Life sparkles in their eyes And I am enraptured enough To forget my own story: Awakening, redemption, power And love that doesn’t hesitate Despite my mundane. “I would die for You!” But will I die daily for You? This is my story-- Not to brave a ferocious world But to accept this great love That I could never return.
Christmas this year looks different. There is a usual busyness, made busier by a short trip to Africa wedged in between full weeks (more on that later).
It’s my second year of celebrating Christmas in Spain. But unlike last year, this year I have the opportunity to be with friends that don’t celebrate Christmas.
I love Christmas: lights, carols, gifts, markets, chocolates, roasted chestnuts, scarves and winter coats. It gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling.
This year I want to indulge in that warm, fuzzy feeling. I want to enjoy the celebration of Christmas. And primarily, not secondarily, I want to experience a fresh joy and excitement of the Messiah’s birth. A Savior, born into the world, a light born into thick darkness.
He’s still shining.
Sometimes, surrounded by people who know the Christmas story by heart and perform it every year, I forget to savor that first Christmas joy.
My sister has been telling my 1-year-old niece the Christmas story using a miniature nativity set (minus the minor character sheep which may have gone out with the trash).
Telling the story to someone who has never heard it makes the story exciting again. What would happen in my own heart this year if I could share the wonder of Christmas with those who have never heard?
When we sat down on that bench along the boulevard, weary from hauling our backpacks around all day, my roommate and I didn’t imagine that the elderly lady who sat down next to us would become anything more than the elderly lady who sat down next to us.
But I smiled and said, “Peace be upon you.”
“And upon you.”
“Are you from here?”
It didn’t take long to find out that she was proud of her Berber heritage. Her opinionated brusqueness appealed to me. There were no fluffy, flattering words. No acting like we were movie stars. Just an invitation to tea the next day.
At tea, she spoke clearly and explained the words I didn’t understand. She understood that I was from a different culture and a different religion without treating me as if I were ignorant. And the way that she told stories inspired me to one day be like her.
In the months that followed, she told more stories, including part of her own story… a disappointing trail of heartache with oases of happiness. Whether I visited her with my roommate or alone, I always felt at rest. She didn’t pressure me to stay when I needed to go, or pressure me to eat when I was full. It was like she welcomed the relationship with no expectations. And she liked me for being me and not what I could do for her or who I might one day become.
One day, we went to visit her when she was ill. But she didn’t answer her door. After knocking and calling, I was concerned. Was she in the hospital? Was she too ill to come to the door?
We knocked on the neighbor’s door and were welcomed into the life of the next door family. They fed us, helped me with my homework, and chatted with that same element of acceptance. They were, in short, delightful. And Khadija was fine after all; just late with running errands.
She invited my family for tea when they visited North Africa. She admired pictures of my nephew and showed me her grandchildren. Her broken family had broken her heart. But after quickly wiping away her tears, she seemed content with the good people in her life. And her yearly pilgrimage to Mecca gave her an element of peace that she was doing what was right.
During one of my visits, I was sipping tea with her and the lady next door when Khadija switched the TV channel to sumo wrestling. I was repulsed until I realized I was living one of those moments that I would never be able to relive. How many times would I recline on the sofa, sipping sweet mint tea, and watching sumo wrestling with two 70-year-old ladies?
That was the same visit that she brought me a traditional robe to put on over my clothes. When she left to start the coffee, the neighbor lady patted my arm, “Now you are really her daughter. She is treating you like a daughter.”
A few weeks ago, a friend read us the story of the woman and the copper coins (Mark. 12:41-44). As we sat around the room listening to the story, we saw the Teacher and His disciples watching the procession of people drop their dutiful percentages into the offering box.
And in the middle of the clanking coins of the proud and wealthy, we saw a poor widow approach the box and drop in her two small copper coins.
I had always pictured the widow creeping up and hiding her flushed face as she dropped in her offering. But if she was trying to hide, she would have done a better job than to let the disciples see the value and count the number of coins that had dropped in.
Maybe she wasn’t embarrassed at all. Despite the wealth and the substantial giving of the others, she was unashamed to bring her offering to God. And why should she be ashamed? She gave God 100%; she gave “all that she had to live on” (Mark 12:44).
I want to offer my life like she offered her two copper coins.
Not long ago, someone told me, “Every story is beautiful.” “Of course!” I probably responded. All stories were beautiful, but some stories were fascinating: dreams and visions, persecution, bold statements of faith, etc. Those were the stories that captivated me. They still do.
But that someone was right by putting all stories on the same level. Because, as he went on to say, “God loves you just as much as He loves anyone else.” Right. Of course, but–
But it’s true. My redemption story is just as miraculous and beautiful even though I haven’t “stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword” (Heb. 11:33-34). In fact, many of the people who are in the Hebrews “Hall of Faith” lived lives of simple obedience rather than lives of excitement.
Those exciting stories are still fascinating. However, my challenge this week is to thank God for the redemption stories of the “normal” people around me.
Whether exciting or not, our stories are miraculous.