There was a Christmas over 25 years ago that came in the midst of some turmoil and uncertainty. There had been strife at our church, and a grab for power had resulted in my father making the prayerful, sorrowful decision to resign. We were still living in the parsonage while trying to decide what to do next. My parents were attending the church of one of my father's friends. I was visiting various churches in somewhat of a one-woman ecumenical movement.
I wasn't particularly thrilled with church. As a preacher's kid, I had seen the dark side. Now my father had been horribly wronged; he had resigned out of his love for God and for the Body of Christ. My respect for my father was at an all time high for that point in my life. My respect for the church was at an all time low.
It was not a time when I was walking as closely with God as I should have been. Instead of bringing all my hurt feelings to Jesus, I allowed them to fester and harden within my heart. It was a lonely time.
One evening before Christmas, I had just returned from some sort of secular holiday gathering of workmates. The house was as empty as I felt. I don't recall quite what I was doing when the doorbell rang. There stood a woman from the church. She said simply, "We came to sing to you."
I stepped out onto the porch and saw that the entire front yard was filled with people from church. They moved closer and began singing Christmas carols. Suddenly they were no longer "the people who betrayed my father" or "the people who lacked integrity" or "the people who didn't support my father". They sang, and as the wonderful Christmas carols filled our neighborhood (these people could sing!) I...well, I had to forgive them their failings. After all, it dawned on me as I looked into their faces, most of them had no idea what had gone on. They missed us. I missed them. It was Christmas. They came to sing about Jesus.
It sounds horribly cliche, but my heart was melted by their singing of carols. It's a memory I treasure.
And it's really the story of Christmas, as we remember how a Great Light came into the darkness. As I stood on my porch that night, my brothers and sisters in Christ reflected that Light into my cold, darkened heart. They showed me Jesus.
May His light and love shine on all of you this year, no matter what darkness you may be in. May His joy and His grace do more than warm us --- may He truly set us free to worship Him.