A Season Of Love
By Susan Dollyhigh
On the third week of Advent, I arrived at the homeless shelter planning to light the third purple candle that symbolizes love. Planning to talk about God’s love for all His children, even His children who feel they don’t deserve to be loved. Planning to assure the residents that they are lovable – that they are loved by their Father’s children and by their Father.
Climbing the stairs leading to the kitchen, I heard little hands clapping and little cherubic voices chanting, “Yeah, Miss Susie’s here! Yeah, Miss Susie’s here!” Arriving at the kitchen door, the two little cherubs sat at the table, eyes glistening and mouths smiling.
“Wow, what a welcome!” And a feeling of love spread throughout my heart as I greeted the little three and five-year-old girls. Placing the Advent candles in the center of the kitchen table, we lit the three purple candles. “I know what the first candle is for!” exclaimed the blonde five-year-old girl. Her mouth rounded into an “O” shape as her eyes danced and she smiled up at me. We planned to play “Advent Trivia” and this little girl was ready. She looked as if she had waited the entire week just to say the word “hope.”
“You are right!” Even though the game hadn’t officially begun, I reached into the bag of prizes and got out a small gift for her. Little sister, not about to be outdone, leaned in close and whispered, “Baby Jesus.” She knew what we’d been talking about.” Very good!” And I pulled a second prize from the bag and placed it in her small outstretched hands.
Unknowingly, these two little ones had just shared the Christmas message – Baby Jesus and hope. I could have left at this point, for enough had already been said, but I wanted to share the message of love with them.
Someone turned off the overhead light and with the flames of hope, peace and love flickering; the nine of us talked about the everlasting love God has for us. We talked about how God’s plan for salvation for us was motivated by His great love for us. We talked about how He desires to have an intimate relationship and spend eternity with us. We talked about how that’s why Jesus was born in a manger and died on a cross – to give us the greatest gift we’ll ever receive – the gift of salvation. We talked about how all we have to do to receive this gift is to believe God’s truth and make the decision to turn from our sins and receive God’s forgiveness. We talked about how God, unlike man, is not impressed with our station in life – with where we live or what we drive or the clothes that we wear. He’s not impressed with our degrees and accomplishments or who we know. He’s impressed with our hearts and our desire to know and love Him. We talked about how God proved this when He chose the shepherds, the poor peasants of the day, who were considered unclean and outcasts in society over kings and people with wealth and power to be the first to hear the good news of Jesus’ birth.
We talked about how no matter what we think of ourselves or what others think about us, God sent His Son, Jesus, for everyone of us. He sent Him for the outcasts and the kings, for the homeless and the wealthy, for the ill and the healthy, for the jobless and employed, for the addicts and the sober, for the imprisoned and the free. The Father lavished this great love on all of us, His children.
After this, we played “Advent Trivia” with questions being asked about all the things we’d learned about hope, peace, and love. One of the young boys living there recounted the entire story almost word for word of why the color purple is considered the color of royalty. He told us that when Christ lived on earth the purple dye was the most expensive to produce because it was squeezed from snails and it took over 10,000 mollusks to make enough dye for just one robe. He and his two little brothers loved that story. As the three of them laughed, I was reminded of the things little boys’ love: snakes and snails and puppy dog tails, and I once again experienced a feeling of love spread throughout my heart.
As I prepared to leave that evening, one of the residents said, “Hold on a minute!” She ran from the room and returned with a small package wrapped in Christmas paper. “This is for you – open it now.” She placed the gift in my hand and I tore the wrapping off and lifted the lid of a small box to find a small green glass snail. “I saw this and thought of you and the snail story. I just had to get it for you.” I felt my eyes fill with tears and for the third time that evening a feeling of love spread throughout my heart.
I came that evening hoping to share the message of love with those living in the shelter. To assure them that they are lovable, that they are loved by their Father’s children and by their Father. I can only hope that on that night of Advent my message of love came across as clearly as the message of love I received from them as the little girls so excitedly greeted me as I entered the kitchen, as the boys shared the snail story showing that they had been paying attention and finally as I received my most treasured Christmas gift of the season – the gift of a green glass snail. We said goodbye and as I closed the door to leave, I thought, “How great is the love that the Father has lavished on me…”