Many years ago when I was expecting my first baby, Charlie, I was asked to accompany a group of school children to an inner city nursing home and play the piano for their caroling. It was a nursing home for the blind in a very down at the heels part of town.
The stale smell of institutional food and disinfectant greeted me as I entered the building. A feeling of depression fell on me as I passed room after room where patients in wheelchairs sat, TV’s blaring, some elderly and blind, others not old, but also blind and disabled in some other way.
We were taken to a multi-purpose room with a long table and an upright piano against the wall. The school kids were told to stand around the walls of the room to sing. The patients were then wheeled in around the long table. There were about 20 people there in wheelchairs that day.
One man’s face was so horribly mangled, clearly something terrible had happened to him. I wondered if he had been in an accident. He did not look old.
The kids sang out, and I played my best on the old piano. A few requests were called out by those in the audience, and we did our best to accommodate those.
A few heads nodded along with the familiar old carols. Silent night. Away in the Manger. Hark the Herald Angels Sing, O Little Town of Bethlehem, The First Noel, all the usual ones.
Mr. Griffey, the very kind man who led the singing, then opened his Bible and shared the simple story of God’s astounding love in sending His dear Son to a dark world. He told of a Savior who did not come in regal splendor as He could have, He came in the lowliest fashion, for a world of lost sinners. He told how God’s marvelous plan of redemption was begun in that stable in the little village in Bethlehem.
He told of our Lord who came in humility to this world as the atoning sacrifice for our sins. He came to pay a debt we owed that could be paid no other way but through his death on the cross and his glorious resurrection.
He told how Jesus touched those in need. He reached out to the lepers and the lame and the woman caught in adultery. In an age when women were second class citizens, He gave women dignity as He sat with Mary, the sister of Martha and answered her questions. He memorialized a woman who poured out her perfume on his feet. He spoke to and gave hope to the Samaritan woman at the well who was living in immorality and should have been an outcast to him. He heard the cry of the blind Bartimaeus, the lame and the sick. He ministered to all, rich and poor, who welcomed him and would hear His message. Mr Griffey shared the truth of the Gospel that day with the souls that were there.
As we left the home for the blind that day, Mr. Griffey told me about the man without much of a face left. As a young man, he had tried to kill himself with a gunshot to the head, but instead of dying, the man had only horribly disfigured his face, blinded himself and rendered his legs paralyzed. He would live out the rest of his days in that wheelchair.
That is just one who heard the message of hope that late afternoon, 26 years ago. The love of Jesus was there in the room that day for those people as that message went out. That is the message we need to share this season and every season. There is a hurting world out there, filled with people who are suffering in so many ways. We can be light and help and love in this dark place when we place ourselves at God’s disposal.
Just because I love it, I want to share the lovely Candlelight Carol by John Rutter with you.