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Graying covers the sandy-haired temples of the man just behind me. He fits well into the crowd in the smallish, small-town church we’re visiting for a Christmas music program. Mostly gray-hairs, blue-hairs, and no-hairs sit along the pews, though a few next-generation, jeans wearing families dot the spectator landscape. It’s Sunday morning.

The preacher says, “Turn to your neighbor with a greeting this morning. Give them your best smile.”

As I turn to lock eyes with the man I say, “Good morning! Happy Sunday to you.”

“Yes, it’s good to come in here for a few minutes and leave all the troubles out there.”

He replies and I can see the tears behind the words. In that moment, I cannot know what this man is going through at this stage in his life. I can guess, but then, my speculations may have more to do with my troubles than his. My curiosity will not be satisfied. I do not know the man and will probably never see him again, but I am praying for him. I’m praying and hoping that the brief respite, the hour he’s spending riding the pew today will refresh his soul, bring him peace of mind, and offer him hope as we listen to the music of the season of advent.

In the midst of his troubles, has he met Jesus? Does he know the savior of the world personally? Is he following Jesus in and through his daily troubles and triumphs? I have no way to know and at the end of the gathering time, he disappears quickly, denying me the chance to ask and to offer a friendly ear.

The internal turmoil bubbles inside me. Here’s a hurting individual that shows up in church this morning, sits on the back row, and then slips away quickly. I wonder where he would have been this morning without the church to visit. Does he have a chance to enjoy the smiles of the people around him, or does he have the impression we are all part of the frozen chosen?

As in most small churches, the ones without the resources to have a huge choir and orchestra, a piano or organ provides the accompaniment for the choir, about twenty-five or so dedicated singers. One or two in each section carry the melody and harmony beyond being monotonous and off key. A single voice, the preacher, wraps the music with narrative, telling the story of a baby being born in Bethlehem, in Judea, an ancient event that changed the world and still changes men and women today.

As the music plays and the singers sing, I think, “If you already know the story of Jesus and His birth, this serves as a good celebration. However; for someone who has never heard the real story of Christmas, this music is OK, but the words are totally weird.” How does a person relate the facts of life to the songs we sing? Does the man behind me get the real message, you know, that life is all messed up, but there is a God who knows how bad it is and decided to fix it for us?

I hope this man has a neighbor who cares and is loving him through whatever it is that prompted the statement, “Yes, it’s good to come in here for a few minutes and leave all the troubles out there.” If not, I hope that at least for these few minutes on a Sunday morning he found the Holy Spirit’s presence to carry with him as he goes back into his circumstances. If so, that’s enough, and the church and its service of music and cheer serves its purpose this day.

Categories: Devotional, Words4Faith

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