My great aunt Mabel wrote a Christmas poem decades ago, and each year we read it together as a family. The third stanza reads:
Now is the time to prepare our hearts,
Sweep every corner clean,
Dust out the cobwebs of fear and doubt,
Mop stains of sin when seen.
Make room for the Babe of Bethlehem;
Invite our Lord Christ in;
Give first place to him who died
To save us all from sin.
Our Advent season here in Ukraine lasts for about six weeks. Many of our students celebrate a fast during this time, giving up sweets or something more precious. We wait together for this blessed holy day. At the Youth to Jesus student center, our lives are filled with waiting. We wait the return of our beloved friends David and Shannon and their exuberant boys. We wait on government institutions and construction firms for the completion of our new student center. We wait for some students to be led by God back into the fold of this ministry. We wait for that sense of peace that only Christ can bring after an enormous tragedy.
My great aunt Mabel kept a small, ceramic, light-up Christmas tree in her living room year round. In childhood amusement, I wrongly assumed that she was too lazy to put it away in January. As the words of her poem ring through my ears, I understand her need of a constant reminder of the King's coming. At the Christmas eve candlelight services of my childhood, I would stand on the pew and snuggle up against her wool jacket as we sang "Joy to the World." Her arm around my torso, she would whisper-sing each word into my ear - each note a quiet prayer for me.
As our students prepare their hearts for the coming King, we believe the words of that famous hymn: He rules the world with truth and grace, And makes the nations prove,The glories of His righteousness,And wonders of His love! During these last few months, we felt God's truth and grace as we faced each challenge. We felt your prayers and received the glory of God's righteousness through your loving kindness.
Thank you for being a part of this ministry. Thank you for lifting us up in prayer, giving above and beyond for this ministry, and thinking of our students during this time. We wait together this Advent season, knowing that as Christ showed up in the manger, God's love and grace for us will show up in the most unusual places and unexpected ways.