Manger Inconveniences

LifeLink Devotional

Monday, December 21, 2020

Contrary to what was announced yesterday in church, our son Joshua did not have his fiftieth birthday.  It was his birthday, but he is far from fifty, although far is a relative term. He is closer to fifty than I am.

I will never forget Josh’s day of birth. It was 1983, and Watertown, South Dakota was in the worst cold snap I have ever experienced.  When Denise informed me that she was in labor, the temperature was twenty below zero with wind chills in the sixty below range. But it was about to get worse.

My faithful 1964 ford pickup started right up, and after it was warm I helped Denise to the truck and we drove to the hospital.  We informed the doctor that the previous two births of children had been very quick, so we were rushed right into the delivery room. The doctor took up his catcher’s position, ready to catch Denise’s fastball. But the unexpected happened. Labor stopped. The doctor left the room, telling the nurses to call him when it was time for an actual delivery.

We waited. And waited. The winds howled outside. It had been the coldest December ever in South Dakota. The average temperature for the month was only two degrees above zero.  And we were smack dab in the middle of the ten coldest December days ever. But we weren’t thinking about how cold it was outside. We were wondering when this baby was going to decide to take its first breath.  We were anxious to see if it would be a boy or a girl.

Finally labor kicked in, and about an hour later the doctor returned. Denise delivered a long and skinny boy. I almost said she delivered a brand new baby boy, but I caught myself. I have always wondered why we use such redundant terms.  Has anyone ever delivered a grown boy or girl?  It’s always a baby, and it’s always brand new.

Anyway, I digress.  While Denise was in the hospital, I had to keep working.  Friends watched our other two children while I went into the radio station every morning to work. There was no family leave policy back in those days. Denise was scheduled to come home on Christmas Eve, which was a Saturday.  I had the morning shift of work so I was on the air at six in the morning. When I arrived at the radio station at five-thirty I remember seeing the digital thermometer in the control room. It read forty-two below zero. I looked at the wind speed. Fifty-five miles an hour.  I pushed the button to calculate windchill. I didn’t know it was possible to be over one hundred below zero, but there it was – one-hundred three degrees below zero.

I immediately called CBS Radio News in New York and did a newscast with Charles Kuralt. It aired on the CBS national news at the top of the hour. My roommate from college days called me from California when he heard it.  I still have a cassette tape of the story. Later that morning I would arrive at the hospital to load up my wife and son in the truck to bring them home. But that story is for tomorrow.

For today, let me share a lesson I learned from recalling those days. I can remember the facts of the story.  I can remember the bitter cold. I can recall how hard it was to go anywhere and do anything outdoors. I can still hear the creaking of the truck as it tried to move, much like the creaking of my bones as I try to move in the mornings. But all of those things combined cannot compare to the warmth that flooded my heart as I held my son and experienced the joy of new life. God has a way of covering all the bad with His good and gracious hand.

Whatever coldness has invaded your heart, you can be warmed by the joy of new life found in Jesus Christ. I’m sure Mary would testify that the joy of Jesus’ birth overcame any manger inconveniences. I know I can testify that the birth of a son warms my heart exponentially more than any memories of the coldest time of my life. 

The birth of Jesus in your heart will do the same for you.

Pastor John

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