It’s almost here. Six days away. Six days to prepare and treasure memories in the making. One of my fondest holiday memories is of my husband and daughter curled up together reading and re-reading her favourite story. She could recite the book from memory, yet she hung on his words, drinking them in afresh.
Good stories are like that. They draw us in and capture our hearts. We can hear them again and again and never tire of their familiar verse.
This time of year good stories abound. Most of us have a holiday favourite. Maybe you enjoy reading about a Grinch whose heart grows two sizes, or a man named Kris Kringle who is part of a miracle on 34th St. Or maybe you read about the greatest love story ever told, a true story about a God who put on skin and came to Earth as a baby to save his people.
In the re-telling of these, adults discover anew the wonder of childhood and faith in something bigger than themselves. My favourite holiday story is called Take Hold of Love, written by Henry Carter and published in Christmas Stories for the Heart. In this story, a pastor is working on his Christmas sermon when he is called upon to deal with a crisis in the church’s home for emotionally disturbed children. Tommy is hiding under the bed and refuses to come out.
The pastor sits by the bed and tries to woo the boy out.
Then he bends over and lifts up the bedding. He tells the boy of all the gifts and toys waiting for him under the tree.
Finally, seeing no other alternative, he wiggles beneath the bed to lie beside Tommy. He talks about the decorations and activities waiting for Tommy. Then he runs out of things to say and simply waits. If Tommy won’t come out, he would stay there next to him.
Eventually he and Tommy do crawl out together. At this point Carter writes about the Pastor finding his Christmas sermon.
“Hadn’t God called us, too, as he’d called Tommy, from far above us? Hadn’t He pleaded with us to love Him? And when we would not listen, had He not drawn close to us? Through prophets He called. But it was not until that first Christmas, when God Himself stooped to Earth in Jesus Christ, it was not until He came to dwell with us in our loneliness and alienation, that we, like Tommy, dared to stretch out our hands to take hold of love.”
I love this story because it reminds me of my story. It reminds me of how God wiggled under my bed to offer me his love.
We all share a love story with God. Some stories are dramas full of heart-wrenching moments and climactic events. Some stories feel good and everything falls into place at the right moment and clicks. Some stories are suspenseful; they have us biting our nails to the quick.
Some of you may be thinking — “love story — yeah right! If you only knew…”
You’re right; I don’t know. But there is someone who does. He is greater than any Grinch or Santa Claus and He left his kingdom in Heaven to pursue you on Earth.
He wants to tell you a story, your story of choices, regrets and triumphs. The story of your life is a love story. It’s a love story between you and God. It’s the story of Him wooing you back to his side.
Carter tells us why Jesus came to Earth that first Christmas morning. He came to pursue us. He came to reach us. He came to dwell with us in our loneliness and alienation and give us the courage to reach out and take God’s hand.
This Christmas take hold of God’s hand and listen to the second greatest love story ever told — yours.
*first printed in the St Catharines Standard, December 16th, 2010