Friday, December 23, 2016

Friday's Essay - Another Christmas Story

Below is an essay that I sent to those on the Cove Presbyterian Church e-mailing list. You can hear a podcast of this message by going to the Cove Presbyterian Podbean page. You might also want to visit the congregational website (covepresbyterian.org) for more church information.

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charest3This morning, as I was coming to work, I was listening to National Public Radio. And they had a story that I found both interesting and touching. Now, it was something from Story Corps, a national project in which real people record their own stories either by themselves or with someone else. And this morning, the story about how two men in Nashville, Tennessee had saved the life of a three-month-old girl, when her mother, while holding her daughter, attempted suicide by jumping off the Shelby Street Bridge into the Cumberland River. All this happened on Christmas Eve, 1956, and it was being told by the daughter and one of the men. According to what the woman said, her mother suffered from mental illness which led to this horrible situation. But thanks to these two men, both the mother and daughter survived, with the mother eventually getting the treatment she needed and living a full life. And the daughter had grown up, having a family of her own, something that would have never happened without these men whom she didn’t meet until much later.

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Now, I’ve got to admit, as I listened, I was really touched by this story. And after thinking about it for a little while, I was struck by two things that, at least for me, are important to remember, especially this time of year. I mean, first, it hit me that, like the mother in the story, we’re surrounded by all kinds of people who have problems and needs about which we never hear. Of course, they may not be as severe as the woman in the story nor are the resulting actions as grave. Still the needs and problems are there. You see, whether it involves financial hardships or health issues, whether the focus is on self or others and whether the resulting stress is felt within or shown on the outside, I believe there are many people who carry around burdens that we can’t even imagine. They may be lonely but don’t feel comfortable reaching out. They may be afraid but assume that their fear will be seen as weakness if it’s expressed. And they may be sad but have become convinced either that nobody else cares or that they somehow deserve it. I’ll tell you, like the mother in that story, there are folks we may have passed in the mall who may feel, as Jesus said, heavy laden, brothers and sisters who need something just to get them through what may be for us a season of joy. Now that’s one thing that hit me.

Related imageAnd second, it seems to me that God put us in positions and has given us the opportunity to help these suffering men and women. Now I’m really not suggesting that we can save them; there’s only been one savior. But even if we can’t redeem them from their pain, we can certainly help them endure it. I mean we can surely stand with them as they pass through their frustrations and fears. And we can surely show by both our words and actions that they are not alone and that they’re problems haven’t become a scarlet letter separating them from others. And as Christian brothers and sisters, we can pray with and for them, and we can do what we can to demonstrate that they can reach out to us and that we care and that we’ll listen. You see, like those men went into a cold river sixty years ago, we can step away from what we might consider comfortable so that we can become God’s instruments within the lives of others.

Now I hope I’m never in the situation that was described in the story. But even if we’re not, we can still make a difference to folks who need help and who need hope. And so, as we make our final preparations to celebrate the birth of Jesus, let’s be willing to follow his words and reach out to the least of these who are members of our human family.

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