This past Monday we piled into our car to have a Christmas gathering with my parents and uncle. By we, I mean my wife, son, his daughter, his dog and our dog. We had three wonderful hours with family in Alexandria and were about to head home when my son decided to check craigslist. The tires on his car were in terrible shape and he had one wheel that was bent, too. Turned out a person in St. Joseph had just posted four factory wheels, with almost new tires, already on, mounted and balanced for a low price. So, trekked a few miles out of the way, since we were already so near. It was when we slowed down in St. Joseph, MN, just as the sun was setting, that our Subaru started to kick and buck a little.
It’s Advent. I immediately thought of Mary and Joseph reaching Bethlehem: no room in the inn, the sun setting, far away from home. They had few options. By contrast, we had two mechanically inclined fellows, a three-year old that’s at least a little heartier than a newborn, and a grandma for whom such a situation wasn’t new. We had resources to stay over if we needed. The only drawback–two dogs that might make it hard to stay the night. Plus, by this time our car really started acting up in earnest, w had four extra wheels and tires for a Ford in the back. Still, we had it way better than Mary and Joseph.
How stressful it must have been for them–far from home, homeless, contractions starting in earnest. Yet, it is precisely that stress-filled, imperfect night that has become the perfect sign of God’s faithfulness. God provided shelter in a stable. God provided a safe birth, shelter, warmth, a heavenly light, angel songs, and watchful shepherds. The shepherds even brought an uplifting story to tell a young newlywed couple about the newborn baby they were holding. God made the night holy–as a sign to all in need–not just those far away from home, without shelter after dark. Yes, “Life has it’s stressful moments.” But, “God can change a stressful moment into a Bethlehem-Moment!”
Engine light on, motor-shaking, we pulled into O’Reilly’s. They loan out computer-code readers and my son knows how to use them. While he checked the codes I bought a spark plug socket and extensions knowing the old-school place to start was with checking the spark plugs. The code reader told my son – misfire on cylinder #1. Talk about a time saver. Google told me where cylinder #1 was. Monday was my son’s birthday and here we were without a cake but with an important engine candle that wouldn’t light. I popped out the plug. My son’s eyes saw the crack in the porcelain. He put the new plug in cylinder #1. I turned the key and the engine purred–smooth as fresh cream in a hot coffee. A high five and we were off. Our stressful moment was changed into a tiny Bethlehem Moment. The Bethlehem-Moment wasn’t just that the car ran again. The Bethlehem-Moment was that we calmly fixed it together. Sometimes fathers and sons aren’t calm with each other. But, this birthday night God gave us a moment that was calm and bright and blessed.
I thank God for those moments when life happens exactly the way they were meant to happen: and God whispers, “Yes, I am at work here and now.” “Yes, I am with you.” So it was, Mary and Joseph named the baby–Jesus which means “God saves,” or “God is with us.” Whatever your situation or stress-level, may you sense God-with-you during these days of nearing Christmas. May the calm of the Bethlehem stable 2,000 years ago brighten Christmas 2018 for you. A Blessed Advent and Mary Christmas,