Come with me now to another small town set in the mountains of Washington state. Two excited teenagers anticipate a special date that is getting closer with each passing day: their wedding. The young man doesn’t mind the backbreaking work at the logging plant because it means he is that much closer to having enough money to build his bride to be their little dream cabin by a clearwater stream in his beloved mountains. What he didn’t count on is the day at work that would change the course of his life forever.
He was warming by a fire with his coworkers when the fire began to grow. He reached for a bucket of water to douse the flames but grabbed a gallon of gasoline instead. He was consumed in a raging firebomb as soon as the gasoline hit the flames. He was barely recognizable as human when he reached the ER as 90% of his skin had been burned off. He later recalls the pain being like a thousand razor blades scraping at every part of his body, a pain beyond what anyone should ever experience. This is Brian and Hailey* and this is their true story.
The doctors worked arduously for hours, removing skin from cadavers to patchwork skin onto any part of Brian’s body that they could save. In spite of their valiant efforts, they had to amputate both of his arms and one of his legs. He also lost his eyesight and would forever be blind. When he awoke from the medically induced coma, the first question Brian asked his mother was, “Why can’t I feel my arms and leg?” The answer left him reeling until he heard a sweet voice from the other side of his bed.
It was Hailey, his bride to be, “I'm here and I'm still looking forward to building that cabin in the mountain with you. I love you."
Brian smiled, "It is going to take me a little longer now I think."
Against all odds, Brian and Hailey were married fourteen months later. Not only do they celebrate a happy wedding anniversary every year, they also celebrate the birthdays of their two children.
This is love.
There is one more small town I want you to visit with me.
A man is walking the dusty streets, pausing mid-journey to ruffle the hair of a small child and patiently listen while a tired mother shares her story or a wounded man ask him for a miracle.
Little do the people that grab the work worn hands of this carpenter realize they are touching the hands that will be pierced with nails just for them. Little do the children that grab hold of his legs in playful fun realize these legs will soon hold him up to a splintered cross jutting out of a rocky hill under a stormy sky. And his smile, a smile that radiates pure joy and delight in each life he encounters, will soon be the bloody mouth on a battered face that will plea, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)
This is Jesus’ story and this is YOUR story.
Jesus Christ stepped out of the throne room of Heaven to sleep in a dirty feeding trough of a manger in the form of a tiny and helpless baby boy.
He stepped into a town named Nazareth that a GPS from today would struggle to even locate so that he could show us what he meant when he said, “Greater love has no man than this, that he lays down his life for a friend.” (John 15:13)
Jesus demonstrated to us that we are truly his friends by taking a punishment that was intended for us. We are the ones that have allowed sin to separate us from God but He built a bridge back to himself out of two boards and three nails. We sinned, he redeemed. He died so we could live forever. We loudly scoffed at the way he chose to save the world while he was quietly buried under the earth in a empty tomb.
And then he rose again on the third day to show us the story is never over when we think it is. He showed us that what may look like a terrible ending is really the beginning of something wonderful that could change our lives forever if we let a Carpenter from Nazareth write our story. We only must choose to accept his gift of forgiveness and hope.
THIS is love.
*Names of above story changed