by Ken Rolheiser
Advent forgiveness and Christmas love

    The call came from the red-light district of the city. The woman said one of the girls was dying. She was calling for a minister. My father always responded to such an appeal. “Get your coat, Norman,” he said. “I want you to come too.”
    My mother was aghast. “You don’t mean you’d take a fifteen-year-old boy into a place like that!”
    My father said, “There’s a lot of sin and sadness and despair in human life. Norman can’t be shielded from it forever.”
    We came to a big old frame house. There, lying in a big brass bed, was a pathetic, doll-like young girl, so white and frail that she seemed like a child, scarcely older than I was.
    The girl reached for his hand. She whispered that she had come from a good Christian home and was sorry for the things she had done. She was dying and she was afraid. “I’ve been so bad,” she said. “So bad.”
    My father put both his big strong hands around her small one and said, “There is no such thing as a bad girl. There are girls who act badly sometimes, but there are no bad girls—or bad boys either—because God made them, and He makes all things good. Do you believe in Jesus?”
    The girl nodded. He continued, “Then let me hear you say, ‘Dear Jesus, forgive me for my sins.’” She repeated those words. “Now,” he said, “God loves you, His child who has strayed, and He has forgiven you, and no matter when the time comes, He will take you to your heavenly home.”
    There were tears on the faces of the other women standing there, and on my own, too, because everything sordid, everything corrupt was simply swept away.
    There was beauty in that place of evil. The love born in Bethlehem was revealing itself again on a dark and dismal street in Cincinnati, Ohio, and nothing could withstand it. Nothing.
    So that was the gift I received that Christmas, the frankincense-knowledge that there is good in all people, even the sad and the forlorn, and that no one need be lost because of past mistakes. (Christmas stories from Norman Vincent Peale).
    Advent is an opportunity to come back to the love of Jesus and to set things right. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12).
    As a teacher I spent many years going to conventions listening to speakers. I know that in order for a speaker to change you, he has to touch the core of your belief system. Only then can change result that will affect your future behavior and direction.
    The Holy Spirit has the power to touch the center of our beliefs, where we live, and bring about change. The word of God in scripture is how Jesus can touch our very being and transform us this Advent.
    Where do we wish to be at the end of our Advent journey? I came across a prayer that included this wish: “O God…look upon your people whose dry and stony hearts are parched with thirst. Unseal the living water of your Spirit; let it become within us an ever-flowing spring, leaping up to eternal life.” (Living With Christ, February 2005). 

(563 words)