There was a very funny scene on television one year, a naive and sheltered young woman hated my favourite movie “It’s a Wonderful Life”. It turned out that she had never seen the ending but had left before George realised what a wonderful life he really had. The same young woman loved “Old Yeller” but had never seen the end where a hydro-phobic Yeller is blasted … er…put down by his owner. Out of context she had reached a logical but truly flawed conclusion.
Nearly 30 years ago, Linda and I were spending our first Christmas together. It was a memorable time for a lot of reasons. I had gone to a small railroad and lumbering community in Northern Ontario. Church attendance was low and the most quoted Bible verse was “Wherever two or three gather together” After playing hundreds of baseball games, throwing thousands of curling rocks, drinking tens of thousands of cups of coffee, and putting on innumerable puppet plays for school children; it was really gratifying to see a packed ‘house’ that Christmas Eve. I had prepared what I thought was quite a clever sermon (the desire to be clever is one of my besetting sins) “It is better to receive than to give!” The text was John 1:12 “… but as many as received Him, He gave the right to be called the children of God.” It was a bit disconcerting when part way through my message a young fellow , “J.J.” ,stormed out but my Church Army Training had long since prepared me not to let that throw me off course.
Early that morning, about 3 AM, we were awakened, not by the sound of hooves on the rooftop but a banging at the front door. I went down and there was a very drunk and very apologetic J.J. He had left before I got to the heart of my sermon and was angry that I thought Christmas was about receiving. When he got home that morning his mother informed him that if he had stuck around he would have heard something quite different than he had assumed. He was sorry for stomping out. We talked for hours and prayed together before he finally went home to bed. It was a great Christmas!
I still battle with cleverness but I have learned that it is my task to live a life and to share a gospel which allows people to hear and receive Him, still.