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Christmas - Prelude to Grief & Joy Inexpressible.
Where Was Everyone Else?
The Flood - My Story's Preface
Around Easter in 1980, while attending a regular fairly crowded church service, I was sitting there alone, probably because of a sick child, when something amazing happened. I had just seated myself after the singing, when the pastor arose to begin his sermon, I looked up and my immediate attention was drawn to the cross hanging on the wall behind him. I had seen this sight many times, but that day, from that moment on, I was NOT aware of anything going on in the service, for a flood of inspiration carried me away.
A story from beginning to end started pouring into my soul. I grabbed a pen and every piece of paper I could find, including tithing envelopes, announcements, prayer request cards, etc. and I began to write. When I got home, I typed (yes - pre PC) out what I had written down and then I just shelved it. It wasn't until the following Easter that I actually read the story to anyone else. Why I let it sit, I do not know, but when I tried to read it to a bible class I was teaching, I could not finish reading the story out loud for I got too emotional.
What follows is my story; it is not grand or glorious but it is a part of me and I do not have any certainty that I will be around come next Easter. The birth of Jesus Christ was miraculous and amazing but it would not have meant anything to this lost and dying world without the story of His death and resurrection.
The Carob Tree
The Cedar of Lebanon
How many times have we said things like, "I'll bet this old house could really tell some stories if it could talk."? Well, imagine if you will a pile of wood stacked by a brightly lit fireplace somewhere far away that has a story it wants to tell. So, for just a moment let your imagination rule, and listen closely as the story unfolds.
You know, I wasn't always just a pile of wood waiting for the fire, for I have had a long good life. I also had an opportunity to give a very special gift to someone a long time ago, about which I would like to tell you.
Before I knew man even existed, I was a lovely carob tree standing among the most majestic and beautiful cedars that have ever lived. I was very fond of my friends; they shaded me in summer and blocked out winters icy blasts. When man first arrived, I could tell they really thought highly of my friends, the cedars.
Then one day, they came and started cutting down the cedars and hauling them off. I heard the men say that these trees were going to be used to make the most beautiful temple that has ever been built. I heard them talking about their God and I knew they were talking about my God. He fed me and loved me; in return I declared His handiwork daily. The mountains, the streams, the moon and the heavens; we all declared His love and glory.
At first I was a little jealous that they only wanted to use the cedars, but I remembered that He loved me too. I then began to think constantly about how my God was going to use me in a great way also. How? I did not know, but I just knew He was going to.
One morning I found myself at the hands of an axe man. I too, I thought, was going to help make the temple beautiful. I found myself being hauled on a long journey. When it ended, I was carried to a large city on a hill and put in with the stacks of cedar that was being readied for the temple. I was ecstatic.
Shortly, when one of the craftsmen came to get me, he looked me over and then yelled to his fellow workers; "Hey, how did this piece of junk get mixed in here?" They took me and threw me into the scrap heap; I was crushed.
It took a long while for me to recover, but I remembered how I had believed that my God was going to do something great with me. When I realized that He was still in control, I began to believe again and wait patiently for Him to act.
Years passed, the temple was built and the city had grown much larger and tensions over the new government were very heavy, but I waited very patiently in the scrap pile. I had been moved, kicked, buried, stacked, just about everything except being chopped into firewood.
The Emblem of Suffering and Shame.
The Day of My Call to Serve!
One day, one of those strange foreigners in the odd hats came to look at me. One of them told the others that I would just perfect. He told them to have me cut into two pieces; one about ten feet and the other about six feet in length. He also instructed them to cut a notch in the center of the shorter piece so that it would fit perfectly over the small end of the longer piece. I could not understand what in the world were they going to do with me?
Quickly I was cut up as ordered and assembled into a strange shape. Just as quickly I found myself being laid on some man's back. He was weary looking. He had been beaten and was wearing thorns on his head. What am I doing here, I asked myself. The man carried me along through the streets. Many people were yelling at him, some were wailing and others just stared. My load on him had to have been almost unbearable, for he fell several times. Finally they had another man carry me for him.
I sensed I knew this man. Everything seemed to point to a closeness that I could not explain. When we reached the top of a rather ugly hill outside of the city, I noticed that there were already two men tied to trees that had been shaped like me and then stuck upright in the ground.
When all of a sudden, they proceeded to nail this man to me. As HIS blood touched me all of my senses vibrated that this was not just a man hung on me, but someone very special to my God. Who is He? He spoke a few words while He hung on me. They were filled with love and compassion, in spite of what the crowds were doing to Him. I could feel that all of nature around me was straining in agony and finally groaned and convulsed when He died. That's when I heard the man called a centurion say, "He was truly the Son of God." I then knew I had been holding the Son of my God. Why had God let His Son die? I started to ache; I was used as an instrument in His death when a sudden peace and calm overcame me. God was still in control filled my senses. I knew God's ways are mysterious, but why the death of His Son?
Victory In Jesus!
A short time after His death, some very sad people came and took Him down and hurriedly carried Him away. One bright morning a couple of days later I heard the most beautiful words being shouted by some very joyful and excited people: "He is alive, He is alive!" It was then I understood the peace that filled me. Death was NOT more powerful than my God. He proved it by allowing His Son to die and claimed the victory over death by raising Him again!
Hope filled many of the people's faces, for now they knew they were trusting a God who through His Son could give them victory over death also. A joy filled me knowing that I was able to give myself for the mysterious but wonderous work of my God. Those people who were filled with this new found Hope, called me the "Cross". Little did I know then, that I would symbolize the greatest and most precious gift ever given. Songs would be written about me and the event that happened on a hill long ago. People would carry likenesses of me to show others the Hope which lived in them. Lives would be changed when one realizes the Truth about God's Son and the Cross.
Soon, I will be fed into a fire to give warmth and health, never to return, but the Cross in the hearts of men will be eternal. I have been a gift to God and to you, but my gift cannot even approach the glory of the gift of the new birth from the resurrected Son of glory, our Lord, Jesus Christ. May you receive this freely given gift and may His Hope live within you.