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Last week several members of my staff at
LIFE Outreach International threw a Christmas party for a nearby
retirement home. The television director performed his professional Elvis
routine, kneeling and singing to the ladies in wheelchairs. The staff
photographer took her golden retriever, Flannel, who wore felt antlers on
his head and a Christmas wreath around his neck. Carrying a red felt bone
in his mouth, he endeared himself to all of the residents as he calmly
walked around, laying his head in people's laps. Everyone was smitten by
Our Vice President's wife sang a Christmas medley and one of our Ministry Representatives led Christmas carols, accompanied by my secretary on the piano. Another staff member, dressed as Santa Claus, handed out gifts and they served cupcakes and punch to the elderly men and women. Many of them had icing all over their hands by the time they finished eating. One of our staff members asked if she could wash a lady's hands; she held up the right hand where Flannel was sitting and said, "I don't know, the dog did a pretty good job on this one."
After the party ended and almost everyone had left, a man asked our photographer, Janice, if she would bring Flannel to his mother's room down the hall. Janice followed him to a room filled with
family members surrounding the bedside of an elderly woman who was obviously slipping away. The golden retriever went right to the unconscious woman and laid his head on her hand. Janice learned that they were all dog lovers except the dying woman. She visited a while with the family, then felt prompted to do something more.
"Look you guys," Janice said as respectfully as possible, "I am a Christian. I want to know how I can pray for you."
The daughter answered with tears. "Pray that her passing is a peaceful one."
Janice replied, "I would really like to pray right now."
They all agreed. Janice touched the arm of the dying woman and held the hand of the daughter. "Father, let this family have a real encounter with your presence during this time," she prayed. When she had finished, Janice leaned over the woman's bed and spoke, "You have done a great job here. You were a great mother and a wonderful grandmother. You have wonderful kids and grandkids." When Janice looked up, every family member was weeping. The sweet spirit in the room enveloped them all, washing them in love and peace.
I am proud to have a staff so sensitive to the true meaning of Christmas. In a world full of suffering and pain, we must learn to share peace, love, and hope in every situation. My prayer for you and your family is that you will know the joy and fulfillment that comes from knowing the source of all peace, love and hope - the Child whose birth we celebrate this time of year.
Let's seek to express the true meaning of Christmas all 365 days next year, just as our staff did in the retirement home. God bless you all - have a wonderful Christmas and a great New Year.