Silent Night (3)

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Silent Night
By Abigail Hardy
It was December 5th, 1992.  As I rushed with my parents into the emergency room entrance late that night, a gurney sped past us.  Like a snapshot, I can remember, the sight of a leg, knee up in the air covered with a white sheet and below the knee, unnaturally, something large and black was bisecting the bloody leg.  Is that really what I saw?  I was too unsure to ask my parents.  I could tell they were more scared than they were willing to admit to me.
I sat in the waiting room of the ER.  I felt lost and unsteady as my parents went back to talk with the doctors.  Words like “accident” “coma” “racing” “head-on” were punctuating the air of the waiting room as people from our small church slowly filled it. 
Things like this do not happen to us.  Not to kids coming back from a church youth group trip.  Surely not, God. 
The van, driven by our church’s youth group leader and my Dad’s closest friend, had been hit head-on by a man in a Corvette.  He had been racing 120 mph down the curving road, some pieces of his car left hanging high in the trees. 
My oldest sister Hannah had been in the back of the van with four other junior high students from our church youth group, and two adult leaders in the front.  Kirsten, the energetic college student from WCU who helped with the youth group, died instantly.  Hannah was in a coma.  Mr. Brown, the driver, was the victim we had seen as we rushed into the ER with the brake pedal stuck through his lower leg and a broken pelvis and ribs.  He had been pinned in the car and had prayed with the kids and kept them calm until the emergency services arrived and were able to cut him out.  Another student had a serious head injury and the other three had escaped with broken bones or scrapes and bruises.
My sister had been airlifted to Memorial Mission in Asheville soon after my parents and I had arrived at the local ER.  When I got to visit her in the hospital the next day, I remember the sight of my mother, holding her hand, singing hymns and Christmas carols to her unresponsive body. 
On the third day, as my mother sang Silent Night to her daughter, she heard my sister’s voice join with hers.  Hannah had woken up.
This is the meaning of Christmas, lived out by the people I lived with. 
Mr. Brown, speaking peace to panicked kids as his own pain loomed like a giant wave above him. 
Kirsten, losing her life in the middle of obedience to Christ’s call on her to minister to kids.
My mom, singing Silent Night over my sister in total faith that God is our healer and restorer.
My sister, given back life through no merit or effort of her own, and, oh, so thankful for that gift.
And, yes, the tears fall when I sing Silent Night at Christmas.  Because this is a beautiful, broken world that our Almighty God was born to save.

Father God, we have joy and we have pain in this life.  I thank you for redeeming our pain and making our joy complete.

Leaving a Legacy

Lincoln and advent

Our daughter Hannah recently shared this story with a group she leads at her church – MOPS – Mothers of Pre-schoolers. She sent it to me and I thought I would pass it on as a “guest blog post”. I hope it blesses you as it did me.
“Thank you for letting me share a story with you today, but first I have a challenge for all of us moms. Whether we birthed our kids, adopted them, and/or fostered them, God still made us moms and we must raise them in this troubled world. This is a heavy responsibility, but one we can accomplish when empowered by God. And, thankfully we also have the encouragement of our friends here at MOPS. So, my challenge for all of us is this:

What legacy are we leaving with our kids?

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter
• how much television your kids watch,
• how late their bedtime is,
• whether they sleep with you every night – or in their own room,
• whether you spank or use time outs,
• whether you breastfeed or bottle feed, or both,
• whether you sent your kids to pre-school or home schooled or neither,
• how long it takes for you to upgrade your six year-old to a booster seat.

We moms disagree on all of these topics. But, bottom line, what really matters is how our children understand our FAITH. Do they see it? Do they know the real reason for Christmas?
On the wall of my kitchen hangs this quote I want to share with you. It was written by Ruth Graham, wife of Billy Graham.

“For the Busy Mother, the pressures of daily living tend not so much to CRUSH as to DISTRACT and DIVERT us from our main purpose. They ‘scatter’ us. How easy I have found it to go through the motions of being a mother but without the real object in view. Our main purpose in life is to lead our children early to know Jesus Christ and to train them to live according to His standards – it’s a daily job. “Line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little, there a little.” Time for us mothers is slipping by quickly and we cannot afford to be distracted. Deuteronomy 6:6-9 speaks about the ten commandments and then the Greatest Commandment – to love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and might. Specifically that we should “teach them diligently to our children, talk of them when we sit in our house, when we walk by the way, when we lie down and when we rise.”

Twenty one years ago I was riding in a van on the way home from a youth group hayride. I’m from the mountains of North Carolina and the roads are curvy, up and down and around the mountains. The car I was riding in was struck by a speeding Corvette. The crash resulted in two deaths, four hospitalizations, and injuries for the passengers. I sustained a closed head injury and was air lifted to the large hospital 50 miles away in Asheville. I was in a coma for approximately three days.

My parents kept a vigil at my bedside and prayers from folks literally around the world were offered up for me and the others. My father went home on the third day to check in with my siblings who were staying with family friends and pick up changes of clothes for himself and my mother.

While mother was alone with me she began singing Silent Night while gazing at the Christmas lights shining throughout downtown Asheville. Suddenly, as Mom tells it, I began singing with her. I awoke from the coma to join my mom in singing Silent Night.

I’ve told this story probably 200 times and now that I’m a mom, it feels different to tell it. What would I do if this happened to one of my kids? Would I be in constant prayer at her bedside? Of course I would be – but I need to be reminded that life is precious and so fragile. Horrible things happen all the time – many of us in this room have had miscarriages, several have had stillborn babies, perhaps some of you have buried a child, and for lots of us, medical issues are very familiar. My Mom stayed by my side and sang about Jesus to me, and as I woke up, I was singing with her.

That’s my mom’s legacy to me.

As soon as I woke up, all my vital signs improved dramatically and I was only in the hospital for a total of six days – 2 ½ of those I was comatose. Every time I hear Silent Night I thank God for life.

Because of Jesus’s birth and God’s love for us, we can pass on this amazing love to our kids and to each other. Miracles do happen – I am one of them and I am so grateful that I was able to grow up, marry a wonderful man, have four kids, and share this mothering journey with all of y’all.”

Decorating for Christmas

manger

“If Jesus was born in a stable with cow manure and straw scattered all over, I am not going to stress about my house being in perfect order before the baby comes!” said the very pregnant young mother in the nursery this past Sunday. I was teaching the toddler Sunday School class and overheard the previous statement.

She had a very good point. The King of Kings was born in very humble circumstances. Is this indicative of the value God puts on ornamentation? Maybe. The location of Jesus’s birth was no accident. Our Heavenly Father wanted to identify with his creation, mankind, so he sent his son to be born in humble surroundings.

This young mother’s statement made me reflect on the fact that I had spent some serious time decorating for Christmas. Was that frivilous or a waste of time?

As I put ornaments on the tree, each reminded me of a previous Christmas or a friend or family member who had given me the ornament. Several had been made by our children with varying levels of success – but radiating the love with which they were given. No, this wasn’t a waste of time. It is a tradition in the best sense of that word. Traditions that remind us of the true meaning of Christmas – “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son” – those traditions have value. As I put out the manger scene I was reminded of the hours of play our grandchildren enjoyed moving the figures about reenacting the manger scene. (and hiding baby Jesus)

After the angel told Mary that she was to birth Jesus, her response was the following:

Luke 1:46-51

46 Mary responded,
“Oh, how my soul praises the Lord.
47 How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!
48 For he took notice of his lowly servant girl,
and from now on all generations will call me blessed.
49 For the Mighty One is holy,
and he has done great things for me.
50 He shows mercy from generation to generation
to all who fear him.
51 His mighty arm has done tremendous things!

Decorationg for Christmas can be one way to celebrate that Jesus was sent to reveal God’s love.

May our efforts reflect God’s love to our families.

Our Best Christmas Tree

Tree with Lincoln

We couldn’t afford it, but I wanted a REAL Christmas tree. This was in 1980 and trees didn’t cost all that much. Yet we had only $15.00 in our checking account and a Christmas tree would not have provided food for our then three children.

Our bank balance was low for several reasons.
1- We had just closed on our first home, purchased for $35,000.
2- It was November and the furnace needed a “tune up” immediately so that took our $200 reserve fund.
3- We didn’t have much money to start with. I was staying home with our three children aged 3, 2, and 9 months old, so we were living on a library cataloger’s salary.

God had shown himself so faithful in the purchase of our house. He had provided all we needed and there was one more paycheck coming before the property taxes were due.

God had promised to supply all our needs according to his riches in glory and we had witnessed that, one bill at a time.

Christmas trees are not a need.

I knew this, yet I wanted a Christmas tree for our first Christmas in our first home of our own.

So, I told God how I felt. I wanted a Christmas tree, but if it was not to be, I asked God to change my heart about a desire for a tree.

It was a cold, dark night. We were driving back from a holiday dinner at a friend’s house who lived in Cashiers, a remote community higher in elevation farther up in the mountains.

Phil came around a curve and we saw something black and large lying in the road. He pulled our little VW bug over and stopped. There in the middle of the road was a big, BEAUTIFUL, Christmas tree!

It must have fallen off a truck hauling Christmas trees from the farms up the mountain. It was dark, no trucks around, nor any other cars. It was there just for us!

It was our Christmas tree – and much lovelier than one we would have purchased. Phil opened the trunk, which is in the front in a VW bug, put the tree part way in, and tied the trunk down as far as he could. He slowly drove the 18 miles home.

Did God provide that tree? Does God care about Christmas trees?

Some Christians I know and love feel that all the trappings of Christmas take away from it’s real meaning. These individuals choose to celebrate Jesus’s birth in simple ways. I respect that and honor their motivation.

I also know that receiving that Christmas tree during a time of financial need made me feel God’s love for me in a very personal way. I felt that my Heavenly Father heard me and answered the cry of my heart.

Why?

Because He loves me.

Was it a coincidence that the tree fell off the truck at that time? No other car could have passed by it without effort because the tree was smack in the middle of the narrow, winding road. It meant that the tree fell off and we were the first car to go by.

Maybe it was chance.

Yet it answered my prayer to the God of the universe who is my Heavenly Father.

Gifts often demonstrate love. Christmas is the time we celebrate God’s gift of his Son, Jesus.

John 3:16-17(NIV)

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

Every year when I put up our tree, I remember the best tree we ever had. More importantly I am reminded of my Heavenly Father who knows my heart and loves me.

Sometime I will tell you about the wreaths that fell off a truck.

PS – a great story to read to your children is – The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree by Gloria Huston. It is a lovely story with a meaningful message.