12:30 PM Johnny Oates wanted to spend Christmas with Jesus. Yesterday he got his wish.
6:58 AM 3375 miles. Near the end of my ride yesterday, I passed by the Vineyard Church on Jackson Street in Oak Park. For the last several days I’ve been watching something being built on the lawn in front of the church. First there was a small wooden shed with one side open to the road. Two days ago I saw a man moving snow around. At the moment I pedaled by, he had just finished a beautiful snow sculpture of Mary and Joseph and baby Jesus. When I stopped to talk to him, I asked him where he got the snow. He told me he used some sort of snow machine. I thanked him and introduced myself. “Pastor Ray!” he exclaimed. “I’m Peter Hermann. I used to attend SC2 (our older singles group) at Calvary.” He has been doing snow sculpture for a few years and recently won a contest in Rockford. His winning entry was a sculpture of the cross, a lamb and a lion—Jesus in three perspectives. A local organization asked him to do a sculpture for them, but when he told them he planned to recreate his winning entry, they said, “Not on our property.” So he has produced a beautiful snow sculpture in front of the Vineyard Church for the people of Oak Park. Three or four times he said to me, “This is my gift.” Peter is a humble man who made the sculpture as a way to bear witness to our community of the birth of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. He said that the last thing he did was to make baby Jesus and place him in Mary’s lap. He sprayed a bit of water on the snow baby, freezing it in place, so no one would steal baby Jesus. It was about 8 degrees while we were having this conversation, but it didn’t seem cold at all. I put my arm about Peter and we prayed together, dedicating that snow sculpture to the Lord for his glory and asking that God would use it to touch the hearts of those who pass by. As I prayed, Peter wept with joy. After the final Christmas Eve service, Marlene and I drove past the Vineyard Church. Peter had placed a hidden light between Mary and Joseph that illuminated the sculpture and made you think of the star shining over Bethlehem.
6:53 AM We had two wonderful Christmas Eve services last night. The sanctuary was comfortably full at 5 PM and absolutely jammed at 9 PM. Lots of visitors in both services. Good to see Robert Schuler who is back in the States after a tour of duty in Iraq. Between services we called Josh in Beijing. He sounded great. Christmas is even bigger in China than in the US. As he put it, they really get into the “Santa side” of Christmas. But he said it’s surprising how many people know the “Jesus side” of the story. He helped put together a Power Point presentation about the birth of Christ for the school where he is teaching. We leave for China in 19 days.
6:52 AM Today’s entry in the Crosswalk weblog is called Nothing Unusual Ever Happens Around Here.
6:52 AM Merry Christmas!