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A Christmas Story in Late August (Aug 27, 2021)

When I was in ministry in Vermillion, SD, one of my members, about 87, made me a beautiful “Joy” nativity sign for Advent. He brought it over to me on a cold, windy day in the Dakotas…10 degrees, wind coming out of the northeast at 22 mph…and snowing. In fact, they called school off later that day. Bob Clark, that was this elderly man’s name, burst into the church even more joyful than the sign he was carrying. “Look what I put together for the church, Pastor! I saw one of these last year, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. So last night I headed out to the barn and put it together. I’m right proud with how it turned out! What do you think?!”

I was elated. It was just the right size. A great big joy sign with the manger scene tastefully placed inside the “O” of Joy was just what the doctor ordered.

I shook Bob’s hand and thanked him. Then I asked him if he wanted a cup of coffee. And he said, “Well sure, but not until after we put this thing up! Get on your coat and hats, pastor, we’ve got work to do!”

30 minutes later and half frozen, we had our joy sign up! And let me tell you, it was a big hit! We even put a light up so it would shine in the dark of night!

But 3 days before Christmas, something terrible happened. I drove up to the church, and the “O” in our “Joy” sign was gone! I went out and dug around the yard thinking it might have blown over, but no…someone had stolen the “O” of our Joy sign! I was furious! I couldn’t believe someone would be so twisted to steal our joy sign this close to Christmas eve. That afternoon I finally got up the nerve to call Bob. He was going to be devastated.

For the next 3 days I was furious! Whoever stole that sign had also stolen all the joy out of my Christmas heart! I was a mess. I couldn’t get my head around any sort of Christmas message. My heart just wasn’t in it.

And then, on Christmas Eve I drove up to the church and there in the yard, digging around in 2 feet of snow, was and 87 years of Bob. At first, I thought he had found our “O”, but then I realized that it wasn’t the old “O” at all…Bob had made a new one.

“Pastor,” he said, “I learned years ago that there is always going to be someone or something that is going to try to steal your “joy,” but the joy I have in my heart because of God’s love can’t be stolen…it doesn’t matter what happens to me, I know I’m loved. You can steal this sign 30 times, and I’m going to keep putting up another one.”

Folks, this pandemic keeps trying to steal our joy, our spirit. But I for one have learned from some of the best that the joy and love we have in our heart because of the God we have come to know in Jesus Christ, cannot be stolen. It just is! May the love and joy of Christ continue to shine as we work through this variant!

Your pastor and friend, putting back the “O” in my joy, Brook

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