“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
~ Matthew 11:29-30 NIV
This Advent we have shared many wonderful experiences as we have prepared our hearts for the coming of the Son. As the waiting grows shorter, I am reminded of a wonderful old story I heard many years ago, a story that sums up these last few days of Advent anticipation. I have no idea who first told it, but for me this story brings all into focus.
The story is about a father and son who were devoted art collectors. Their love of art was only eclipsed by their love for one another. As we might expect, when the young man was called off to war, there was much anxiety and many tearful farewells. The son wrote his father faithfully, being particularly verbose about a friend he met who also loved art and with whom he spent much time discussing paintings. As the son got nearer to the front lines the letters arrived less often and then finally stopped all together. Many weeks later, the father learned that his son had been killed in action at the front and would not be coming home that Christmas.
The father became more and more depressed, finally covering all the beautiful paintings he and his son had collected so as not to be constantly reminded of his loss. The father quickly became a recluse, dismissing the servants, and seeing no one. Only the chauffeur refused to leave, saying he had no place to go so he might as well stay in his apartment over the garage in case the old man needed anything.
One day, after the war ended, a young man appeared at the door. The chauffeur informed the young man that the master of the house was not seeing anyone. The young man said, “I just wanted to give him this painting. It’s of his son. He and I became friends in the army. I’m not much of an artist, but painting this after he was killed helped with my grief.”
The father, overhearing the conversation, came running. He ushered the young man in, had refreshments brought, and bid the young man tell him everything he could remember about the father’s son. When the young man left, the father took the covered Rembrandt off the mantel, and replaced it with the picture of his son. As the father looked at his son’s picture, gradually the covers came off all the paintings and the father began to acquire more artwork.
The father’s death caused a stir in the art world. Everyone knew of the extensive collection and that the old man did not have any heirs. Finally, the day came to auction off all the art. Art dealers and collectors from all over the world assembled hoping to add something rare to their collections.
The old chauffeur also came. He knew he could not afford any of the art, but over the years he and the father had become distant, quiet friends in their own way and he wanted to show his respect.
The auctioneer brought out the painting of the father’s son that had hung over the mantel, and the auction began. The bidding started at three thousand dollars but no one would bite. After many drops in the bidding price, and a long time of discomfort on the part of the art dealers who did not want something of such poor quality, the auctioneer said, “will anyone make me an offer for this painting.”
In a quiet voice the chauffeur said, “I’ve got sixty dollars. I always liked the lad and would be glad to give you what I have for the painting of him.”
The auctioneer, replied, “Sold!” and then he began to thank the prestigious art dealers for coming. One bold man spoke up and said, “Wait a minute. What about all the rest of the art? That’s what we came for.” The auctioneer replied, “The man’s instructions are very clear. Whoever takes the son, gets it all.”
When I focus on the business of this season, the “to do” lists, the decorating, the cooking, I am filled with anxiety and my soul gets weary. But when I focus on the Son, God renews my heart and fills me with joy and peace. This is because Jesus has come, and is coming, not to fix my circumstances, my brokenness and heartache, but to change me, to transform me into his image, to change me from a rebellious Ed into a surrendered Ed.
Please join me this Christmas in surrendering to the Son, in taking the Son and making Him the center of life. Then, together we will find true rest and peace.
Blessings and Peace,
The Rev. Ed Shiley