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This past Christmas I experienced the best gift ever. One so totally unexpected that it brought me to my knees.
Joe and I went to church Christmas morning and, as we walked through the front doors of the church, I noticed a harp standing near the back of the sanctuary. I had never seen a harp at our church before and I didn't know of anyone in the congregation who played a harp. So, I was curious.
I just could not imagine what that harp was doing at our church and to whom it might belong.
Since there were only a few of us at the service Christmas morning, I immediately noticed the middle-aged woman sitting all alone on the back row. She looked a bit timid and very uncomfortable. She was dressed in many layers and was wearing a somewhat worn coat with a heavy scarf wrapped tightly around her neck. She was also wearing a hat and gloves; and, it was obvious she was going through a rough time. However, I noticed her heavy boots were new and polished to a shine.
It's not unusual for our church to have visitors that may be a little less fortunate than others. Our church hosts what we call the "Necessity Pantry", twice a month, where we offer non-perishable necessities like toothbrushes, toothpaste, toilet tissue, diapers, soap, etc., to people that may need a little help with these things. In addition, we do our best to offer a friendly smile and an abundance of God's love. It is not unusual for someone we have helped to visit one of our services; so, I didn't think much more about the lady on the back row.
As I was greeting a friend, I asked about the harp. She told me that one of the folks we had helped at the necessity pantry was so grateful that she asked how she could repay us. Mother Pat (our Priest) told her that payment was not necessary. Still, this lady was determined and wanted to do something. She asked if she could play her harp for us as a way to say thanks. So, Mother Pat told her "yes, she could".
At the end of the service, I heard the most beautiful music coming from the back of the church. I turned around and was surprised to see the woman from the back row and now playing the harp - her face full of concentration and with an expression of pure joy. It was like she was lost in her music and it struck me that she was offering a gift - to me, to all those that were there that morning and, most importantly, to God. It was her gift of love - on Christmas morning, played from her heart and for God's ears. I felt overwhelmingly blessed to witness this outpouring of what she had to offer - and, so freely given.
The tears just ran down my face. I couldn't stop them. I sat there listening and my heart was full. I kept feeling this nudge that I wanted to help this gal in some way. I reached into my purse and found some cash that I have no idea where it came from. I NEVER have cash on me. And, if for some reason I do, it is never more than a dollar or two. So, I was standing there wrestling with myself about what I should do when Mo. Pat came and put her hand on my shoulder and asked me if I was going to make it. I told her I thought so and wasn't sure. I told her I wanted to give a "gift" to this woman without insulting or embarrassing her and I didn't know the best way. So, we found a blank envelope, I marked it "Merry Christmas" and thought I'd just quietly and anonymously slip it inside the woman's music folder. Then I decided I needed to hand it to her. So, I did, and whispered "Thank You" and "Merry Christmas" - the most extraordinary thing happened. This woman tried to hand the envelope back to me. She told me we had offered her so much: we had given her food and clothing and now "this" (she didn't even know what "this" was). I smiled at her and told her, "For you! Really, I don't know what else to do. I'm overwhelmed". She just smiled at me, embraced me completely around the shoulders and gave me a tight, long and heart-felt hug and wished me Merry Christmas, as well.
She was completely unaware that she gave the true meaning of Christmas to me that morning. After the service, I got in the car and the words to "Little Drummer Boy" kept rolling through my head...
Come they told me,
A new born King to see,
Our finest gifts we bring
To lay before the King;
So to honor Him,
When we come.
I am a poor boy too,
I have no gift to bring,
That's fit to give the King,
Shall I play for you, ,
On my drum?
The ox and lamb kept time,
I played my drum for Him,
I played my best for Him,
Then He smiled at me,
Me and my drum.
I'm intrigued by this woman. I wonder about her life story and how she has ended up where she is. I"m curious about the circumstances which have brought her to this difficult place in her life.
So, an Offering - of self, of talent, of joy, of thankfulness, of love. I'm thankful for this woman's gift to me- one that she is completely unaware she gave. And, I'm thankful for her sweet gift lovingly and gratefully offered to God, who is totally aware of what she laid before Him.
And, I pray that I always remember - even when it doesn't feel like I have much to offer - I always have a gift worthy to lay before my King if I offer my heart.