Yesterday I had an opportunity to visit with a member of our church who now resides in an assisted living apartment in Bryan. For the past several years, health factors have precluded her active participation in church. She expressly asked that I give everyone her regards and best wishes. Speaking of our church, she stated: Henly is a one-of-a-kind Baptist Church”. She said matter-of-factly, “You don’t find a church like the one in Henly in other places”. She added: “There is not anything here (Bryan/College Station) like what we have in Henly.”
I responded that Craig has often said the same thing. Wherever he and Becky have lived, they have been actively involved in church. Initially, he attempted to find a replica of Henly when he first went away to college. Failing to find it, he joined a large church that had an active college-student department. However, in a perfect world, he’d prefer the cross-generational familial kind of environment like the one in which he grew up.
The church member I was visiting yesterday asked if we were hosting a Christmas Eve service again this year? I affirmed for her that we were. In addition, I shared that I am excited that Christmas falls on a Sunday this year. I think the celebration of Christmas Day always seems more focused on the reason for the season when folks come for worship.
In the past week or so, I’ve heard about any number of churches that are opting not to have Christmas Eve or Christmas morning services. Somehow that just seems strange to me. I understand that family time is important, but “figuratively speaking”, whose birthday is it anyway? I don’t get it!
I would go to the head of the class in acknowledging that Christmas is inconvenient for any number of reasons. I make that same observation almost every year, but the inconvenience of Christmas is not because of the need to designate a time for worship. We’d simply our lives greatly if we opted to focus on the importance of worship.
Even the Magi traveled two years for the expressed purpose of worshipping the new-born King. In addition to providing him their worship, they also brought gifts proclaimed from days of old. Isaiah chronicled the light that led the men to the place where they found him in Isaiah 60 and true to Isaiah’s prophecy, “gold and incense” were on the selected gift list. The three gifts had a spiritual meaning: gold as a symbol of kingship on earth, frankincense (an incense) as a symbol of deity, and myrrh (an embalming oil) as a symbol of death.
I like the way James Montgomery Boice sums it up: “To celebrate Jesus’ birthday, the wise men brought gifts of gold, incense, and myrrh”. He shared why these gifts were more than appropriate for Jesus the King, High Priest, and Sacrifice.
“Gold: It is easy to see why gold is an appropriate gift for Jesus Christ. Gold is the metal of kings. When gold was presented to Jesus, it acknowledged his right to rule. The wise men knew Jesus was the King of kings.
“Incense: Incense was also a significant gift. It was used in the temple worship. It was mixed with the oil that was used to anoint the priests of Israel. It was part of the meal offerings that were offerings of thanksgiving and praise to God. In presenting this gift the wise men pointed to Christ as our great High Priest, the one whose whole life was acceptable and well pleasing to his Father.
“Myrrh: Myrrh was used for embalming. By any human measure it would be odd, if not offensive, to present to the infant Christ a spice used for embalming. But it was not offensive in this case, nor was it odd. It was a gift of faith. We do not know precisely what the wise men may have known or guessed about Christ’s ministry, but we do know that the Old Testament again and again foretold his suffering”.
The gift of worship has become a source of soul wellness for the lady with whom I visited yesterday. She currently has less than 17% of lung capacity and is no longer mobile. She’s been involved in hospice for the past ten months and knows that each day is a gift until she is freed from the limitations of her humanity. When that time comes, she wants her name added in the memorial garden at our church.
For many years she taught in the children’s department in our church. She mentioned several of those kids yesterday. All have long sense graduated to the ranks of productive adulthood and she is so proud of them. She told me the story of a little boy whose mother is still in our church. The little boy is no longer a little boy. It was about the time he was eight years old. She said she taught her class about the different types of prayer: intercession, praise, specific requests, etc. and God’s ability to answer our prayers. The next week, the little boy came back to class and said: “I thought about what you said regarding prayer this week”. He mentioned a thunderstorm that came up in the night. His bedroom was a loft with a skylight just above his bed. He said: “The sound of the rain and the howling wind scared me. I was really scared, so I prayed.” The lady asked: “What happened then.” He said, “The rain stopped.”
She confessed that she was telling her husband about the conversation on their way home from church and she laughingly commented, “He thinks God answered his prayer by stopping the rain.” The husband responded: “Wait a minute. It sounds to me like God did.” She responded: “You’ve just made a very good point”.
She shared another story with me that I asked permission to include in today’s blog. It relates to her being a seventh generation descendent from Jefferson County Alabama. Apparently in the strictest order of Baptist life, when her grandfather built his home in Gardendale, Alabama, he purchased land five miles down the road for the establishment of a Baptist Church. According to restrictions (whether county or state, I do not know) liquor could not be sold within five miles of a church. His wife then went five miles the other direction and purchased land for a Methodist church. Consequently, they orchestrated the highest rank and order of the temperance movement in their neighborhood.
Even without the booze; however, it didn’t result in “heaven on earth”. At some point someone mentioned having Bingo in the church. Her grandfather was adamantly opposed. Much to his disdain, the majority of the membership voted for Bingo. The grandfather walked out, saying: He’d never step foot in that church again” and he didn’t. Interestingly, when he died, that church was the place for his funeral service. In deference to her grandfather’s wishes, his coffin remained in the hearse parked outside the church. Like he said, “He never went back.”
All My Best!