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12/08/2012

Everything Starts or Begins Again With the Birth

Peoples of every age had been waiting. Prophesies had been foretold. The entire earth yearned. And in the fullness of time he came. Paul puts it this way: “We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now…” (Romans 8:22). Then the picture of God appeared in the strength of a helpless baby. And we began to learn and understand what this world was about and how nothing in life or in death could separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39).

On December 6 I again traveled to the Centerville, OH campus of St. Leonard Franciscan Living Community to give the homily for the Christmas Box Angel Memorial Candlelight Vigil. There a statute was erected 10 years ago as a response to Richard Paul Evans best-selling book, The Christmas Box. In the book, a woman mourns the loss of her daughter at the base of an angel statue. The book has inspired communities across U.S. and in 24 other countries to erect statues as places of hope (the word nestled in the angel’s right wing) and consolation to grieving parents. On December 6 at 7:00pm worldwide services are held.

At a service I did four years ago, I met a woman named Lori Clark who told this story:

I was 30 when my first child and my only son, Ian was born. It took 4 more years to have Natalie, our daughter. Ian and Natalie became each other’s best friends, and as a young adult Ian had friends of all ages. He was the youngest in our community’s Optimist Club and he had endless patience with small children. Ian was an independent business owner who attended community college full-time and lived at home. We had him with us for 19 years, 5 months, and 1 day until he was driving home from a business meeting wearing his seatbelt, suit and tie one dark, rainy Thursday night in May. He had driven 4½ years with neither a ticket nor an accident until that crash with his small car and a semi-truck. We honored Ian’s final wish -- to be an organ and tissue donor. My family reduced in size, yet mysteriously multiplied. Of Ian’s organ recipients, the two who received his kidneys responded to my letters and wished to break anonymity.

Angie has Ian’s right kidney. At the time she was 34 with 3 children. She’s now full of life, energy, and productivity and has been able to raise her children, just recently enjoying the birth of her first grandchild. Right before that we attended her wedding on a mountaintop in West Virginia. I was one of the moms lighting the unity candle. I was one of the moms of the bride. Angie also has an “Ian Day” party each year on the Saturday closest to her surgery date to honor and celebrate Ian’s gift of life to her.

Ian’s left kidney recipient was 58 at the time of his surgery, a bit too old to be like a son to me. Nonetheless, when Dale gives me greetings or flowers, he signs the cards from “The Boys.” He jokingly asks young ladies, such as waitresses, if they’d date a young man in his 20’s. When they say he’s not that young, he replies, “Well, part of me is!” At Dale’s 25th anniversary party, Ian’s picture was displayed on an easel beside his parents, and Dale made it known they held that place of honor because they were the 3 people who gave him life, without whom none of us would have been at the dinner.

Remembering the birth of Jesus at the base of that Christmas Box angel statue has allowed Lori’s life to begin again. She writes that she finds comfort and healing remembering that “the first gift of Christmas was love. A parent’s love, pure as the first snows of Christmas. For God so loved His children that He sent His son so that we might someday return to him.”

Christmas Birthday Joy,

Pastor Mike Signature


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