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Thats not exactly what I gave you the nickel for, Mama Faye told me. I was hoping youd save them up and buy something special. Yeah, right. That nickel was burning a hole in my pocket, and saving it wasnt part of the fire!
I dont know what I dreamed that night, but I can tell you that I woke up a maniac. As the ladies were preparing the Thanksgiving meal, I took my nickel off the dresser, grabbed my brothers nickel and shoved it in my pocket, then took my brother by the hand. We headed out for a long walk...
...a very long walk.
...to the MARKET.
I put my nickel in first. Crank, crank, crank, clink, clink, clink, plop. Out it popped. I dont even remember what it was. Nothing as neat as the toys on the front of the bubble machine. Not worth a six-year-old boys only nickel, thats for sure.
My brother put in his nickel. Out popped a miniature set of false teeth. He got the cool bubble! G-daddy, my dads father, had false teeth. When the women werent looking, hed let us watch him take them out and wash them. That was way cool and now my three-year-old brother had some miniature false teeth. Double cool!
We made the long walk back home. As soon as we hit the front yard, mom asked, Where in the world have you boys been?
We just went for a little walk, I said in my most innocent voice. It was a simpler time and little boys could roam the neighborhood. You didnt have to worry, especially when your little boys were good. Of course, I was a good little boy...
...most of the time!
As we sat down for our Thanksgiving meal and that special Kodak moment where we join hands and give thanks to God for all the wonderful blessings he has given us, my brother Byron was suddenly reminded of his latest blessing. He dropped Mama Fayes hand, reached into his pocket and proudly announced, Look what Ive got. False teeth just like G-daddy!
All hands dropped. Suddenly I was the only one in the mood for prayer. At this moment, I desired a very long prayer.
My mom then uttered the words I hated to hear: Phillip Dixon Ware, what have you done?
Mama Faye exclaimed as she inhaled, Oh my goodness, you boys were on the Houston highway. You could have been killed!
My other grandmother, Granny, pleaded for mercy, Dont spank them Al, please dont spank them. Its Thanksgiving.
My dads face flushed red. The vein in his neck popped out and I could see his heartbeat pounding in the vein in his temple. About that time he said,...
|Phillip Dixon Ware, what have you done?|
When you open up the Gospel of Luke and read the birth story of John the Baptist and Jesus, you come to familiar lines that get repeated nearly every year. They become so much a part of our holiday experience that we view them pretty much as holly and twinkly lights. But for those who lived this story, it was much different.
For hundreds of years, the Jewish people had lived with the last word of the Old Testament ringing in their ears. Go look in Malachi, the last book of our Old Testament, and notice that it ends on the word: Curse.
You see, their story didnt have an ending. They were the people of Gods great promises; made first to Abraham, preserved through the deliverance of Moses, and reiterated again to David. But the promises lay there like a dead corpse, lifeless, and barren.
These were the people of God Almighty, who humbled Pharaoh in the plagues and destroyed his army in the Exodus through the Red Sea. Their God had helped them conquer the Promised Land and destroy the mighty cites of Canaan. But where was this God now? Where were his mighty deeds to save? For hundreds of years they had been a people in bondage to one nation after another, suffering humiliation again and again.
Their God had thundered his Word at Sinai. He had spoken powerfully and shaken kingdoms through the voices of his prophets. But now, just as Amos had predicted, there was a famine in the land. Not a famine for bread, but a famine for the Word of God. For hundreds of years there was no great prophet. No more Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos, or Jonah. Most of all, no sign of Elijah, who was to make his grand return in preparation for the Messiah.
Gods people sat there in the barren dust of their existence, waiting for an end to their story. Hoping, praying, and dreaming of the day for God to say, Your long wait is over. Let me tell you the rest of the story.
When you pick up your Bible and read Luke chapters 1 and 2, remember this is more than just a quaint little tale to dust off at Christmas time when your bring the ornaments down from the attic. This is a story of people who had waited a very, very long time to hear God finish their story and change their mourning into joy and their curse into Christ.
...about that time my dad said, Boys, were going to the bathroom.
My brother Byron was always dramatic in moments of discipline. He screamed like a stuck pig headed to slaughter. No daddy, no daddy! Im sorry. Please, Im sorry. Phil made me do it, daddy...
|Please, Im sorry. Phil made me do it, daddy...|
At that point, he didnt say his usual, This is going to hurt you worse than it hurts me. No, he took those five points and applied them to my backside. One for each point, and then one to grow on. When I left the bathroom, dad stayed in there a few minutes and cried nobody told me, I could see it in his eyes when he came back to the table. I got less than I deserved!
God let Israel wait a long time for the Messiah. When he came, there were angels and babies and shepherds and all sorts of wonder and awe. Most of all, there was an end for the story. In the births of John the Baptist and Jesus, God chose to enter history and turn our barrenness into his blessing and our curse into his Christ. Why? Because we all deserved punishment for our rebellious sins, but rather than take us to the bathroom, God chose to visit us in a manger so he could...
Give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace. (Luke 1:77-79)
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