Confused, disappointed and frustrated, we stood on the street, outside the gate of the home that took care of blind children. Nothing had gone as planned.
Every Advent season, some of us would go out carol singing to orphanages and old age homes in the hope that we could spread the joy of Christmas. Throughout the month of December, our team would usually visit one or two homes every weekend.
This year, we’d hardly had any time to plan, and the decision to keep it simple by restricting ourselves to visiting just one home worked out very well for us.
A couple of days ago, however, we received an email from a girl saying her birthday was on the following Thursday, and that she would love to celebrate it at one of the homes that we visit, and that she’d like to be a part of the work we do.
As much as did not have the bandwidth to do this, especially considering that this would fall on a weekday, we believed it was God’s will for us to go ahead with it and we replied saying we would love to have her celebrate her birthday with us.
We made the necessary arrangements – made a couple of calls to the management at a school for blind children, mobilized a group of seven volunteers, made arrangements for dinner to be served at the home and informed the girl.
Everything seemed to be going well…until Thursday came.
We got a call from one of the staff from the school saying that most of the students would be away, as they had received an invitation to be part of another event, and that there would only be around 10 children.
We were celebrating a birthday, so we didn’t really have the option of postponing our visit.
And then came the calls from the volunteers – one by one.
Some had to stay back to work late, some had an extra class to attend. Eventually, all of them backed out. That’s when I grew dejected. Turning up at the school alone, meeting this girl who wished to celebrate her birthday and see the work we do – without a team being present – it was going to appear terrible.
I managed to convince a friend and her sister to come along, simply in the hope that we could save face somehow, and we rushed to the school.
And when we got there, the birthday girl was nowhere in sight. I gave her a call –
“I’m not coming”, she said.
No explanation, no apology.
Shocked, confused and frustrated, we stood on the street, outside the gate leading to the school for blind children. Nothing had gone as planned…
I wondered why we had run around to make so many arrangements. I was angry – angry at this girl, who had made a request, a commitment, and had then turned her back on it.
We couldn’t cancel now. We decided to go in and sing anyway.
We met the children – all of them blind. We spoke and sang, and they sang with us. They couldn’t see us, they had no idea who we were – but they still smiled, and thanked us for the food that we had brought.
As they prayed for the food, they prayed for us too – and they especially prayed for the girl whose birthday it was.
It broke my heart to see these children – suffering for no fault of theirs – be so grateful, and lift someone else up in prayers.
It reminded me of the first Christmas, when nothing had gone as planned. Confused, the young couple would’ve knocked door to door, looking for a place to rest. With a baby on His way, they had no choice but to walk into a manger – exactly where God wanted them to be, where the birth of the Savior was celebrated; and where history changed forever.
We don’t know why nothing had gone as planned for us either – why the children, volunteers and the girl had to back out – but there we were, exactly where God wanted us to be, singing with His children, mingling sorrow with joy.
We went there for a birthday celebration, and that is exactly what we got. We celebrated a birthday – THE birthday…His birthday.
And with that, we knew we were closer to Him, and closer to the next Advent, where there would be no more mingling of sorrow with joy.
“And she gave birth to her firstborn, a Son. She wrapped Him in swaddling cloths and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn”Luke 2:7