaries do on Christmas Eve.

The children’s home was on the edge of town. It was filled to overflowing with children of various ages and genders who had either been abandoned or orphaned. Most were under the age of 10, although a few were in their early teens. We never did get a proper head count of the children.

Local churches and individuals had donated gifts too many to count. We had spent the past month volunteering our time and energy in order to sort, pack, and wrap those gifts. Tonight, we distributed them. The joy in the children’s home was palpable!

We lived in a poor country, so decorations, even in the children’s home, were scarce. I had made a few popcorn strands and some paper chains with colored paper I had brought from home. My husband had gotten out a pair of scissors and gone to work on some white paper to make snowflakes we could hang from the ceiling. Someone had gotten industrious and made a red coat and white beard with a giant red hat so my dear husband could dress up like Santa Claus in order to hand out the gifts and listen to the kids’ wishes. Someone had sent me some key baking ingredients from home, so I had made a batch of what I considered to be “real sugar cookies.” A few others had brought some more traditional desserts and fruit had been donated. To the kids in the home, it looked like a feast!

The children were dressed in their finest. They ranged from pretty, colorful, traditional dresses on the girls to more subdued, clean pants and shirts on the boys. A few girls had on some more American-style clothing, but all of them had giant red bows in their hair that another lady had made for them. Everyone was beaming, laughing, and running around the room.

As I carried the punch bowl across the room, I lifted it high above my head so as not to get bumped, and looked across the sea of laughing children. Over in the corner, though, I noticed one, small child. He was a little boy, only about eight years old. He looked lost and horribly lonely. His clothes were tattered and obviously donated by well-meaning Americans. His plaid green shirt stood out in the crowd. It looked faded and worn; I wondered who in the U.S. thought it a good idea to send down a used, worn-out “John Deere” shirt to an orphan in another country who had nothing else to wear? I shook my head, more at the inconsideration of the American who sent the shirt than at the thought of this little boy standing off alone on Christmas Eve.

I set the punch bowl down and wandered over to the line of kids waiting to sit on “Santa’s” knee and tell him what they wanted for Christmas. The gifts would be handed out once all the children who wanted to had talked to Santa. My husband listened closely to each request, gave his best “Ho, Ho, Ho!” and handed them a lollipop before sending each child on their way. I could tell by the look in his eye that he was loving his job.

I stood to the side and listened to some of the requests. Most were asking for toys like dolls, trucks, or books. Some of the requests were so specific, I couldn’t help but smile! My husband’s eye would catch mine when that happened and we both had to suppress a laugh. I looked at the line and noticed then that the little boy in the plaid shirt was still standing off by himself and hadn’t joined the line.

My confidence in the language wasn’t overly high, but I thought I’d give it a shot. I walked up to the little boy and tapped him on the shoulder. His eyes got huge as he turned to look at me. He looked scared, so I immediately reassured him that he wasn’t in trouble. I asked if he’d like to talk to Santa and he shook his head no. He said he’d tried to talk to Santa last year, but it hadn’t made any difference. Santa obviously hadn’t listened. I told him maybe he should try one more time. He turned his big, brown eyes up to me and whispered, “Do you think he’ll care?” I assured that him that, of course, Santa would care! He reached up and took my offered hand and walked very solemnly across the room to the end of the line.

The happy voices of the other children faded as I watched this little boy’s face as we waited our turn. He looked so serious for one so small. His eyes were focused on Santa, but I could tell his mind was elsewhere. He looked nervous and I could feel his hand shaking as held onto mine with a vice-like grip. Slowly, the line moved forward. He was the last one to get to talk with Santa that night.

Finally, it was his turn. My husband, the wonderful Santa that he was, reached out his big hands and smiled a welcome at the frail little boy in the plaid John Deere shirt. The little boy walked tentatively up to Santa, who promptly picked him up and set him on his lap.

I could hear Santa ask, “Now, what would you like for Christmas?”

There was such a long pause, I found myself holding my breath, waiting for the little boy to respond. I was just about to prompt him, when he took a deep breath and turned his big eyes to Santa. I saw my husband’s happy expression change to one of concern for rolling down the little boy’s cheek was one giant tear drop.

I leaned forward to hear what he had to say since he barely managed to whisper his request.

“I don’t know if you remember me. I talked to you last year. And the year before that. In fact, I’ve talked to you every year since I was three. I’m eight now. And I don’t want any toys. I want…” another tear rolled down his cheek. My husband, Santa, caught my eye really quick to make sure I was listening then looked down at the boy. “…a family. I want a mommy who will tuck me in at night. I want a daddy to play with me and teach me how to play soccer. I want” another tear rolled down his cheek, but he didn’t seem to notice, “to never be alone again. Santa, can you bring me a family? That’s all I want for Christmas.”

His request was so sincere I felt my heart burst inside me. My husband was speechless. The little boy looked up at him with such an imploring gaze, I had no idea how my husband would respond. I watched the tears roll softly down the little boy’s face, wetting the front of his plaid shirt. My husband wrapped his arms around the child and gave him a big hug. He looked over the top of the boy’s head at me and said softly, “I’ll see what I can do.”

I had to leave. I went to the restroom and locked the door behind me. The tears came so fast, I wasn’t sure I could stop them. There I was, trying to forget about not being able to be with my family, totally not even acknowledging that at least I had a family to try to forget about! I had lamented being away from home, living on a missionary salary and not being able to have the huge Christmas celebration I was used to, and not wanting to be in the country over the holidays – period! Humility poured over me like a tidal wave. How selfish could I possibly be?

When I finally composed myself and emerged from the restroom, my husband was already changed out of his Santa suit and was frantically looking for me. He caught my arm and dragged me to the punch bowl, out of ear shot of a couple other volunteers.

“Did you hear that request?” his eyes were red-rimmed. I knew he had either been trying to not cry, or had just composed himself from crying.

“Of course I heard!” I bit my lip. I was not going to cry again. I looked around the room for the boy, but he seemed to have disappeared.

“Well, what do you think?”

“What do you mean, ‘what do I think’?”

“I mean, what are we going to do about it?”

I jerked my head around to look him in the eye. “What?”

“You heard me. How do we fix this?”

If his eyes hadn’t been so serious and his grip on my arm so strong, I would’ve had a hard time believing he was serious. “Fix this? You want us to go find the poor child a family? Wouldn’t we have to find every child in here a family if we did that? You know that’s not possible.”

“Not find him a family. Be his family. We’ve talked about adopting. Why not now? Why not him?” his eyes held my gaze and searched them for my answer. I was so stunned I wasn’t sure how to respond at all!

Be his family? We don’t know anything about him! We aren’t ready to be parents – much less to an eight year old! I…” my voice cracked. I couldn’t go on. My husband’s eyes glazed over. He looked dejected, almost like I’d rejected him. I felt awful for answering how I did, but I just couldn’t wrap my mind around being the solution to this boy’s problem.

“Think about it. What’s different from adopting a newborn baby that we know nothing about, and adopting an eight year old we know nothing about? Either way, we’re starting from scratch. I would dare say I know more about eight year olds than newborns, too! Why couldn’t we do this?”

He was serious. So serious, I was almost scared. But, he had a good point. We had no other children; neither of us knew a thing about babies; both of us wanted to adopt at some point in our lives. Our hearts had always been that we would take care of and work with children. If there was a way we could help a child to grow up to know, love, and obey God, we would find it. Why would adopting an eight year old not be one of those ways? My mind was spinning.

The rest of the evening went by in a blur. We passed out packages; sang Christmas carols around an old, out-of-tune piano in a language I wasn’t completely familiar with; ate a ton of food that was so far from traditional, I’m still not sure how to categorize it; and left knowing we had the biggest decision of our lives yet to make.

Neither of us could sleep that night. We woke up Christmas Day feeling more tired than the night before. We opened our few packages sent from home, watched “White Christmas” on our laptop, and ate the cranberry sauce someone from home sent us – straight from the can. By mid-afternoon, our emotions boiled over and we finally started honestly discussing this new dilemma.

Three days later, we still hadn’t reached a decision. I was due to return to the orphanage in just two more days in order to help teach a new weekly Bible Club there. I knew I could not face the brown-eyed boy in the John Deere plaid shirt if we didn’t have an answer. Even though the child hadn’t asked us directly to be his parents, my husband felt God had. So, why didn’t I feel like God had asked me the same question? …

Look under the tab “My Writings” for the conclusion of the story…

Christmas Bells, Take 2.

“Mommy, if it’s Christmas, why is the world so sad?” my four year old son looked up at me imploringly. …

… “Darling,” I said slowly, “the world is sad because they slept through the birth of Jesus thousands of years ago and still don’t know He came. That’s why we’re here. We need to tell them Jesus came so they don’t need to be sad anymore!” I tried to smile at him. He seemed to accept my answer. …

… I walked slowly down our street, taking in the scene on this Christmas Eve. I had a hard time picturing a “silent night” like all our Christmas songs talked about. This night was far from silent. Or peaceful. Another gunshot rang out. Sirens began to go off.

I stopped walking to listen for a moment. The sirens began to get louder. And closer. I backed up off the street and pushed my back against the wall surrounding a neighboring building. Two police cars, sirens and lights blaring, roared past me. Just when I thought that was the worse of the commotion, a loud BOOM echoed through the night.

The noise was loud enough to make my ears throb. Sound was fuzzy for the first few minutes after the noise. The bright light from the bomb illuminated the houses a few blocks away. Fire was already starting to overtake a few houses. I could hear people screaming and children crying. Doors started slamming and people started yelling. As my hearing returned, so did my adrenaline. The bomb was in the opposite direction of our mission compound, so I wasn’t worried about my son. But, I was worried about the people whose houses were on fire! …

… It seemed like peace had been stolen from the world that night. I let my adrenaline fade, but refused to let myself cry. I was frustrated. This was Christmas – a time to celebrate, not a time to kill. These people had stolen the joy of the season. I looked at my watch. 11:53. Almost Christmas Day. How could we celebrate while knowing what had happened?

My thoughts went back to the first Christmas. The world had been in chaos when Jesus had been born, too. People were scared for their lives and waiting for a Messiah that was beginning to seem like a myth. Shortly after His birth, the family of three had had to flee to Egypt to save Jesus’ life. I wondered if Mary ever thought about the mothers in Bethlehem who lost their baby boys when King Herod came after hers? No, the world Jesus was born into wasn’t much better than the world I was living in now.

I sat there, listening to the sounds of this chaotic night, missing my husband, praying for the little girl who couldn’t hear anymore, and wondering what part of this felt like the Christmases I was so used to back “home.”

And right when I thought the world couldn’t seem more bleak, I heard them. The bells of the few Christian churches in the city, ringing out the arrival of Christmas Day – announcing the birth of Christ for all the world to hear. Even though it seemed as if the world was crashing down around me, the bells rang out as a reminder that Christ had already come and already conquered all. I realized then that I may not always see it, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s true. Christ came as a baby, during that one, silent night so long ago, to ensure our future, our eternity, with Him. The hope that the bells rang out echoed across the countryside. They seemed to grow louder with each toll until they covered the sounds of the sirens and the dogs.

I finally let the tears begin to fall. All my worry and fear began to drift away. I remembered that it’s not about me, my wants or even my needs. The world I live in isn’t pretty, but the world He was born into was much, much worse. Yet He gave up heaven to come here to save me.

In that one moment, I knew that God isn’t dead. He’s not sleeping. He’s very much awake and very much aware of what is going on – even today. He is watching and someday soon, He will return. All the bells on earth won’t be loud enough to hail His second coming – the trumpets of heaven will have to do that. Hope was born so long ago so that I may live today without fear. Peace is coming – for the second time in history.

Listen! He’s on His way.

There’s more to it; I took some out to post here. I think it has promise. What do you think?

Just for Practice.

The dust billowed up into the clear, blue sky. At least, she thought it was blue – somewhere up there, past the endless billows of dust. The little wooden shack she called home sat in the midst of hundreds of other wooden shacks, each indistinguishable to outsiders. If one didn’t know whose home was whose, they would never find it amidst the mess. There were no pretty mailboxes with PO Box numbers stenciled on the side. The houses didn’t have brass numbers nailed next to the doors. The houses were just there – a refuge against rain, wind, and sun. A place to lay down at night. A place to be born and to die. Nothing more. Sometimes much less.

She sat next to the road, waiting for the “ding ding” of the bell behind the garbage truck. The garbage truck only came once a week and one had to run with all the trash their household had accumulated, down the road to the truck to throw it inside. If they were late, the trash would just keep piling up until the following week. This wouldn’t be such an issue except that there was nowhere to go with the trash and the wild dogs had the tendency of tearing into the trash and spreading it throughout the already dirty neighborhood. Trash day, much like water day, was very important.

The “ding ding” sounded from a distance. She stood up and grabbed the three, small bags next to her. She slid her feet into the dust-covered sandals and catapulted down the street. They lived about a half a kilometer from the main road and it was all downhill. She could feel her feet gaining momentum and before she knew it, the loose gravel had started to slide, taking her feet with her. She landed hard on her back side, jarring the bags of garbage loose from her hands. She continued to slide and lost her balance completely. The last thing she remembered was seeing her feet flying above her head.

“Do you think she has a concussion?”

The English words reverberated in her head. It felt as if someone was pounding her skull with a hammer with every word that was spoken. She didn’t understand any of the words and she began to force herself to regain consciousness. But, try as she might, she couldn’t seem to lift the weight that was holding down her eyelids. She slowly let herself fade again.

I’m not quite sure where I’m going with this… but it’s based on what I’ve experienced here. We’ll see how it turns out. I’m thinking if I want to write on “I Heard the Bells” I’ll need a different perspective. Hmm… the wheels have begun to turn! 🙂 Por Fin!

Published.

There are two things I dreamed about becoming when I was a child: a writer and a missionary. Always thought I had to choose. Then I met Jeanette Windle and realized I didn’t have to choose; I can be both. Maybe not EASILY, but I can be both. Jeanette gave me an offer of writing for our mission’s magazine and I said yes…even though I was terrified of having Jeanette edit it for me (and yes, I know she’s probably reading this!!). This month, my first article I ever wrote was published. And distributed internationally. Even if I never get to do this again, I at least got to do it once. And I am so thankful to Jeanette for giving me this opportunity. It may not seem like a big deal to most of you, but to me…. it’s like seeing a dream come true. So, check it out. 🙂 http://www.bcmintl.org/e-zine/0509/

And if you prayed for my friends in Vermont this week – thank you! The funeral was yesterday and over 1000 people were in attendance with at least 20 that raised their hands to say they had accepted Christ as Savior. Which means (hopefully) that more did NOT raise their hands and still made professions of faith. God is so faithful. He really does turn ashes into beauty.

Garden Grief.

My favorite part of the Easter story is when Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene. This part of the story gets me every time. I’m fascinated by it.

See, Mary Magdalene had had a hard life. We tend to skip over the verses where it says, “and Mary Magdalene, whom Jesus cast out seven demons from.” We read that and think, “Wow – that’s pretty cool,” but that’s where our thoughts end. Some speculate that Mary Magdalene and Mary the sister of Martha and Lazarus are the same person. What if that were true? Even if it’s not, let’s take a look at who Mary Magdalene was.

We know she was from Magdala. We know she was possessed by seven demons. We know that after her freedom, she followed Jesus faithfully. If she was also the sister of Lazarus, then we also know that she eventually returned to live in Bethany with her family, saw Lazarus raised from the dead, and anointed Jesus’ feet with perfume and dried them with her hair. We know for sure she was also at the crucifixion, the burial, and the resurrection of Christ. She was one of the first to not only see Jesus personally, but it was also her testimony that was one of the first given to the disciples about Jesus’ resurrection.

“Possessed by seven demons.” That’s a phrase we don’t hear too often these days. But, demon possession occurs. Did it occur more often in Jesus’ day? Maybe. Merely because the Holy Spirit had not arrived so there were more people to be indwelt by an evil spirit than there are today. How did Mary become “possessed”? We don’t know; although some speculate that she worshiped Molec – a god who demanded child sacrifices and whose priests knew how to perform abortions. He was an evil god that Jehovah had commanded the Israelites have nothing to do with. Regardless of what she was involved in, the point is that she was possessed. We know today that demons tend to take on the name of whatever they are doing. For example, if you ask a demon what their name is, they tend to give you something like, “Adultery;” “Lies;” “Fornication;” “Drunkenness.” The name “Legion” means “many” and that was exactly what was wrong with the man, Legion – he was possessed by many, many demons.

Who tormented Mary? We can wager guesses, but we have no idea who these demons were. We just know she had seven – meaning, seven distinct evil spirits who ruled and controlled her life. Just having one evil spirit in you would mean that you don’t have control – they rule over you – you are theirs. To have seven spirits living inside of you would be literally madness. It would be chaos. We can picture a crazed woman roaming the hillsides of Magdala, probably well-known, probably ill-kept, probably lonely and left alone.

And then enter Christ. We know that the demons know God and tremble. They are forced to bow the knee and obey our King of kings and Lord of lords. We are not given the encounter between Jesus and Mary and her demons. It’s just a verse or two that say, “and Mary Magdalene, whom Jesus cast out seven demons from.” Such a simple phrase and yet we know, this was huge! This encounter would’ve been dramatic and probably traumatic for everyone involved. Mary would have seen and experienced firsthand the power of Almighty God. We can pretty much guarantee that she had tried to get rid of her demons – maybe even had others try to get rid of her demons. But, when Jesus came into her life, the demons fled. They trembled before the Son of God Himself and Mary was set free.

Makes sense that she followed Him, doesn’t it? To see this power and then not want to be near it again would seem odd. Mary was a faithful follower. If she was Mary the sister of Lazarus, then we know she was a faithful student, willing to just sit and listen to Jesus teach for hours on end. If she was also this same Mary, then we know that she was grateful. She wanted to show Jesus her love, her gratitude, her unworthiness. She was willing to humble herself by using her hair to wash His feet. She was willing to give up what she had and broke her vial of expensive perfume on His feet. She knew Jesus personally. She knew Him intimately. And she loved Him dearly.

If she was Lazarus’ sister, she also would have seen Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead. She would have witnessed for a second time, the awesome power of Almighty God. She would have known His power over death and life.

Mary was present at the crucifixion. We can assume if she was a faithful follower, she was also there at the “trial” and the walk to Golgotha. She witnessed this powerful God being humiliated, tormented, crucified, and rejected. She of all people knew His power. Yet, she watched Him die. I wonder if she thought she was watching her hope die? I wonder if she was confused and no longer knew what was true and real anymore? I can picture this broken woman, sobbing at the foot of the cross, in agony, in immense heartbreak, crying out – “Why?!”

The pain would’ve been palpable. And then to watch Him taken off the cross, wrapped in burial cloths, and lain in a tomb. I can’t picture her leaving until the stone is rolled in front of the tomb and she is forced to go home before nightfall. I bet she memorized the entire scene because it would be three days before she would be able to return to say her last goodbye.

Those two full days must’ve been interminable! I can’t even begin to imagine the grieving that would’ve taken place. The pain, the emotions would’ve been overwhelming. The questions would’ve been haunting!

Sunday morning. The slow walk to the tomb. The memories, the thoughts, the questions – and yet the only thing these women are recorded discussing is how to move the stone. Women grieve differently than men. The men were afraid and their fear drove them to stay home and not go to say final goodbyes in person. The women had to touch His body. They would not be content handing the burial spices to the guards and trusting them to do such a sacred thing. They had to go. They had to go early. They had to go quietly. They had to go. They had to touch Him. They had to see Him. They had to talk to Him. They had to go.

But, He wasn’t there! How do you handle that? I can imagine their emotions were at their peak. To find something diametrically opposite than what you’ve been anticipating for three days would be more than a surprise. No wonder they had questions! No wonder God chose to answer them. The angels tried to explain, but you know women – they probably didn’t even hear them. They had already drawn their own assumptions; Mary, in particular, doesn’t seem to be the first to rejoice.

We see her left behind at the tomb. I picture her staggering back out into the sunlight and not even noticing the other ladies take off back toward town. I picture her wandering aimlessly through this beautiful garden, blinded by early morning sunlight and an immense flow of tears. I picture her actually physically looking for Jesus’ body, being thoroughly confused and possibly even angry.

She is so busy looking for a body, that she doesn’t notice the actual Man standing in front of her. She has been sobbing and I wonder if that isn’t part of why she thought this Man was the gardener. She begged of him, “Where did you put the body?”

My favorite part of the story is when Jesus calls her by name. “Mary.” Her name. And she knew Him because He called her by name.

Jesus could’ve chosen to appear to anybody He wanted to. He could’ve gone to John – the most beloved disciple. He could’ve gone to Peter – the man who was to build His church. He could’ve gone to Thomas – who He knew was going to doubt His resurrection. He could’ve gone to His mother – His own mother. But, He went to Mary.

Mary – alone. Mary – grieving. Mary – questioning. Mary – lost. Mary – dejected. Mary – hopeless. Mary – defeated.

He met her in the garden, during the time of her greatest pain, and He called her by name. And, she had spent enough time with Him that her name was all she needed to know it was really Him. Jesus never had to prove Himself to her; He just had to call her by her name. That was all she needed.

We’ve all been in our own gardens before. We’ve seen the power of God in mighty ways, but then something huge happens and we end up wandering in the garden, wondering where God is and what is really true? Did we imagine everything that happened before? Is God really real? It is there – in our own personal gardens of grief – that Jesus meets us and calls us by name. Mary answered with “Rabonni” – teacher! She didn’t answer with “My Lord” or “My Friend” or even “My Savior.” She answered with “teacher.” I wonder if that’s because she realized she had more to learn. She was in this garden of grief because she didn’t understand all the truth of the matter yet. She needed to learn.

If we are spending time with Jesus, and then we hit a garden of grief, we should be able to recognize when Jesus shows up in the middle and calls us by name. Yes, He’s there for comfort, but He’s also there to teach. The story for Mary was not over; it was in the process of being completed. Jesus had to teach her how it all wove together. He wants to do the same for us. He wants to meet us there, call us by name, and teach us where to go from here.

            Lisa Biegert, March 23, 2008

March 2017
S M T W T F S
« Feb    
 1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
262728293031  
%d bloggers like this: