Matthew 1:21 – And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins. (NLT)
God sometimes shows up in the strangest ways to provide for us. One Christmas week in 1980, He did just that, and it was a Christmas that my family has never forgotten.
For a number of years, dad struggled with God's call to be a full-time evangelist. After resigning from his church in Orangeburg, South Carolina, USA, he decided that it was time.
Leaving a church when you live in a church-provided home and have nowhere to go is a scary experience — especially when you have a family to support. Fortunately, the church organist had a little getaway mobile home on the shores of the Santee River.
My family loaded up their clothes, stored the remainder of their belongings at my grandparents' home, and headed for what they had never experienced before: living in a trailer, using someone else's belongings, and living on the water. Their new home was small and cramped, and showed evidence of a bachelor's presence.
The weather had turned cold, and keeping the oil tank filled further drained their bank account. To top it off, my middle brother struggled with asthma attacks.
All the while, the season of joy quickly approached, but there didn't appear to be much joy in the household that Christmas. Even if they'd had a tree, their ornaments were packed up who knew where. Mom loved to cook large Christmas meals, but this year the cabinets were bare. Times, in fact, were so lean that they couldn't even afford the gas to return to church services on Sunday evenings.
A dose of ingenious planning by mom and a surprise visit from a friend turned the tide. The South Carolina Lowcountry is heavily dotted with pine trees. Why not use one as a Christmas tree? mom thought. So, they did. Dad and my two brothers trekked through the woods until they found the perfect one. They cut it and dragged it back to the spot that mom had carefully chosen in the trailer. She even came up with a solution for the ornaments. Finding a box of paintable wooden ornaments at a yard sale, she purchased them for a dollar and then delivered them to dad for painting.
Christmas looked as if it would be meatless that year. But during Christmas week, their good friend and owner of the trailer stopped by. He worked at a local car dealership and had been given a ham and a turkey as Christmas gifts. Since he was a single man, he had no use for both and wondered whether mom, dad, and the boys might be interested in having the ham. God provided meat for Christmas.
That Christmas on the river was probably the leanest that my family has ever experienced, but of the many that they have shared together, it stands out as their most memorable. They spent time together and felt closer than they ever had. The aroma of the ham cooking snaked through every inch of the trailer, reminding them of God's goodness. They didn't have much, but God gave exactly what they needed.
Mary experienced the same. She was a poor young woman engaged to be married when God showed up and told her that she would birth the Saviour of the world. The excitement — and anxiety — was almost more than she could bear. But her willingness to accept God's plan resulted in salvation for all who call upon the name of the Son she bore. God sent the Magi, whose gifts provided for their needs while they waited in Egypt until it was safe to return to Galilee.
Being a full-time evangelist didn't work out, but soon after, God provided another church for dad to pastor. Once again, they had a place to stay and food on the table. God provided sustenance for my family just as He provided a Saviour for the world. That's how God is. Whatever the need, He'll always supply.
Prayer: Father, we pause to thank You this Christmas season as we remember Your provision for us in the Babe in the manger who was our Saviour. Amen.
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