I love this time of year, the cool air filling my lungs as I hike around these peaceful 44 acres of God’s natural beauty, the gorgeous changing colors of the trees, and enjoying much of it from the view at our new home, the recently refurbished Cosby family homestead—Pantops, and all while growing in relationship with this special faith community that we now proudly call our own: The Church of the Covenant. We (that is Ruth and I, and our four kids: Daniel Jeremiah, Elijah, Isaiah, and Mumu) can honestly say, we feel at home here, and look forward to serving here for many, many years to come!
Coming out of the Thanksgiving holiday and into the Advent season, I would be remiss if I didn’t ask each of us to consider—what am I thankful for? As I ask myself that very question, I am immediately swept away into a mental gymnastics, time-traveling back into my most sacred of memories to re-live a series of events that forever changed me and my family. In 2014, while living in Colorado, our oldest son (then only a sophomore in high school) suffered a terrible wrestling accident, breaking the C4 and C5 bones in his spinal column (in his neck), which caused his spinal cord to be drastically pinched. However, after extensive surgery, he wasn’t paralyzed (by a miracle, really)—and was never expected to play sports again. It was during his post-op, though, that I would experience the lowest point of my life—as a parent watching his child slip away.
I had been camped out in the ICU. The nurse said he was doing well and was to be moved to a regular room. I was elated. I had recessed into my smartphone, checking emails, when he stopped breathing. I don’t know how long it was. Two minutes, five. His breathing had stopped. His pallor white, lips blue. My son was gone. I had been so relieved to know he wasn’t paralyzed, to now lose him (as I would later learn) due to an overdose of sedation medicine. The monitors had been removed because he had been prepped for the room transfer, and I was his sole supervision. I immediately ran out into an empty hall, screaming at the top of my lungs, “He isn’t breathing! Please, help!” The room quickly filled with personnel working swiftly to revive him. Minutes passed, and then more passed. I was crushed, buckled at my knees in the corner of the room, making promises to God, begging him to let me take his place. He was just sixteen, still so much to live for. “Please, Lord, save him,” I whispered desperately under my breath. Then I heard him suddenly inhale. A breath of life filling his lungs once again. My son was back—a gift was given, a gift received. No words could explain a parent’s relief at that moment, and I struggle to explain it even now, but I silently mouth the words “thank you” even as I write this letter.
Hours later, sitting there, clinging to God’s gift—not wanting to ever leave his bedside, I realized the extent of this miracle. My father had flown in from Virginia the day before to be there with us. The next morning, at the very moment his injured grandson slipped into lifelessness, he was doing the very thing that I would have invariably been doing—taking the rest of my kids to school. It suddenly dawned on me, sending me to tears all over again: If I had been taking my other kids to school, no one would have been in the hospital room to alert the staff that our son had stopped breathing. He would have died. Period. My father being there was a miracle. I felt overwhelmed with gratitude once again. A gift was given, a gift received. Thank you.
The extent of this miracle was such that we all felt compelled to do something which would have been unimaginable a few days earlier. We decided to move to be closer to my dad. I felt indebted to him, and something deep inside of me told me I needed to move my family to be near him. So, we did. We
moved to Galax, VA a few months later that year. My father had always been in good health, and I never would have imagined losing him anytime soon. However, two years later he was diagnosed with Leukemia. My father died shortly after. He was young, still in his sixties. I couldn’t believe it. Yet, I was overwhelmed with gratitude for having had the two years we did, living next to him, seeing him nearly every day. A gift was given, a gift received. Thank you.
God loves all of us. Yes, I mean absolutely all of us. We experience this love in many ways, some of which we may not even be aware. Yet we know we are blessed. In this Christmas season we celebrate God’s specific gift to us: Jesus. This particular gift is a part of God’s own self. Our Creator giving everything. Jesus came to the earth in the humblest of circumstances. He was born homeless. His parents had no place to stay (forced to give birth to him in a barn). Later his parents were forced into hiding as refugees in Egypt due to King Herod’s persecution. Then, when Jesus finally gained familystability as a boy, he was raised in the small town of Nazareth in Galilee (not exactly the epicenter of religious or philosophical thought). But he was Jesus. God’s gift to us. The Prince of Peace. Emanuel (God with us). This would be the same Jesus who would teach us to love our enemies, as well as our neighbors. He would teach us to give all we have. Remember, no greater love has anyone than to lay their life down for their friends. He made us more than just friends, though. He called us his brothers and sisters. He called us family. He said that the world will know us by how we love one another. He prayed that we would be united as one in both purpose and deed. He even taught us to call God our Father (“Our Father who art in heaven…”). Jesus brought us hope when the world had become so dark. This hope lives on today through people like you and me. A gift was given, a gift received. Thank you.
As we embark on a fresh voyage with the historic ministry at Church of the Covenant, we ask for your help. We can’t do it alone, nor do I believe God wants us to. We must do it together. Please consider sharing in this blessing this coming year and even as we close out 2017. Whether you are connected to Camp Kum-Ba-Yah, Chrysalis Interfaith Retreat Center, Common Grounds Café with New Lodge, Cosby Woods, or the newly created children’s play-space Kinder Woods, we covet your continued prayers and financial help. We have a vision of love for all our communities as can be seen in our mission groups, which are active and growing, and with your help can continue to make a positive impact all around us, so that together we can say “A gift was given, a gift received. Thank you.”
Have a wonderful Christmas and Happy New Year!
Peace and love,
Pastor Dan Harrison