This Thanksgiving was the first in 34 years that Teresa and I were on our own. Our kids were with other family. My mom was at her home, recovering from knee replacement and not up to the travel. My mother-in-law was in Tulsa with her son, Bill and his family. It was a little strange. We were blessed to have each other - quite a few spent their first thanksgiving alone without their spouses this year. And of course we did spend Thanksgiving with our extended family – 80 or more of you – our brothers and sisters in Christ. It was a wonderful day in which we publicly and joyfully indulged in the sin of gluttony. We also received into our family a new brother in Christ as Jonathan Gau was baptized that day. It was an altogether happy and heartwarming Thanksgiving. Sometimes life is like a Hallmark channel movie.
It is the time of year when the Hallmark channel, the Lifetime network, and other cable outlets run Christmas movies 24/7. Each year these channels roll out a new box of comfits – new movies to unwrap, although “new” is probably a generous term to use. There are only 5 movies they make over and over again: “A Christmas Carol,” “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “The Shop Around the Corner,” “Ground Hog’s Day,” and “Made for Each Other” (a 1939 MGM tearjerker starring Jimmy Stewart and Carole Lombard which has spawned a hundred remakes).
I notice that three of the movies I mentioned star Jimmy Stewart. I also notice that two of them involve the suspension of time in some way. The protagonists in these movies find resolution, comfort, and strength by going backward, or forward in time. Glimpsing the right moment from the past or the future provides the answers, or the insight needed. If only we had the same ability they do in those Hallmark movies.
All this has set me to thinking about the apostles, and how they must have felt when Jesus told them, “I am going away,” (John 14.1ff) – how they, like children asked “where,” and “how.” When Jesus asked them earlier if they were going away, Peter responded: Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe absolutely, and have come to know that you are the Holy One of God (John 6.68-69). They have nowhere else to go but to Jesus, and now He says He is going away. How alone they must have felt – but only briefly. They will find that He keeps His promise to be with them “all the way even to the end of the Age” (Matthew 28.20).
We find the same. The miracle of the Bible is that Jesus is always there. We are never alone, never without Him. He is alive in the four Gospels. Any time we open the Bible we can spend time with Him. We are not bound by the limits of time when we go to the Word. We can be with him as an infant, as a grown man just being baptized, on the cross, or we can watch Him ascend to heaven. We can move backward and forward in time to visit any moment from His life which feeds us, instructs us, strengthens us, challenges us. Those Hallmark movies are fancy and fiction. The Gospels are fact.
The fantasies these Hallmark movies peddle often strike a chord, speak to a longing. But they are diversions, entertainments. The moments we spend with Jesus are meaningful, fulfilling, empowering.
This will be the last Manassas Signal of the year. We will continue to update our announcements online, but will not resume publication of this newsletter until the New Year. As I offer you this last meditation of 2016, I want to encourage us all to spend more time with Jesus. This is all. It is that simple. Let us all resolve to spend more time with Him.
On behalf of the office staff of the Manassas Church of Christ we thank you for another year of service together, and wish you all a blessed holiday season. May God be with us all.