By Lauren Lamoreaux
Christmas to me means a lot more than just celebrating Jesus' birth. I'm going to tell a story here that I haven't told or even thought of in years...
The fall that I was 15, I had quite the wake-up call. My friend, we will call her Sophie, introduced me to the world of shoplifting. We started small, swiping candy and cigarettes, and gradually moved up to bigger things like CDs (when they came packaged in those long rectangular white plastic anti-theft cases) and clothing.
It was November, and Sophie’s brother’s birthday was rapidly approaching. Now, we had the money, but it was always such a rush to “lift” things from stores. I still can’t believe I lived like this... So on we went, through this store, lifting things, including her brother’s gifts: fishing lures. Seriously. Fishing lures. We were about to leave the store, having purchased the legitimate things we decided were too big to smuggle and, checking that our newfound booty was securely in place under our jackets and in our pockets, stepped lightly out the door. “Excuse me girls! You don’t have any un-purchased merchandise, do you?” came the hail. We immediately stopped, cheeks flush with the hues of guilt, and turned to face something we had never known to exist: the plainclothes security officer. Our breath became shallow, as our throats swelled to an almost unbearable tiny passage.
The plainclothes officer hauled us into the manager’s office and called the police. We were arrested and taken to the big house. Well, okay, maybe not THE big house, but it was big enough to scare every unholy place right out of me. Our parents were called, and I distinctly remember my dad’s reaction. He was so incredibly angry at my actions. After all, this type of thing goes into the newspaper! And, being from a more prolific business-owning family in our area, well, he was outraged. “What will people say when they read that a Hentschel was arrested for shoplifting?” I was tried as a minor and not only had to pay the store back, but also received 20 hours of community service and probation.
Christmas that year, I was told, would be nothing more than maybe a token gift, and certainly nothing of value, because they used up so much money paying back the store and in court fees. I remember it like it was yesterday. I was one of the Detroit Red Wings’ dearest fans, watching every hockey game I could, rooting from my northern Michigan hometown with as much fervor as someone sitting right in Joe Louis Arena.
In my family, we take turns opening gifts, one by one, until everyone has had a turn, then go around again. I don’t remember how many gifts I actually had that year, but I do remember it was my turn, and I opened up this gift, in a typical shirt box from any Joe Schmo department store, and there, in my hands, was this lovely and perfect Red Wings jersey. I remember looking up to the sounds of my mother sobbing which I then, of course, found myself adding a harmony to her melody. It was one of total repentance mixed with total forgiveness. It was grace.
Today, I am reminded that we all – in some form or another – are like me. Not only have we fallen into sin and selfish living, but we have also tarnished the Family name. And no matter what place we are in life, whether we’ve never known our Father, or maybe we have actually walked with Him and have since turned a blind eye or a deaf ear to His direction, we all have that precious package neatly wrapped with a bow sitting under our heart’s tree. It’s something we don’t deserve, but in the same space, something that our Father so lovingly desires to lavish upon us: His GRACE. It goes a long, long way, my friends. It’s always the right size; able to cover a multitude of sins. It’s always the right color; complementing the natural beauty He has given to us. It’s always the right accessory for any event, any season, any thing at all.
God’s grace came down to this earth in a tiny baby named Jesus. He lived a guiltless life, blessing those who everyone else had cursed, calling the wise men of the world fools (and proving it), and reaching his hand out to the unlovely. And after all that, he went to a place no one else would ever go for me: a torturous death of beating, whipping, bruising, and finally, crucifixion... all to give me the chance to be welcomed into the Family which I rightly belonged before I stained myself with sin.
Yes, this Christmas I will remember that Red Wings jersey as the symbol it really is: grace undeserved. And I do believe I have consequently picked out my Christmas day attire.
May the joy of Jesus Christ invade your hearts in a new and amazing way this Christmas. Peace, love, and most of all... grace to you all.