Last week when I was preaching, I invited a friend of mine to do a monologue to help give Joseph’s perspective on the whole ‘baby daddy’ ordeal he faced in the birth story of Jesus. The theme he chose to use was “The Lord will always provide.” I’ve clung to those five words and have watched in amazement as the Lord’s generosity unfolded before my eyes over and over this Christmas season.
There was the day when a young homeless man was at my church helping me to set up for an Advent family event. I asked him for a Christmas wish list and he happily rattled off a few basic necessities. During our time together, I received a phone call that a family had just lost their 2-year old daughter to Leukemia. The social worker and I were brainstorming ways in which we could assist the family and apparently my friend overheard the conversation. On our drive back to the homeless shelter, he looked at me with tears in his eyes and said, “Vicky, y’know those wish list items? Can you take my name off of that list? I really have all I need. I have a place to crash and food to eat. That’s really enough. Will you please give my gifts to that family who lost their child?” My heart swelled. That afternoon, that young man received an anonymous gift of new boots. The Lord will always provide.
A friend of mine graciously donated 20 turkey dinners, complete with the bird and all the fixings, to the church. I had three of these dinners in my car and the people whom I had intended to be the recipients for one reason or another were unable to receive the gift. While in the parking lot of a local grocery store, I noticed a mom and daughter putting groceries into their car. We kept meeting eyes until I finally walked over to her and greeted her. (I had my clergy collar on which gave me an odd sense of feeling less intrusive.) I asked, “Any chance you could use a turkey dinner?” Who knows what possessed me to utter those words? She gave me no indication that she needed it. And instantly, the woman broke down sobbing. She ran over to my car and together we unloaded the holiday meal. When I caught her eyeing the other two boxes, I said, “Would you like a second one?” She nodded and told me that her best friend was also a single mother. “Would you care for the third box, too?” At that point, she wrapped her arms around me and literally yelled out the words, “The Lord will always provide!” Amen, sister, amen.
On August 1, I began my pastoral internship. Though that means I am inches away from reaching my goal of graduation from Luther Seminary, it also means that I had to say goodbye to my salary, which being a 2-income family meant we have had to do a whole lot of trusting that the Lord would provide. God used friends of mine from my home church to send us meals and monetary gifts. God used friends at my new church to ‘adopt’ our family and provide a few extra gifts for us for under the tree, lots of delicious food, gift cards, and time off to be together as a family. My children thought this was one of their best Christmases ever and I’m sure it is because they experienced God’s angels first hand. The Lord will always provide.
This Christmas, more than ever, I realized how difficult the holidays can be for those who have lost loved ones. We hosted a Blue Christmas for the people who needed a space to release the pain of the season instead of the joy. It was beautiful. It made me appreciate the love of Jesus that surrounds his suffering children. It made me think of my dear friend who lost her husband this summer yet had to try to make the holidays special for her four children, or my friend who lost his parents and had to face the season alone, or my homeless friends who haven’t celebrated Christmas in years for various reasons. Yet, God sent others to offer hugs and affection, God sent friends to lift up the broken hearted, God sent his Holy Spirit to give each person the endurance to put one foot in front of the other and make it through the day. The Lord will always provide.
Y’know, I like to follow Joseph’s example. Heck, first he found out that his woman was pregnant and was certain it wasn’t by him. Then a random angel appears in the middle of the night to confirm that Mary really was carrying the Messiah. Instead of being suspicious of Mary’s actions, or thinking he was losing his mind when the Angel Gabriel confirmed it was God’s baby, he trusted. Joseph handed the reigns of life over to God, stopped trying to orchestrate everything and trusted. And, lo and behold, he learned that the Lord really does always provide.
I wish you a 2017 full of the Lord’s unexpected surprises!