December 5

LORD, you were favorable to your land;
you restored the fortunes of Jacob.
You forgave the iniquity of your people;
you pardoned all their sin. Selah
Let me hear what God the LORD will speak,
for he will speak peace to his people,
to his faithful, to those who turn to him in their hearts.
Surely his salvation is at hand for those who fear him,
that his glory may dwell in our land.
Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet;
righteousness and peace will kiss each other.
Faithfulness will spring up from the ground,
and righteousness will look down from the sky.
The LORD will give what is good,
and our land will yield its increase.
Righteousness will go before him,
and will make a path for his steps.

--Psalm 85: 1-2, 8-13 (NRSV)

The night was cold and moonlit. The air was crisp and scented with the fragrance of wood smoke from homes alongside the lake. The three of us made our way through the deep snow to our favorite fishing spot of last summer. Our five-year-old daughter and I followed closely in the footsteps of my husband Jim, home for "Christmas in February" again. It seemed as though the Navy always planned these New England celebrations well after the Holiday, but we had our Christmas tree and decorations, and Santa made some special deliveries just for us, including snow we often didn't have in late December. We read again from the gospel of Luke the story of the birth of the One who died to forgive our sins and who came to give us the greatest gift of all.

Blissville Pond in Lisbon, Connecticut was frozen solid. It was a treat for Southerners from Tennessee to watch a pick-up truck fitted with a snowplow drive out onto the ice to clear off a place for skating and ice hockey games. We had never seen lakes freeze so solidly that you could play on them almost all winter long. You could probably walk across the lake to visit neighbors in those houses with the glowing windows and warm fireplaces. The snow was deep and coated with a thin, crunchy cover of ice. Our footsteps almost echoed as we made our way down the slope to the spot where last year we had caught those plump little sunfish and bass. Daddy had been at sea in a submarine that past summer, but we had made sure to take pictures of mother and daughter smiling and holding up the "big fish" for the camera. Now, it was hard to believe anything could survive under the shining surface of a foot or two of ice.

No need for "Mr. Reg" and his snowplow tonight. The ice was perfect across the six-acre lake. Not a wrinkle or a ripple appeared on that smooth surface. We huddled together for warmth and stood amazed at the beauty of God's creation. Crystalline bits of frost drifted down from the branches and the little trailer park where we lived was transformed into our own special winter wonderland. We didn't have much in the way of material possessions back then, but we had our faith and each other, and we had love.

The Psalmist tells us that love, faithfulness, righteousness and peace will meet each other just as the star-filled night sky met the snow and ice that winter's night. Faithfulness will spring up from the ground as the grass and wildflowers would spring up to replace the path we left on the snow-covered embankment. Righteousness will look down from heaven as sure as the rain falls and as certainly as we expect God's love to yield crops of goodwill and peace.

To our daughter, the snow covering our familiar route was an obstacle she didn't understand. Wearing her snowsuit and boots, she thought it would be easy after leaving the cleared road to make her way by walking beside daddy. She would walk a few steps on top of the snow, and then she'd sink nearly to her waist in a drift. She learned that with comforting hands holding hers and a trail already blazed, her route was made easy. So we can remember the loving hands of our Heavenly Father who holds onto our own and provides a path for our steps through the sacrifice of His Son. Do we remember to try to place our feet in the steps of the path He walked for us? Pathways of life become so much easier if we stick to the road he paved with his Word.

I don't know which of us first did the same familiar thing we always used to do in the summer. One of us picked up a nice, small flat stone and casually leaned down with a sidearm flick of the wrist and skipped the stone as though it might hop or jump several times and then plop into warm summer water. It skimmed the mirrored surface without a bounce or a bump. On and on it traveled, making an eerie sound that none of us had ever heard before. The extreme quiet and stillness of the winter night permitted a strange noise to resound along with the stone out onto the pond. The stone went further than any pebble had ever traveled over the surface of the unfrozen lake in the summer. We began to dig in the snow of the lakeshore to find more and more of the little rocks with a nice flat surface. It was an amazing night as we continued to toss those flat stones across the pond beyond our wildest expectations. We think that some of them even traveled the entire distance between our shore and the closest houses on the far side. We could hear them as they sang along the ice, the most unusual sound we had ever heard. It seemed a reminder of eternity.

Snow began to fall and the time of "singing" stones across the lake ended with us retracing our path home. The following morning the lake had a fresh layer of snow over the ice and no stone would be skipping across to the other side. We have tried it again and again over the years at many different places, but never have the right combination of circumstances existed that resulted in the same effect of sound, sight or distance. The stones singing across the pond that icy night resound in my ears nearly thirty years later.

I remember those Christmas celebrations we had when we waited long past other Decembers, but I remember this one most of all. I have known people in my life that seemed like those stones, skimming along a straight way until their love and faithfulness met the sky and their souls sailed on into eternity with Him. It is a good memory and one in which we can see the pathways of our lives and of the path we will tread if we follow in the footsteps of our Lord.

Gentle and Loving Creator, we listen to the words of love and joy that you speak to our souls. We look to You for guidance on the unfamiliar roads of our lives and sing out with love for You. May we travel on this earth with our hands in Yours and be guided into eternal life through the grace of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

--Auntie Em


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