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13 days ago, my father underwent surgery to remove cancer from his lungs. He smoked a pack a day for over 50 years. The outcome wasn’t hard to predict, but from the moment I learned that the disease had returned I gave thanks to the Lord for my time with him, and I prayed for his healing and recovery.

A year ago, I was a different man. I was prideful. I wasn’t speaking to my parents. Every night I saw the bottom of a different bottle. I was afraid of anything I didn’t understand or could not control with my own two hands. I was playing it safe. I was staying in my comfort zone, a lonely, dark, angry, and miserable place where there was no joy or peace.

Last night as I attended Christmas Eve services at Grace Community Church, I was blessed with an evening of music and worship. I was blessed more than most though. As the band played on, I closed my eyes as I normally do. Now I don’t sing, as we want to keep people in the seats after all. I close my eyes and listen.

Growing up in the Catholic church, there was always music to be played during services… but I rarely if ever heard the congregation sing along. Normally before a reading, or prior to the response to the gospel, the musicians present would play, the choir would sing, and then silence as a deacon or priest read the Word of God.

That’s not a service at Grace. You might as well be at a rock concert where every seat is filled by a fan. I close my eyes when the band plays because what I do not see, I hear, and what I hear engulfs my heart. Men, women, children, the old and the young all living their own lives, embracing the good or enduring the bad, they sing in wondrous harmony.

But all of that isn’t why I was blessed more than any other night to be standing there. A year ago last night, while I sat at Grace with a good friend, I was lost. Last night? I was blessed because for the first time since I was a little boy… and less than 2 weeks after having parts of his lungs removed… as the band played O Come All Ye Faithful…

I could hear the deep, gravelly voice of my father singing along. I am found.

What a difference a year in Christ makes. Thank you, Jesus, for your Grace. So much has changed for me this past year, for my family. Where I previously embraced the mantra of “Bah Humbug” and winced at the slightest sound of a Christmas carol, now this joyful noise fills my heart with hope and my soul with praise for God.

“And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” – Ezekiel 36:26

Merry Christmas, everyone.

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