Margaret picked up the Angel Tree gift from the counter. She locked the door of her condo behind her as she caught her breath against the icy wind. I sure am thankful for heated leather seats on an evening like this. The parking lot sparkled like glitter under the safety lights. I’ll have to go easy on the road in case it’s slippery. Margaret turned on her favorite Christmas CD and eased her car out of the carport. “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…everywhere I go…” she sang along as she turned south on Prairie Avenue. Suddenly bright lights were directly in front of her and she swerved to avoid the oncoming vehicle.
She shuddered as she stepped into the foyer of the church. Whew, that was close. She was still shaken from the adrenaline rush. She reached for the coat hanger and took a deep breath. A cup of coffee and some good old fashion fellowship, and I’ll be just fine. She always looked forward to the Ladies’ Christmas Celebration.
“Hi! My name is Betty. Welcome to The Church.”
“Hello, Betty. Uh, I’m Margaret. It’s nice to meet you. I don’t recognize you. Are you new here?”
“Oh, no! I’ve been a member since I was eleven years old. Come in. I have some friends I’d like you to meet.”
“I’m sorry. I’ve been a member of Sonshine Baptist for twenty three years and I’ve never seen you before. How can that be?” She rubbed her forehead, shook off the strange feeling that was flooding over her, and returned Betty’s gracious smile.
“The important thing, Margaret, is that we are sisters in Christ! Come, now…I want you to meet our brothers, Paul and Timothy.”
“Brothers? Are they singing tonight at the Ladies’ Banquet?”
Betty hooked her arm around Margaret’s elbow and guided her through the banquet room doors.
As soon as they entered the room, the bright Light at the far end caused Margaret to cover her face and her heart pounded boldly in her chest. Maybe that close call rattled me more than I realized.
Betty patted her hand and reassured her. “It’s okay, Margaret. Everyone has that reaction when they first see the Light.”
“You don’t understand…on my way here--“
“It’s okay, dear. I do understand. Come along.”
Betty whisked Margaret into the kitchen where they were greeted by many faces. As Margaret was struggling to make some sense of it all, an Asian woman extended her hand and smiled as she said, “Welcome, Margaret. I’m so glad to meet you.”
Next, an African-American man vigorously shook her whole arm. “Glad to meet ya, missy. Glad to meet ya. Name’s Alfred. Pleasure’s mine.”
A Russian couple squeezed forward and wrapped their strong arms around her in a robust hug.
A French man kissed her hand, “Welcome, Madame Margaret.” He bowed and smiled into her eyes.
She felt as if she was spinning to the point of dizziness. “I think I need to sit down. I’m feeling…”
The Light was shining in her eyes again, but this time instead of covering her face, she wept. The Light was soft and inviting, warm and enveloping. She blinked the last tears from her eyes as He reached out and wiped them away, pausing with His hand on her cheek.
She looked into His eyes with all the knowing she ever desired being fulfilled in that moment. “Well done, my good and faithful Margaret. You believed in Me and served The Church very well. Welcome home.” Joy burst forth in her heart with a fullness she had previously experienced only in part.
Margaret looked around the Banquet Room. Transformation took place before her eyes, as if they were opened anew. The familiar elements of her home church were there, but different. Exquisite chandeliers sparkled around the room. Ornately carved wood accented the ceiling. Rich green velvet plush covered all the seats.
Faces from her past now surrounded her. “Dad, Mother, Dan, Sandra….Oh!”
The song of children tingled in her ears. She watched them dancing across the room, beautiful in melody, every tune sweet and savory.
Betty rested her arm over Margaret’s shoulder. “Now, for more introductions. Meet your whole family: our brothers, Paul, Timothy, Elijah, David, Joseph…; sisters, Mary, Tabitha, Deborah, Ruth…”
She joined with others from all over the world she had never before met. All spoke one language…one people…one Church…every nation, every walk of life, every age and size…together forever…one.
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