Last Sunday after church I drove our our children to Norman, Oklahoma to spend Christmas with the extended Burleson family at the Sullivant Retreat Center on the shores of Lake Thunderbird. My wife Rachelle stayed in Enid for work reasons. I left the Retreat Center on Monday and returned to Enid hoping to pick up my wife to immediately drive back to Norman, Oklahoma. Unfortunately, my wife was called in to work. She is a heart recovery nurse in the Intensive Care Unit in one of Enid's hospitals and it was impossible for her to leave Christmas Eve due to the patient load. So, Rachelle worked through the night until 7:30 a.m. Christmas morning. I found myself alone Christmas Eve, at home, eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I do not usually throw pity parties, but I had a good one Monday night. It was not the way I desired to spend Christmas Eve. I felt a little like Jonah under the juniper tree - in a place I didn't wish to be.
But within twelve hours the Lord brought me to appreciate my life and my Christmas Eve - even my peanut butter sandwich. While my wife slept Christmas morning I visited a few of our shut-ins at Emmanuel, delivering DVD copies of our last three Sunday morning worship services and wishing them all a Merry Christmas. I visited a church member seated beside his comatose wife of sixty two years, weeping because the love of his life was about to die of cancer - and he of a broken heart. I prayed with a seventy-five-year old women who has no family, but who worked in our church nursery for over four decades and considers all the kids she ministered to 'her kids,' including all four of my own children. I walked into an assisted living apartment where the Christmas music was turned up loud, and a cheerful church member greeted me with a hearty 'Merry Christmas' - and after a few minutes of conversation we both went upstairs to the Nursing Home where his wife, crippled by arthritis and pain, greeted me just as cheerily as her husband. I visited with a forty-nine-year old church member who suffered a debilitating stroke this past year and was preparing for major surgery later this week. In total, I made a almost a dozen calls on people who were all alone, many of whom were in physical pain, and all of whom had no family with them on Christmas Day. I finished that morning having illustrated for me that real joy and happiness is a state of mind and spirit - and can be completely independent of one's circumstances.
As I celebrate my forty-sixth birthday today I am reminded I have so much to be incredibly thankful for in my life. But I carry the lesson taught me this past Christmas Day by the homebound and shut-ins of Emmanuel Baptist Church; genuine joy transcends our circumstances and is dependent alone upon our relationship with Jesus Christ.
For Him, this day, I am grateful.
In His Grace,