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Sermon 12/24/06 –
Christmas Presents – Psalm 147:3


 Audio Sermon

Christmas Presents

He heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3)

We found out what our friend Grace wants during this time we call “Christmas.” We’ve learned that she wants either to go and be with the Lord or become stronger to the point where she can help others once again - NOW! We’ve mentioned Grace before. She’s an amazing 92-year old lady, who, up until two weeks ago, was visiting an incredible THIRTY elderly persons a day and comforting them. But she has a serious “problem with (her) heart,” she told us, and she’s very “tired.”

She helped my mother, visiting her on a daily basis, until one year ago, when my mom went to be with the Lord. My mother’s friends could no longer visit regularly, and so we prayed for a friend. God’s answer was Grace – she has been a very real friend to not only my mom and many others, but also to us. The kind of friend you don’t want to lose.

After teaching the Bible study in the convalescent facility last Thursday morning, my wife, Genevieve, and I, went up to Grace’s room to see how she's doing. She was very weak and did not feel like talking. I anointed her with oil, held her hand, and began to pray. After a few words, she uncharacteristically interrupted the prayer, and said, “Don’t pray that.” I asked, “Don’t pray what, Grace?” and she answered, “Don’t just pray that I’ll get better. Pray that He will release me now or give me the strength to help others again.

I stopped, and for what seemed like a very long “instant,” I could not pray at all; but then I did, finding that I was able to pray, “Thy will be done.” I did not (and do not) want to lose our friend. We’ve had several days to think about this, and I realize that if she is to be healed, I must PRAY as the Lord leads, and also, if it's her time, I must let her go.

She's READY because she believes the Lord has a time for us all. She also recognizes that God can heal her right now.  Here’s a lady who certainly has love for others, and she has plenty of faith in the Lord. Grace has something else we all need – she has a very certain HOPE that when her “soul” or whatever you term it leaves this planet, she will be with the Lord. Grace has the same “desire” that Paul did, who said he had the “desire to depart and be with Christ,” for, as he put it, to go and be with Him is “very much better” than anything on this earth (Philippians 1:23).

Whatever we need, God will restore it in eternity. Those who have trusted in the Lord, will be with loved ones once more. You will meet Grace, and we will be with her again, too.  God "heals the brokenhearted," now and forever.

A few days ago, we attended an “In Remembrance” service at a local church. The reality is that the holidays are especially difficult for those who have lost loved ones – the moments that should be filled with joy can instead contain a sense of infinite loss. There are those we love so much that we NEVER want to lose them, not even for a time. On the back page of the bulletin that accompanied the service was an old poem called “God’s Lent Loved Ones (Author Unknown).” Here are the words of that sad, but beautiful poem:

“‘I’ll lend you for a little while a loved one of Mine,’ God said,
‘For you to love while they live, and mourn when they’re dead.
It may be six or seven years or forty-two or three;
but will you, ‘till I call them back, take care of them for Me?
They’ll bring charm to gladden you and (should their stay be brief),
you’ll have their loving memories as solace for your grief.
I cannot promise they will stay since all from earth return;
but there are lessons taught below, My loved one must learn.
I’ve looked the whole world over in My search for teachers true;
and from the things that crowd life’s lane, I have chosen you.
Now, will you give them all your love? Not think the labor’s vain?
Nor hate Me when I take this lent loved one back again?
I fancied that I heard them say, ‘Dear Lord, Thy will be done,
for all the joys this loved one will bring, the risk of grief I’ll run.’
We will shelter them with tenderness, we’ll love them while we may,
and for the happiness we’ve known, forever grateful stay.
But should Thy angels call them much sooner than we planned,
we’ll brave the bitter grief that comes and try to understand.

It’s faith in action to understand that all on this earth, including our loved ones and even our own lives – it all belongs to God and nothing we think of as “ours” is really our own. And notice in the poem that the gift of another human being into your life, with all the love and pain they bring, is not just about you. It’s God’s intention for others, as well. Paul said that in 2 Corinthians 1:6 and its context – “If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer."  It's not just about us.

Grace has suffered loss. She wept when my mother was going, and wept again when she was gone. Did the Father weep when He sent His Son to die for our sins? I wouldn't be surprised. The Son is like the Father, as we see in the words of Jesus, when He said, “I and the Father are One” (John 10:30). And considering that the Father and the Son are alike beyond our ability to comprehend it, think about the action of Jesus in relation to the grief of His loved ones. It is written that, “Jesus wept” (John 11:35).

God is always sending others to help us, in ways we often do not see or understand, as revealed in the sending of Jesus to this world. He became a helpless baby, an event we celebrate at “Christmas,” and then He became an “ordinary” man, but innocent in all His ways. He died the terrible death of a criminal, so you and I might be made acceptable to God. And even harder to see is that He sends us to one another, even when we have no idea, no comprehension that we are being sent. Those in a marriage are given to each other. The parent is sent to the child just as surely as the child is given to the parent. Your work, whether you like it or not was God’s gift to you; and you are God’s gift to that place of employment. The illness or other loss you have experienced is God’s gift to someone else, so you may be able to comfort them in the future when they experience similar loss.  He does indeed "heal the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds."

Thank You, Father, for loved ones, our “Christmas presents” during these years. We accept Your right to heal or take them to the joy of the Lord, as You choose. Thank You for the many “presents” You give, in sending us one to another. Thank You for the greatest gift of all – Your Son. We praise Your Holy Name and worship You. In Jesus Name. Amen.

Ron Beckham, Pastor
Friday Study Ministries
"While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8)

Donations to this ministry are greatly appreciated and may be sent to:
Friday Study Ministries
P.O. Box 92131
Long Beach, CA 90809-2131 USA

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