Hear the Sound of Heaven’s Joy
Chapter 3 A Dream Come True
The twins had much to talk about given the span of time since they had last seen each other. Although Emma wasn’t sure what to expect. However, the awkward silence didn’t last long as Ethan surprisingly broke it by asking, “How’s Papa doing?” Emma detailed Papa’s declining health as best she could.
“Thanks, I’m really looking forward to seeing him, again.” he said. Emma wondered if this really was just a dream.
Ethan here for Christmas? It just didn’t seem possible to her… but whether or not it was just a dream, she was going to enjoy it as long as it lasted. Topic after topic came and went from that point on. A last gasp of the fire’s embers had gone unnoticed as the room’s temperature grew steadily cooler which in one sense was replaced by the warmth of a renewed kindred spirit relationship, a long-awaited reunion between sibling twins who were also fellow believers in Christ. For it was evident to both of them that God’s enduring patient love had softened many of the roughened edges weighing down Ethan’s heart during his self-imposed absence from the family.
God’s Holy Spirit had diligently chipped away at Ethan’s indifference and his acceptance of counterfeit lies about God’s love, his family’s love, his purpose and place in this world. Emma’s fervent and patient prayers for her twin brother had never ceased though they were separated physically by time and distance. However, Ethan was never out of reach from the love of Christ who would never leave or forsake him. It took Ethan a while to work through it all. Papa had also gone through his own youthful wilderness. He knew the Lord could still rescue Ethan no matter how far he strayed from the Good Shepherd. So, Papa patiently waited for the Holy Spirit to do what he couldn’t do for Ethan and faithfully kept on praying, just as Ethan’s grandparents had done for their wandering son.
Emma avoided asking Ethan why he stayed away for so long. She pretty much knew anyway. And, it would be better if he brought up that topic himself, if he even wanted to talk about it. Eventually, Ethan touched on that subject by admitting, “You know, I took Thad’s death pretty hard.”
“Yes, I know,” she replied with a compassionate voice, “you two were very close.”
“I couldn’t even think about it,” Ethan said, “Much less talk about it…. it hurt so much… and then Mama.”
His voice trailed off to a near whisper as he opened his soul to his twin sister’s attentive ear.
Emma wrapped her arm around Ethan, hugged him tightly, as he continued.
“I think I’m beginning to accept what happened, though I may never really totally understand why.”
Emma remembered a verse she’d recently memorized and shared it with Ethan, saying it had helped her lately: “The LORD is near to the brokenhearted, And saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18 NASB).
“Remember when Papa read us the Luke 15 parables?” Emma quizzed, “He called it the lost until found chapter, it reminded me of those lost-and-found boxes in grade school piled high with lost coats, mittens and hats.”
Ethan recalled Jesus’ parables about a lost sheep, a lost coin and a young man who’d lost his way… like himself.
“Papa used real-life experiences to teach us,” Ethan said, “Our own lost lamb that he carried back to the barn on his shoulders… the missing coin from your collection that had rolled under your bed out of reach, Emma.”
Then Ethan paused, thinking sadly about how he himself had become like a “prodigal son” to this family.
“I know you and the others are mad at me for leaving… not coming to say goodbye to Mama… and Papa…, I feel so badly for letting him down, leaving you to carry the load that was mine all these years… I’m so very sorry, Emma.”
“I wasn’t going to come this year either,” he confessed, “But with Papa ailing and all, I changed my mind.”
“But I do have to say that I had to rescue your invitation from burning up in my woodstove.” he said.
For one rare brief moment in her life, Emma was speechless until asking him, “Would you pray with me?”
“Yes,” he replied without hesitation, “Just like old times, eh?”
So, together they prayed—just like old times made new—recalling Lamentations 3:19-25 taught to them by Mama about the LORD’s lovingkindness and compassions that are new every morning. “…Great is Thy faithfulness” (3:23)
And speaking of morning, it was dawning on them quickly. Just enough time to catch a few winks of sleep.
Chapter 4 A Multitude of the Heavenly Host
Christmas on the family farm began just like any other day of the year. Animals still needed feeding and tending plus the other daily chores were aptly named… daily. But each animal did receive a little extra grain or hay that morning to bolster their usual ration of food. And, with eager nieces and nephews present, the workload was lighter; not seen as work at all, but instead as fun! For what else could possibly explain how doing chores could produce the amount of laughter, smiles and wide-eyed wonderment of God’s creation witnessed by the family that morning? Next, was a race to the breakfast tables to hear the Christmas manger story, read from Luke’s gospel.
With everybody seated at one of the tables located either in the kitchen or the adjacent enclosed porch, Papa opened his well-worn Bible to Luke Chapter Two, blessed the food and began reading, “And it came to pass in those days…” (KJV). When Papa finished reading the first verse, he handed the opened Bible to the person on his left, who then read the next verse. The Bible continued its journey around the tables until reaching the twins’ oldest sister at Verse 10: “And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people,” (KJV) then giving way to the next oldest sister who read, “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord” (KJV). Her son read Verse 12, “And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger” (KJV).
Now it was Ethan’s turn. A hush fell over the tables as everybody paused in anticipation of hearing his voice again. Ethan cleared his throat and hesitated momentarily as he stared intently at the words on the tear-stained page before him. As his mouth opened to speak… a tiny voice interrupted the thick silence. Everybody turned their heads away from Ethan and toward his youngest niece, Sally, who was sitting on her mother’s lap. Little Sally saw a life-like sheep stuffed toy, setting on a shelf behind Papa, pointed to it and began singing—a Christmas carol consisting of just one word: sheep. This budding soprano’s voice ranged higher and lower as she recalled helping Papa feed the sheep shortly before breakfast. One chore Papa always considered a labor of love.
Joyous laughter and clapping erupted around the tables, helping erase any lingering tensions caused by having a “lost sheep” prodigal son sitting at their Christmas breakfast tables. Ethan smiled and started again, “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,” (KJV) as he handed the Bible to Emma before finishing so that she could seamlessly continue the thought, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (KJV). It was just like old times… other than Sally’s songfest. And with the reading of Luke Chapter Two completed, it was time to dig in and eat the hearty breakfast that had been kept warm by the kitchen stove and oven for all to enjoy.
“And the shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them (Luke 2:20 NASB).
Alan Summers, GBC Elder
Next up: Chapters 5 and 6 continue the story.
All Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible (NASB), 1975 edition unless indicated as King James Version (KJV), Scofield Reference Bible 1945 edition.