Find ministry in the interruptions this busy holiday season
By William H. Griffith
It was the Sunday before Christmas, which fell midweek that year. I preached at my home church at 9:30 a.m., then at the retirement home at 11 a.m. and, finally, at the 1 p.m. chapel service at the local health center. This was my usual weekly schedule. As on most Sunday afternoons, I fell asleep watching a football game.
When I woke from my nap, my wife reminded me that we needed to get ready to go Christmas caroling with the church at 6 p.m. It wasn’t how I wanted to spend the evening, but, to support the effort, we went.
We got home about 8 p.m., and, by 9:30, I was asleep in bed. At 11 p.m., the telephone rang. When I answered, a stranger’s voice asked me if I was the pastor, and I said, “yes.” The man proceeded to tell me that he and his wife were traveling for Christmas and had broken down on the interstate. They needed a place to stay and help getting the car repaired.
I knew our local agencies were closed at that hour of the night. He said they were at a restaurant just off the highway. I knew the place and promised to be there as soon as possible.
The temperature was below freezing and the ground was snow-covered. I got dressed and headed out. To be honest, my attitude was, “Why me? How did he even get my phone number?”
Through the frosted windows of the restaurant, I could see two people at the counter. I went in and introduced myself, and they told me their story. They were young, in their late teens, and she was six months pregnant. When they admitted they had not eaten lately, I bought them each a meal, and we talked about their problem. Our church would cover the cost of an overnight stay at a local motel, and I suggested that we deal with the car in the morning. They were grateful for the help.
The next morning, I picked them up early and took them to a nearby gas station that I knew did good repair work. We explained the problem to the owner, and he promised to send a tow truck to pick up the car. I took the couple out for breakfast and then dropped them back at the hotel until we heard the car was ready.
All this time, I knew I needed to be back in my office preparing for our Christmas Eve service the next night. I was frustrated by having my schedule interrupted.
About 11:30 a.m. I got a call saying that the car was repaired, so I went to the hotel, picked them up, and took them to get the car. The station owner said he would bill the church for the repair, but he was not charging the full price. We thanked him for his speedy service and filled the tank with gasoline. I gave the couple some cash for their journey, and they went on their way, while I went back to my office to prepare a Christmas Eve message.
I was aggravated because the interruptions over the past 12 hours had kept me from important ministry preparation. But, as I sat at my desk to begin writing my sermon, it suddenly dawned on me. That young couple was the Christmas message: a young pregnant couple looking for lodging.
In this busy holiday season, may God help us to discover such moments of gospel ministry that happen in the midst of the interruptions.
Adapted from “8 Questions Jesus Asked: Discipleship for Leaders” by Daniel M. Cash and William H. Griffith (Valley Forge, PA: Judson Press, 2017, 29–32). Used with permission of the publisher. To order, call 800–4-JUDSON or visit www.judsonpress.com.
The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of American Baptist Home Mission Societies.