Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me;hear, that your soul may live;and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, Isaiah 55:2-3
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. John 6:35
As so many of us prepare to enjoy delicious Christmas meals and beautifully wrapped gifts it’s easy to overlook that most of what we call “Christmas” isn’t necessary. Stripped down, Christmas is about one thing – God’s promise to deliver us the greatest gift, His son Jesus.
This year our “Christmas” seems a bit different. We are missing family and friends. But the promise I wanted to share with you is this, he always provides for us. Even in times that seem bare, He provides. In fact, the opportunity to truly appreciate what we do have is when situations seem the most difficult. It’s lessons like that which Jesus passed along to us through His bloodline.
He will provide in the most God-like ways – a stranger lends a hand, a paycheck bonus comes at the right time, an offer of food from a neighbor when you need it most. And the covenant agreement we need to uphold and hold on to is to trust in that promise.
I pray every day that what I write in this blog is what someone, even just one person, needs to hear from God. And the other day I was thinking about which Isaiah verse to use for Christmas. That day, my friend Betsy shared a story written by her sister for her local church. As she read it, all I kept hearing was “He provides.” I asked if I could share her beautiful family story here. Betsy’s family bloodline has passed down some amazing lessons. I hope you enjoy it!
A Privileged Life Growing Up By Rachel Mueller
I’m the oldest daughter of an Episcopal priest. I found growing up totally immersed in the culture of the Episcopal Church something very special.
This photo was taken July 2, 1953 for the Glendale California News Press announcing that my father was to be the new rector of St. Luke’s of the Mountains, La Crescenta, California and it introduced our family to the community. One of five and the oldest, you will see me pictured to the right of my father and holding my favorite Madam Alexander doll. My younger two brothers and two sisters completed our family – yes, five children in six years, something my mother said raised eyebrows at our new church! We lived in the large rectory, which was next door to the church and suited our big family perfectly. Apparently while constructing this new house, there was some opposition on the vestry to its size. And supposedly the previous Rector said, “Well, who knows? The next Rector might have five children.” Perhaps the Search Committee went looking for a priest with five children to justify their new building.
Living next door to the church, we were very much aware of all the church activities on a daily basis. There was always something, be it the regular church services, a wedding, funeral or special events. My father believed his family was an extension of him, so we were taught to answer the telephone properly; in my case “St. Luke’s Rectory, Rachel speaking” and to take messages in detail and often answer questions such as the times of the church services, or dates of meetings. In a way our parents used us as extra employees — we gave out keys, opened doors, passed the cookies at vestry meetings, set up the tables and chairs for parish events, washed the coffee cups after church on Sunday, went with our father to visit people in the hospital, took food to orphanages, helped relocate refugees (first the Dutch Indonesians, then Cubans, and later Vietnamese), and helped load real sheep into our station wagon for the live Nativity outside the front of the church at Christmas. Anything going on at the church was dinner table conversation, including who was sick and in the hospital, or just died, or had a baby. The doorbell rang morning, noon and night with someone wanting something, or wondering “Where’s Fr. Sadler?” It was a constant in our life. The parish got to know us, and we quickly learned the names of all the parishioners.
In contrast to many clergy today, our father always wore a black shirt (not grey, or blue or some other color) and his clerical collar. I don’t remember ever seeing him not wearing this “uniform” until years after he retired. Even on his day off he was dressed in “the collar”. He was very active in our community which made him well known, which in turn brought great benefits to our family. He was usually the clergyman on stage at our school graduations, there to give the invocation or benediction, which made me very proud. Everywhere we went folks would stop him to say hello and show us special kindness. We were often invited to parishioners’ home to swim on hot afternoons. We were treated to Disneyland when it first opened. There were always special gifts of food and goodies at holidays – items that weren’t part of our regular family fare.
The most important lesson I learned from my father was “God will provide.” So many wonderful things happened to us, I thought we were very wealthy. It wasn’t until I went away to college that I learned what salary my father actually made. I couldn’t believe it. On paper we were poor. But our lives were rich and much more interesting than those of my friends. For example, we might suddenly have some homeless folks at the dinner table. My mother would just say “Rachel, please set the table for three more.” We often would never see those people again but the memory and lesson of hospitality remain.
I could fill a book with stories of wonderful things that happened to us as a result of living in a family grounded in love, trusting that “God will provide” and accepting life as it comes; but enough for now.
And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! Luke 12:22-24