Seeing God’s Gift in the Everyday

By Mike Wilhelm, Senior Chaplain

What does Christmas mean to you? To many, Christmas is a time of merchandise. To others, it is a time for gathering with family and friends. For those estranged from family and community, Christmas can be disappointing and confusing. The relentless Christmas hype of the retailers reminds the lonely of their exclusion. Sadly, I suspect this disenfranchised group is growing at a rapid rate.

Christmas at Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch, I’m glad to report, is hopeful in an old-fashioned way. After Thanksgiving, we begin a traditional Advent journey through the scriptures, culminating in our annual Boys Ranch Christmas Cantata. Chaplain Ray conducts a sacred service that faithfully recounts the first coming of Christ through scripture, music, storytelling, and worship. Each year, the birth narrative from Luke’s gospel comes to life in the Boys Ranch chapel with live nativity characters, and the service concludes with the community’s candlelit singing of “Silent Night.” This sensory-rich evening in God’s Word becomes what we call “a sticky memory”—a lasting gift to our Boys Ranch kids and staff.

One thing that strikes me every year is God’s willingness to come low on our behalf. I marvel that The King of Glory would become so vulnerable, trusting Himself to an under-resourced peasant couple. The annual reenactment by our Boys Ranch kids has a way of highlighting the nature of this surprise. It is a reminder that my pride can often keep me from looking to see the gift of God right in front of me.

I’ll give an example that I shared with some friends at this year’s Rodeo. I once mentioned in a chapel sermon the regret of taking for granted my elderly Aunt Edna when I was young. The regret was just a passing detail of the sermon (or so I thought). After the message, the children often come down for prayer during a time of worship. On that Sunday, a young man, I’ll call Billy, came down. I wasn’t surprised to see Billy, as he frequently came to ask for prayer for his family. It wasn’t prayer that Billy sought that morning. Instead, he startled me by putting his hands on my shoulders, looking me square in the eye, and then said, “I want to tell you something. I think your Aunt Edna would be very proud of you if she saw what you’re doing now.”

I didn’t see that coming. Like I said, sometimes my pride can keep me from looking to see the gift of God that has been in front of me.

I’ve found that there’s no better Christmas gift than being able to share life with friends like Billy. Thank you for supporting the work at Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch and making our Christ-centered mission possible. Because of your prayerful support, residents are discovering that they are not alone. God has come on our behalf in His Son, Jesus Christ, to fashion us as gifts for one another. So may your Christmas this year be filled with the Best Gift – the surprising presence of God.

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