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DECEMBER 2004
ISSUE HOMEPAGE

A Breath of Fresh Air
A Merry Heart
A Woman's World
A Word in Season
Acting Up
Cyber Walk
Faith Seekers
Golden Apples
Heaven Bound
Just Between Men
Take it to Heart
Teen Truth
The Parents'
Survival Guide

The Treehouse
'Tis the Season
The Joy of Family
The Rhythm of Life
We Are the Church


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A Christian Carole (With Apologies to Charles Dickens)
By John Hunt

The crowd’s raucous laughter blurred into a macabre hum, while the pounding beat of the music reverberated through me.

"Why have you brought me here?" I demanded from the stranger.

Without saying a word, the foreboding figure pointed toward the corner of the room. There, seated on a barstool, was a much younger version of myself, feigning laughter as I swapped banter with the small group of people. For the life of me, I couldn’t remember ever having met any of them. For that matter, the sultry bar scene that played out before my eyes was completely forgotten to me. To my discredit, and much to my utter disdain, I had had far too many such scenes in my lifetime. Now I could, in no wise, recall a single particular instance from the many that crowded my head. Slowly, I looked toward the patrons seated throughout the seedy establishment. They all seemed to be joyously laughing such as I, living the good life, as it were – eating, drinking, and being merry. Only then did I remember…

The empty laughter echoed like a hollow timpani throughout my soul, while the fermented spirits only served to numb my despair. Wounded and bitter, I had once again plunged myself into a life apart from my Creator. But the cost to my soul was an emptiness that seared my spirit, a hopelessness that tainted my laughter. Yes, I remembered this scene very well.

"Who are you?" I angrily asked. "Why have you shown me this?"

No answer was forthcoming.

Then I recalled the apparition’s appearance to me earlier that evening. He had told me that there would be three visitations that night – the first being before the stroke of midnight, and the latter two before the morning’s dawn. This must be the ghost of Christian past, I thought to myself.

As we traveled back to my bedroom in the midst of that solemn night, a desolate wind seemed to whisper to me in an inaudible voice:

Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful, and the end of that mirth is heaviness.

I awoke from my fitful sleep, admittedly relieved to find myself safe in my bed. "It was only a dream," I said to myself, nervously chuckling. But what did it mean? I had long since repented of my obstinate ways, of my rebellious spirit. "That was a long time ago," I said out loud, fervently trying to remind myself of the fact – even more so than trying to convince any invisible wayfarer that might be lurking in the darkness. As seconds passed into minutes, and ergo minutes into hours, I finally lay down, taking an uneasy rest.

Anon, a second visitor abruptly awakened me – seemingly without repose – shaking me to the bones.

"Wh-Who are you?" I timidly asked.

"I am the ghost of Christian present," he replied in a resonant voice. Then, uttering a concise command, he told me to follow him.

Suddenly I found myself in a separate room of my house, quite befuddled, watching over my children as they knelt and prayed.

"Jesus, please help our daddy. He’s been working so very hard and spending so much time at work. I know that’s why he yelled at Mommy and us today; I know he didn’t mean it."

I hung my head in shame. The hectic pace of my life had sapped my spirit and robbed my joy. I now neglected my once vibrant life of prayer, and each day was spent in only transient moments with the Word.

In my bed again, I drifted off to sleep as willow branches swayed in the breeze outside my window. They seemed to speak to me in a harmonious tone:

A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.

The last visitor arrived in like fashion as the former. It was the ghost of Christian future. I was forthwith transported to a quite puzzling scene, a scene that I could not understand. I saw myself laughing heartily and boisterously that day, but for a reason that was presently unknown to me. An opaque haze obscured the remainder of the setting, such as a cameo painting’s background that is faded with brushstrokes of dark hues.

Before I could ask the ghost what this scene meant, and before I could even try and gather my thoughts, I was again within the surety of my bedroom, staring into a darkened void.

My perplexing quandary unconsummated, I called out.

"Wait!" I shouted. "What does this mean? Why was I laughing so? Was this the veiled laughter of emptiness, or the healing laughter of a joyous heart?"

I was shaken into fits of worry as my words faded into the empty room. The apparition was gone.

In the dispassion of that calm night, I prayed. The Spirit’s still, small voice then spoke to me. "That, my child, remains to be seen. It is for you to choose what path you will take – and that path must be chosen each and every day."

Then, as if speaking to me Himself, the words of my Savior came to mind:

These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.

A bright sliver of sunlight streamed through my bedroom window and onto my face, slowly awakening me to a new dawn. It was Christmas Day. Hastily, I jumped out of bed and rushed downstairs to find my wife and children anxiously awaiting my arrival. As I read the Christmas story that morning, a joyful spirit filled our house – it was the joy that came from knowing His presence.

Laughter came to fill our house from that day forward, but it wasn’t the hollow laughter of an empty heart, or even the superficial laughter of a jovial spirit. Rather, it was the soul-filled, peaceful laughter of a joyous heart.

May your holiday season be filled with the joyful laughter that comes from knowing our Savior – Jesus Christ, the Lord.
John Hunt lives near Chicago, Illinois with his wife of ten years and three children. He is the author of the novel In the Image of the Beast awaiting publication. His website can be viewed at www.imageofthebeast.net.

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