We had a wonderful speaker for our annual Mom To Mom Christmas party this year.
Her name is Judy and she is a former missionary to Africa; now widowed but full of the defiant joy of Jesus in the midst of heartache.
She told us the story of when she was a young mother and pastor’s wife with a baby and two toddlers. One night, she was dismayed to learn that her husband had agreed to preach at an Appalachian country church that Sunday. The very last thing she wanted to do was take a long car ride so close to Christmas.
Still she went, unable to resist her husband’s cheerful sense of adventure.
They arrived just in time for the service to begin. Someone immediately ushered her husband to the front of the church while she was left alone in the back of the church, holding her baby as her two toddlers clung to her legs. Finally, someone approached her.
“Are you the pastor’s wife?” this person asked.
“Yes I am,” she said gratefully, ready to sink into a pew and listen to her husband preach after dropping her kids off at the nursery.
“We need you to teach Sunday School.”
Judy could not believe her ears. After a long drive, she was tired and the last thing she wanted to do was teach Sunday school.
“Sure!” She replied, with a brightness she did not feel. “What are the ages?”
“Four to seventeen.”
She followed the church member back to the Sunday school room and was dismayed to see chaos: children were fighting, teenagers looked bored, and nobody appeared to be interested in being there.
After momentarily panicking, Jesus “whispered” to her, ” Tell them the story of My birth.”
Taking a deep breath, she opened her Bible and began to tell the most breathtaking, wondrous story of the Good News.
The entire room quieted as the extraordinary tale of God entering time as a baby unfolded.
By the time Sunday school had ended, Judy was completely exhausted. All she wanted to do was find her husband, take the kids to McDonald’s for a quick lunch, and begin the drive home so she could sleep.
It was not to be.
Her husband informed her that they had been invited to lunch by an elderly woman in the church who took great pride in inviting the preacher home for a meal at her home every Sunday. How could they refuse?
Judy wanted to cry. She was desperate for a nap, a fast lunch, and home in that order.
Filled with inner turmoil and a most ungrateful spirit, she climbed into the car with her husband and kids and they followed this elderly woman to her home.
It was a tar-paper shack.
Judy’s heart fell and she wanted to cry. But she plastered a smile on her face and tried to be gracious.
A lovely surprise awaited inside.
A roaring fire danced in the fireplace Her husband sat nearby in a wheelchair. The table was beautifully set for lunch. Their hostess had Christmas coloring books and crayons for Judy’s children to enjoy.
Once they were settled and Judy’s husband chatted with hers, the old woman motioned for Judy to follow her.
She took her to a cozy back bedroom. A lovely quilt was on the bed and in the corner of the room was a crib.
“You need to feed your child, then take a nap,” The woman said kindly. “Lunch will be ready in 45 minutes. Get some rest.”
With a smile, she left Judy and her baby alone.
With a grateful heart, Judy fed her baby, then sank down onto the comfy quilt and took a blissful nap.
As promised, her hostess woke Judy and she and her family ate one of the most delicious lunches they had ever tasted.
After a time of wonderful fellowship, they said their goodbyes and Judy was left to marvel at the sweet provision of her Savior.
“And to think I wanted to go to McDonald’s,” she thought. Jesus had seen her service and her sacrifice that day. He knew that her plans of a trip to a fast food place followed by no nap and a long drive home would have made an already stressful day much worse.
Instead, He had tenderly planned a delightful respite for her in the most unlikely of places.
He always provides. Perfectly. Wisely. Magnificently.
I thought about Judy’s story as I drove home.
That little tar paper shack had hidden an oasis of calm and beauty. Many, many years ago, a common stable in Bethlehem housed the greatest, most astonishing and extraordinary Treasure: The Christ Child.
God’s ultimate Provision for our sin-sick, helpless souls.
Because of…the heart of tender mercy and loving-kindness of our God, a Light from on high will dawn upon us and visit us, to shine upon and give light to to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to direct and guide our feet in a straight line into the way of peace. —(Luke 1:78-79).
Look around your life today. What provision might He have planted in unlikely places for you?
He is always at work.
Especially during this season of miracles.