Thursday, December 13, 2012

JOY TO THE WORLD

"Remember
This December,
That love weighs more than gold."
~Josephine Dodge Daskam Bacon

"We'd love to have you join us for Christmas Eve, Joy." Those words stuck with her as she made her way down the winding driveway to her old sedan. She tightened her scarf around her neck, grateful for the gift of warmth from her client.

"How can I join them for the service?" she argued silently with no one. "I don't belong in their church...in this wealthy neighborhood. I'm sure they were only being polite when they asked me."

But she couldn't shake the invitation from her mind as she climbed into her car, once again catching her jacket on the torn vinyl seat. She gazed through the windshield and the darkening night air at the home she'd just left. She had been cleaning for this family for over twenty years. She was fortunate. Most of her clients resided within a two mile radius, meaning less wear and tear on her tired, old car.  

The house was aglow with Christmas lights. A manger scene took up a good portion of the lawn stretched in front of their entranceway. She loved this family. The Martins had always treated her like a close friend. They never criticized her work or placed unreasonable demands on her, as some were in the habit of doing.

Once again, she traced her fingers over the cashmere scarf. It was by far the most generous gift she'd received this year. Tucked inside its folds had been $1,000, the amount Mr. Martin knew she needed for some repair work to her car.

"Come to Christmas Eve service with us." There it was again. The invitation seemed to have a life all its own. It had followed her down the driveyway and into her car. "What would I wear?" she spoke aloud in response. The scarf. Wear the scarf with your nicest pants and blazer. Go. They want to include you.

Though she wrestled with lingering doubts and the stirrings of nervousness, she made up her mind. "I'll go. It's only church. Maybe it will be nice. At least I won't be spending Christmas Eve alone."

When she got home, she had only enough time to shower and dress before the clock beckoned her out the door. She didn't mind. Her nervousness, coupled with an exhausting day cleaning three homes, had diluted her normally ravenous appetite.

She knew where the church was located. She'd passed it everyday on her way to work for over twenty years. Yet she'd never set foot inside. She imagined a room full of people dressed in their holiday best, singing Christmas caroles. "This will be fun," she said out loud.

She met the faces and eyes of the Martin family the minute she stepped into the Sanctuary. "You came!" Mr. Martin said with a grin. His wife and three children greeted her with the same warm enthusiasm. "And you're wearing your new scarf."

"You look beautiful, Joy," Mrs. Martin added. They led her to a pew near the front of the church.

Emily, their youngest, took her hand and held it tightly. "Wait 'til you see the angel. She's my favorite."

Angel? Joy squirmed in her seat. The lights dimmed, and a beautiful chorale filled the room. "Joy to the world, the Lord has come..." She sat still as could be, enthralled by all of it. But what pierced her most was the love she felt from this family whose toilets she scrubbed every week.

As the story of the first Christmas played out before her, Joy knew there was something this family had that she wanted. It had nothing to do with a large house, a fancy car, or a designer wardrobe. She wanted what only the Christ child could offer. When the pastor led in a prayer of salvation, she bowed her head in complete surrender. To the King of kings, and the Lord of lords. "Joy to the world, the Lord has come!"

"Merry Christmas, Joy," the Martins said as they parted company in the parking lot. "It already is," she thought to herself. As she climbed into her worn car and headed back to her apartment, she knew she would never be the same.

The next morning, Joy awoke to the ringing of her phone. "Hello?" she answered in a raspy voice.

"Joy, it's Mrs. Martin. We were wondering. You are like family to us. Will you come and spend Christmas day here? With us?"

Tesrs formed in Joy's eyes. Christmas with the Martins? Like family? Thank you, God! "I'd love to," she replied through her tears.

"I truly believe that if we keep telling the Christmas story, singing the Christmas songs, and living the Christmas spirit, we can bring joy and happiness and peace to this world."
~Norman Vincent Peale

"To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas. If we think on these things, there will be born in us a Savior and over us will shine a star sending its gleam of hope to the world."
~Calvin Coolidge

"Christmas, my child, is love in action."
~Dale Evans

"What is important is faith expressing itself in love."
~Galatians 5:6b      

         

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