Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.” Luke 2:12-13
“Light and life to all He brings, risen with healing in His wings” (from Hark the Herald Angels Sing)
The mall was emptying out from another busy day of holiday shopping. I was rushing after completing my responsibilities at the Junior Youth. It had been a good night at South Shore Church. The games had been fun. It is a blessing to be able to hang out with these young people. I enjoy their company, the innocence of the conversations, the unbridled energy they possess. I try to keep up with them, sometimes I am successful, sometimes I am not. During one game I dove onto the sanctuary chairs, I was hoping to be graceful like a dolphin on the ocean, I was more like a beached whale as I crashed with reckless abandon. Pastor Simon led the devotion that night. He was going to continue talking about the story of Jacob and Esau, particularly the part of the story when Jacob saw the stairway or ladder to heaven and angels were ascending and descending on it. He never completed the message he prepared because our conversation turned to angels. Pastor Simon shared a story where he felt he was protected from a fall from a tree when he was a boy, by an angel or the hand of God’s protection.
John Kuehni told an amazing story from when he was a police officer and they were looking for someone in the forest at night. As they were walking he felt something keeping him from moving forward. The other officers asked why he stopped. When they turned on their flash lights, they realized that they had stopped at the edge of a huge cliff. One more step forward and he would have gone over a 200-foot drop. All the other leaders shared stories from their life where they felt divine or angelic presence in their lives. I found it to be riveting, so did the others who were there. All the leaders shared except for me. I’m not sure if I have ever had this experience. I have always been aware of His presence. I have seen God move in so may ways, but angelic visitation, I’m not sure. I remember when I was a younger Christian of being extremely desirous of seeing the miraculous, but I felt God impress upon me a verse “Blessed are those that have not seen and yet still believe.” At that point on my spiritual journey I ceased seeking the sensational and endeavoured to fully serve my Saviour. But I wonder sometimes if maybe I have missed it or rationalized away these supernatural interventions in my life. I don’t know if the Jr. youth got anything out of the talk, but I did. The Christmas story was full of Angels and the miraculous. I am going to pray that God opens my eyes to His reality around me. I don’t want to miss it.
As with most nights I am on a tight schedule. After I dropped the kids off at Callander Bay Church following Jr. Youth, I continued my nightly taxi run. I picked up my daughter Rachel from her part time job and then headed to the mall to pick up my wife Jennifer from her job at Sears. It is a sad time at Sears, as they prepare to close their doors forever. The employees are putting on brave faces, but it is difficult to be in the process of losing your job during the Holiday season. The ranks are also thinning, as many leave the insecurity of their present job situation to find new employment elsewhere. Which adds to the tension of those who have decided to stay until the end, many only staying with no other motivation than to see it through to the end with pride, but even so tensions are running high. In the craziness of the season don’t forget to pray for those who have, or will be losing their jobs.
We pick up Jenn and begin the trek home. It will be nice to get home and unwind for a few minutes. I am looking forward to just sitting down with Jenn and watching a show, before we do it all again tomorrow. The intersection as we come out of the mall is a little congested. Which is not too surprising, it is, after all, the week following “Black Friday” and many sales have continued and those that like to get their shopping done early are starting to feel the pressure. We notice that the traffic is only backed up on one side. My initial thought was that it was from the construction that has been slowing down traffic in that area for months, but then we notice the flashing lights. Lots of flashing lights. I wonder if it is a RIDE program, I had seen one earlier in another location. As we creep closer to the corner, we see that there has been an accident.
Jenn’s compassionate heart kicks into gear and she begins to pray out loud, as she often does. The closer we move towards it, we see the number of emergency vehicles, I mutter under my breath, “This can’t be good”. Traffic is moving slowly and as we get closer to the accident it comes to a complete stop. We are very close to the mayhem. Emergency response people move quickly. I am extremely thankful our Fire Departments and Police Officers, these people who enter daily into stressful and life-threatening situations. As we sit there, I feel like an intruder, caught in the middle of something I’m not supposed to be a part of. We decide to make a make a right turn, because we are close enough to watch what is happening and I am concerned about what we may view. I get our vehicle around the corner and start our way home. Although we leave the two-vehicle collision behind us, our conversation remains on the topic. Even when we get home, we search google looking for information. The wonder of the internet is that local news websites already have information posted, even though the accident happed at 9 pm by 9:40 pm stories are already available. The details are sketchy. By the time I go into the radio, it is confirmed that there has been a fatality. By 3 pm the name of the individual, who passed away, has been released. The driver of the other vehicle, who had fled the scene, was charged. He was driving impaired. It grieved me deeply. The day before I had posted this on Facebook:
I was just reading some disturbing stats from MADD Canada's website. On average 4 people are killed every day in crashes involving drugs and alcohol. These deaths are completely preventable. Please don't destroy Christmas for your family – DON'T DRINK AND DRIVE #MADDCanada #BehomeforChristmas
A friend of mine had written a comment, “you'd think people would understand this by now.” Apparently not, as it happened in our community the next day. I bumped into someone from our congregation and the accident came up in our conversation and he told me that his grandparents had both been killed by a drunk driver in an accident that happened before he was born. He had never known his grandparents, because of someone’s lack of good judgement. Once again, I am very saddened.
I know Christmas is about Jesus. Each week we light a candle to remind us of the good things He brings in to our lives. He brings hope, peace, joy and love into our lives. Jesus is the indescribable gift. I would not be able to live a day, without his love and presence. I know that Jesus was Emmanuel, which means “God with us”. He has, is and always will be with me, whatever circumstances I face and go through.
I could get on a soap box and rant all day about the negative effects of alcohol and drugs. The wide and sweeping life-long impact it has had on my life and those that I love and care about. But I will refrain. Many think my views are archaic and not “hip” with the times and maybe someday I will share those. But, right now, the unnecessary loss of life pushes me over the edge. Rightly or wrongly Christmas has become associated with families gathering together. The reason why Grief Share has a special program called “Surviving the Holidays” is because loss is more keenly felt during this time of year. I quoted a line from the Christmas carol, “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” at the beginning of this letter, when the author penned the words, “Light and life to all He brings, risen with healing in His wings”. I want Christmas to be a time when people experience the light and life that only Jesus can bring. I want them to know the healing that He brings. But for some, I don’t want them to have to bear the pain of a senseless and preventable loss that many experience.
Please, please, please heed these words. If you drink or use drugs – don’t drive. If you are in a place where drinking or drugs are being used – be a designated driver, call a cab, let them sleep over, take their keys…whatever, there are always alternatives. Let’s be home for Christmas.
The angels in the Christmas story declared emphatically that they had good news of great joy which will be for all people. The message is the same today. But this year though, I am praying more fervently for divine protection and that His angels with place a guard around you and your family and me and my family. I want to be on the look out because many have entertained angels unaware (Hebrews 13:2).
On behalf of my family, I want to wish you a SAFE, blessed and Christ-filled Christmas. May 2018 be a year where we fix our gaze on Jesus, seek first His kingdom, trust in the Lord with all our hearts and know that the mercies of the Lord are new every morning: Great is His faithfulness.
In Christ’s Love and Service,
Pastor John, Jennifer