"Hurry, kids!" Mr. Emerson called. Ted, Laurie, and Julie tumbled downstairs for devotions, claiming their favorite spots beside their Dad.
"Tonight's devotional is from the newspaper," Mrs. Emerson said. Glancing over the rim of her glasses at the couch of squirming children, she waited for them to settle before reading aloud:
"Dear Editor," the letter began. "As Christmas nears, do you look for people to help who are homeless or hurting? I do -- but this year I'll be reaching out to people I've always overlooked, in a way I've never tried: you may be one of them.
"This year, I don't have to look past the mirror to find a financially hurting family: by Christmas my family will be homeless, if God doesn't send a miracle. We were thriving until both my wife and I got sick. Then new laws passed and we lost our business. Unable to find replacement income, now we're losing our home: it's a big house with no ready buyer. Because of the bankruptcy and unemployment, no one wants us as tenants, either. How do we tell our children?
"Already depressed, sorting keepsakes made it worse until I noticed a painting on a Christmas card I was discarding. There was Joseph, urgently leading Mary into Bethlehem on the back of a donkey. But wait -- Mary wasn't pregnant: she held the newborn Jesus in her arms. Of course! This was a depiction of God's chosen family's flight into Egypt.
"How odd. While holding Jesus -- the Creator God through whom all that exists came into being, the eternal King before whom every knee shall bow -- His earthly parents fled for their lives. Even though living in complete obedience to God, He planned for them to become, for a season, homeless refugees.
"My family's situation is different, yet Joseph and Mary must have felt like I do: friendless, worthless, nothing but a burden. . . all alone. But then I realized, God is weaving our seemingly desperate circumstances into His special plan of grace, just as He did for them. Even though I don't know our new address -- God knows, and He's booked the Bridal Suite for me and my saved family, for eternity.
"How do I know? We follow a Risen Savior with lots of experience being homeless and unwelcome. 'Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head,' said Jesus in Matthew 8:20, referring to His own situation on earth. He warned us that His followers could expect the same. Nevertheless, He assures us in John 14: 1-2, 'Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.' Because of Jesus Christ's promise we will never truly be homeless, no matter what!
"Things are different for my family this Christmas. Suddenly I know how truly rich we are, because I understand real poverty -- the spiritual bankruptcy that counts, if you're living without Jesus. I'd rather be homeless now for a season with God's blessing, than homeless forever, without. For now my family may not be living like kings, but we are children of the King, and that's what matters. And the King of kings and Lord of lords who cares for the sparrows -- He also cares for us.
"One way He does that is through your acts of kindness -- and how much we appreciate your encouraging gifts and compassion: please continue. But first, look to the condition of your own heart. Jesus said, 'I tell you, whoever acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man will also acknowledge him before the angels of God. But he who disowns me before men will be disowned before the angels of God' (Luke 12: 8-9).
"Are you homeless? If you've disowned Jesus, this message is my gift: Make a home for Jesus in your own heart today, and He'll make a home for you, forever! (Signed) A child of the King."
"Whew!" Mrs. Emerson folded the newspaper and removed her glasses. The children quietly joined hands to pray, thanking God for his abundant blessings to them, and especially for the miracle of salvation. Together they prayed for the homeless: those needing shelter for a season, and even more importantly, those needing shelter for eternity.
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