Sunday, December 23, 2012

A Christmas Carol in 2012 - Guest Post by Jeremy Stewart

Four years ago, Curt and I met Jeremy and Christy at a small church event.  We knew right away that we could be friends.  They laughed and joked freely, prayed with passion, and were open and real.  We got together a few times over the next couple of years - always enjoying each interaction - but distance between our homes, time, and life got in the way of developing a deeper friendship with them.

This year they moved closer to us when they bought an overgrown Christmas tree farm on Chehalem Mountain.  They invited us to come to their house this year to get our Christmas tree.  What could easily have just been a drop and dash turned into an afternoon of family fun.  Christy insisted on feeding our entire family (something that doesn't happen often when you bring six hungry mouths to the table) and we all reconnected over fresh air, good food, and great conversation.

Yesterday we received their Christmas card and letter.  I sat down to read it and was instantly drawn in.  Jeremy writes with passion and conviction about the journey their family has been on this year.  I finished the letter with tears in my eyes and knew I had to share it with you.  So with Jeremy and Christy's permission, here is their Christmas letter 2012.  I know you'll be encouraged by it.

Bella, Jeremy, Christy and Ruby

"Ebenezer Scrooge awoke from a dark and horrifying night, his frigid grey face set ablaze by searing tears of remorse and fear. Terror had rendered this flint-hearted man sobbingly helpless as he watched visions of his later life play out to it’s pathetic end--determined only by a continuance of the same choices he'd made for years. When he woke to Christmas day, he radiated the gratitude and blaring joy of a man with a new heart and a new chance. Now the ticking of clocks set the tempo by which he would breathe new praises and bless many people. This year, I feel this changed heart in my own chest. I feel a new lease on each passing second. I relate like a brother to this man who bores the name synonymous with stark greed and wretched indifference towards humanity. His best moments were certainly not in what he was, but what he was becoming. Our family is becoming something new too. Something changed. Something grateful. Something beautiful.

In the course of the year--Christy and I stumbled upon a new word: “Eucharisteo”. The word, in Greek, means “to give thanks”. We read about a woman who was challenged to create a list of one thousand simple things she was thankful for. When she began the slow listing of these gifts--all was labor and struggle. By the end, her entire posture had dramatically changed to one of utter gratitude towards God. What she formerly saw as despair--she now counted as beauty and grace. We were hopefully intrigued. To be acutely honest--we were desperately hopeful. We weren’t naive enough to think that life would devoid itself of ugliness and loss. Our deepest hope was that, at a minimum, thankfulness could make us present in our own lives.

Attentiveness starts as a desperate crawl. Gazing at shimmering leaves in sunlight--write it down. Hearing a wildly intoxicating laugh of an old man at a store--write it down. The poignant song played from a guitar at just the right moment--add that too. As we listed, our eyes became keen on sighting all things glorious and meaningful. From absurdity to deeply beautiful--item after item began to amass in our book. Our eyes met with joyful glimmering when we began to hear our daughters, Bella and Ruby, beginning to name their own gifts. It became apparent that life was changing for us. Occupied time was now slowed to reveal new spaciousness. Time surrendered its stressful bind and sight-distorting speed. A life of “when will we get there” gave way to a life of presence in God’s plan for NOW.

We realized that God was shouting at us through the NOW. Countless miracles happening in every fiber and molecule of every passing second. Drudgery was losing its war in our hearts--though it still won its hourly battles here and there. Abundance was daily becoming ours. Sometimes through more, sometimes by knowing that we already had enough. Hard times still came. This time, however, we found ourselves putting a pen to the blank paper and filling the blankness with thanks to God for the beauty that is hiding in trials, tragedy and loss.

This is Christmas. We’ve discovered that our thankfulness sheds the chains that darkness wraps us in - the very chains that Jacob Marley clanked horrifically in Scrooge’s face. Jesus was born into frigid darkness. He shattered darkness as he walked through it. He beat down prison doors and pulverized chains with the blunt end of a rough timber cross. Even while this very week, darkness beats heavy on many of our hearts--Christ promised that one day, he would put all darkness away--completing the work that began on Christmas day.

And so we leave you with a few of our gifts….

37.  The explosive laughter of a grinning Ruby Jane
81.  Giggling girls running through a field
168. The death of two grandfathers--sorrow-soaked anticipation of a grand reunion
296.  A new home in the country with acres of Christmas trees to tend
449. The intelligence and independence of Bella Grace--a beautiful gift and fresh motivation to grow as parents
574.  Sparkling Christmas lights on neighbor’s houses
697. The victorious battle of a much loved 2-year old against Leukemia’s deadly grasp
705. Early snowfall—bring wonder into our two little girls’ eyes
753. An unchanging God amidst this unstable and often frightful world
798. The light of an open sky
801. Eager expectations for the year ahead

With love,
Jeremy, Christy, Bella and Ruby Stewart    

December 2012"

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