Jayna pointed to the seat next to her on the bail of hay, "you sit here," she said. She was so excited about taking me to see the "Jesus Walk" called "Echoes of Christmas". The "Jesus Walk" is a live nativity in the park. Her family is hosting David and I in our temporarily home in Salt Lake City while our newborn son is in the NICU (and growing bigger everyday.)
Jayna took my hand and excitedly led me to the next stop along the journey to the manger. At five years old, she was my guide through the Christmas story. Her enthusiasm was contagious. I found myself asking her with all the excitement of a five-year old, "Is that a real camel?" It was, and she was quick to point out it was a real baby at the manger scene as well.
Christmas has come a little early for us this year. Our son was born on November 6th this year and we officially became his parents on the 15th. We journeyed across two states to meet him, knowing we were in for our journey that would last for his entire NICU stay (10-12 weeks). We were so excited that we drove 12 1/2 hours with hardly any stops.
Douglas' birth meant that I immediately (although temporarily) left my work at the church. Thank goodness they knew all about the adoption and were on board with my leaving. In my absence they are doing wonderful things, filling in and leading worship each week with no outside help. They are visiting the shut-ins, leading the youth, caring for each other and oh yeah, their pastor too! They have overwhelmed us with love and gifts for our new little family. Their prayers are everything to us.
Normally when a pastor takes a short leave of absence, or even a sabbatical, they try to pick a good time for the church. They certainly don't set out to be gone during Advent and Christmas. So many people reminded me during the adoption waiting period that God's timing is perfect. When I look at my beautiful son, I know that is true. God's timing is perfect, even if our son was born at 27.5 weeks. God's timing is perfect even if I had to be gone during Advent (they even voted to call me as their permanent pastor the second week I was gone!). Not our time, not the most convenient time, but God's good and perfect timing.
The gift of that timing for me is that I get to be an observer this Christmas season. Usually it is my job to be a guide during Advent. I remind folks why we change liturgical colors, and we why wait for the coming of the Christ-child year after year. But this year is different. I have my very own miracle-boy in my life who teaches me everyday about paying attention to the small things. Tonight I had my very own 5 year old guide, she held my hand and led me excitedly to the manger. God bless her for guiding me. God bless those in my three churches who are guiding others in my absence. Most of all thanks be to this Christ-Child for whom we wait. He is our greatest guide and friend.