A Little White Church Advent
Come on an Advent journey and walk the rural roads and snow covered paths with Donna Frischknecht as she shares stories of God’s promises being fulfilled in the most amazing ways. These stories of “Emmanuel”—God with us—were gathered during her time serving as minister in a historic white clapboard church in upstate New York, right on the border of Vermont, from 2007-2013.
The other day while scrounging around a beat up cardboard box filled with Christmas ornaments and other miscellaneous seasonal trinkets, I stumbled upon something I had long forgotten.
In the bottom corner, wrinkled up and wedged between a musical snow globe and an iron Advent wreath candleholder, was a piece of paper with my very own scribbles on it. Was it the missing Christmas list I had searched for years ago? Was it a grocery list for the Christmas cookies that never did get baked one year? Or was it simply my random thoughts for a future Christmas Eve sermon?
It was none of the above.
On the tattered paper was my prayer for the children at the little white church that I had written many years ago on what was one lonely Christmas night.
My parents and brother had just left to return to New Jersey and so it was just Sully, my big fat cat, and myself. (This was early in my ministry when I was still living in my 1700’s Saltbox as a single girl who was just getting used to her new role as country pastor.)
The snow was gently falling and I had lit all the candles on the colonial sconces that graced the walls of the old house. I pulled the rickety rocker left behind in the house when I bought it up to the window and sat down and gazed at the sun setting quickly over the rolling hills that once used to see buffalo grazing on them. Yes, locals, upon hearing where I lived would say, “Oh, you’re right where the buffalo farm was!” Soon that vacant farm next to me would have new tenants in the coming year—alpacas.
As I stared out the window I reached for a pen and a piece of scrap paper that was sitting on top of the just-as-rickety-as-the-rocker pedestal table also left behind in the house when I bought it. It was then I began to write this Christmas prayer:
Kids at the White Church,
We have only begun our journey together but I want you to know that I already love each one of you dearly and I pray that you will come to know what I have come to know.
Jesus, the gift we celebrate at Christmas, is a gift not to be packed away with the rest of the Christmas ornaments. Jesus is a gift of love sent by God to you, who God loves so much.
I pray you come to know Jesus as your best friend as I have come to know him as. The friend who will be there for you always to celebrate the accomplishments to come in your lives, to ease the heartache that will come, to wipe away the tears that will also come and to keep lifting you up higher and higher whenever you fall—because that’s the kind of friend Jesus is.
And so my Christmas prayer is you will be best friends with Jesus. I will be praying hard for that to happen. But know this, the friendship is up to you to receive and to nurture.
So be open to all that God will do in your life and most of all trust with all your heart that God knows what God is doing, because I speak from experience, life can get pretty confusing at times.
Keep your hearts opened and most of all never doubt for one moment that you are loved beyond love and accepted for just as you are—because that’s the kind of friend Jesus is. He accepts us and forgives us, but he also wants to see us strive to do our best to glorify him. Doing our best doesn’t mean being better than others or excelling at some talent we have or being perfect. Doing our best means simply offering our best in whatever we do for him.
One of my favorite songs is “Little Drummer Boy,” the story of a poor boy who realized he didn’t have any special gift to give Jesus. All he had was his love for playing his drum. And so he began to play for God’s son. As the song goes, he played his best for him. When the drummer boy was done playing, something wonderful happened that we should all want to happen in our lives.
Jesus smiled at the drummer boy.
And so as I sit here Christmas night I lift a prayer for you, the children who have come into my life at the little white church. I pray that you will someday experience the beauty of Jesus smiling at you just because you simply offered your best to him.
I am glad I found that long-forgotten Christmas prayer for the children, for it is a prayer that needs to be prayed for all our children—of all ages—this Christmastime.
Then he smiled at me. Pa rum pum pum pum.
May we give Christ our best for who doesn’t want to see a friend smiling back at us?