Living the Gifts of Christmas – Salvation

Getting Lost and Finding Salvation

Not too long ago, my family took a vacation to the East Tennessee Mountains for a little time of togetherness and getting back to nature. Now, we’re not really outdoors people, at least not all of us, but we enjoy being together and being away from the distractions of everyday life so that we can focus in on spending quality time together. We were thrilled that there was little cell phone reception, only basic cable TV and internet connection only in the park lodge. These were the qualities that made for a perfect vacation for us. Or so we thought.1160_410743242339920_1758167864_n

Fast forward to day four of our trip. My number one son, who had been busy working on his grad school application which just so happened to be due the day we would be traveling home from our trip, returned from the lodge ready to spend a little time with nature. Although I don’t think he intended for the rest (or at least most) of the family to come along, just the mention of a hike in the woods on a snowy afternoon set us all in motion.

We all bundled up in coats, gloves, hats and scarves and with a wave to my husband, the designated baby sitter; we headed out to hike the 4.2 mile trail close to our cabins. Did I mention it was snowing? Did I mention it was afternoon? Did I mention we aren’t really outdoors people?

Yeah, I wish we had been thinking about that on the afternoon of the hike!

Going in to the adventure, we weren’t thinking about the possibility of how long it would take to hike 4.2 miles, nor were we thinking about how early it got dark where we were. We just wanted to experience the mountain trail and spend time together. We ranged in age from 17 to 53 and were in varying degrees of athletic build and shape. There were couch potatoes, teenagers, marathon trainers, and, you get the picture. This was going to be fun!

398069_410741382340106_1851103939_n… Did I mention it was snowing?

The hike in was not bad. The trail was littered with branches, stumps, rocks and little brooks to be crossed, but the light was good and we were all raring to go. As we made our way across the third water hazard of the trail, someone’s foot went in and then things became real. It was cold and a wet foot was uncomfortable. We also passed a shelter for overnight campers that gave us pause, but we just continued on confident that this trail was going to curve around and wind up back at our cabins.

As we began to crest a hill, my brother-in-law’s phone got cell reception for just a split second so that he could get signal and go to Google maps. What he found stopped us all in our tracks. The trail didn’t curve back around, and in fact, it came out way beyond our cabin and the lodge that was across the lake from us. Very emphatically he pronounced that we were turning around right then and going back the way we came. Because at least we knew what that part of the trail was like, and we were running out of daylight. 303646_410743012339943_1171225266_n

Yeah, we were those people. Hiking on a trail in the mountains. In the winter. In the snow. Without flashlights or any kind of protective gear. Yay us!

As we head back, my sister-in-law races ahead because as it gets darker outside, she panics about her little guys (9 and 12) we left back at their cabin. She yells back to us from time to time telling us to hurry, but just continues to speed away to get back to her babies.

The rest of us trudge along trying to make good time but realizing as the sun begins to set and the snow continues to fall that very quickly we are not going to be able to see the trail any longer because it is covered in those beautiful flakes we had been so excited about seeing earlier.

185669_410742795673298_1276123707_nYoung son rolls his ankle and number one son tells him to get up to the front with his better half. Not sure he wants to lead the way, young son drags his feet so number one son races ahead. Feeling responsible, even though he had encouraged us hours ago to turn back, he assumes the front position in our ragamuffin crew.

Now, you may not believe in divine intervention, but suddenly that son remembers that he had just downloaded the flashlight app to his iPhone and with 90% battery life left on his otherwise useless device, he turns it on. Suddenly there is light to see. Joy returns and we all feel that we can make it back.

Number one son waits as the rest of us cross creek beds. He encourages as we come across fallen trees. He leads us through the darkness and into the light of camp. All in one piece. All with a story to tell.

But, there was also a story developing back at the cabins. Husband, alone with beautiful grandson begins to panic. His entire family is in the woods and he has no way to reach us. After calling the other cabin and finding out that all the adults except him are out hiking, he does what any normal, sane adult would do. He calls the Park Ranger. Go husband!

Descriptions are given, a search party is called and he is told to call back if we show up.

Just as the search party arrives, we walk out of the woods and my husband calls back to say we’re okay. Park Ranger turns around. Search is averted. Wayward hikers return. No damage done.47632_410742735673304_1122452484_n

But, we become “those” people around the lodge. You know the ones who went into the woods without provisions. The ones who were unprepared for the road ahead. The ones who trusted that they would get out without incident.

And we were.

Because we had a leader. A savior if you will. Our salvation was assured because number one son kept a cool head and led us out.

How, you may ask does that relate to the topic of salvation? Here’s how.

God always gives us a way out. I Corinthians10:13 “No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; he’ll always be there to help you come through it.” (MSG, emphasis mine)

Gods protects us as a mother hen protects her chicks. “He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.  You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day,” Psalm 91:4-5

God has a path for our lives if we just stay on it.  “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

God’s path is narrow and the way is hard. “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.´ Matthew 7:13-14 (ESV)

Even when we go our own way, God allows us the way back. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” And My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’” Luke 15: 20b and 32

Jesus is the only one who can save us from our sin. “Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6

Our salvation comes through the sacrifice of Jesus. And, just as number one son made the way for us on the cold December evening, Jesus makes the way for us to come into the loving arms of the Father. All we have to do is ask.

”Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” Revelation 3:20

And like the husband who made the call for help, so too does the Father hear our call.

That’s the gift of Christmas and that’s living the gift of salvation.




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