The Christmas Sweater

My wife and I have several Christmas traditions and one of them is watching the movie, The Holiday. There’s a scene in that movie where Jude Law describes himself, not ashamedly, as “a major weeper.” “A good book, a great film, a birthday card” will bring him to tears. I’m not sure I’m a major weeper, but I’m definitely not ashamed to say I cry, especially when I hear a story or experience a moment where it is apparent to me that the Holy Spirit is truly active. On rare occasion, I have even been moved to such an extent that I do become a “major weeper” and when I reflect on these moments I feel incredibly blessed that I was able to feel the Holy Spirit within me to that extent.

I was reminded of one of those times recently when I saw a post on the BelPres Facebook page asking us to share books that have been important to our faith-walk. While part of me wishes I could have written something by C.S. Lewis or G.K. Chesterton (or maybe some other British Theologian who goes by his first two initials), the book that immediately came to mind was “The Christmas Sweater” by Glenn Beck. It’s a quasi-autobiographical novel about the author’s childhood. In the story, he’s given a sweater his mother had knitted for him. Being a somewhat typical kid, he was upset because what he really wanted was a new bike. I won’t give away the plot except to say that tragedy strikes his family and, during the course of the next few years, he realizes just what that sweater truly meant. And then the story goes even further as the boy comes to know what true Grace really means; how, despite his efforts to run away from his problems and the darkness in his life, God is always there, ready to pull him into His warm embrace.

The Bible is one, overarching story of God never giving up on us no matter how far away we try to run. A flood, slavery, war, giant fish, persecution, and wallowing in the mud with swine; the Bible is full of horrible things, but if they weren’t so horrible, we wouldn’t truly know how wonderful it is to be saved by Grace. And I very much understand this but I have never weeped to such an extent while reading the Bible as much as I have prayed that I could. Perhaps it is because the stories, which I fully believe are still completely applicable to life today, were written so long ago that they do seem somewhat distant. (Perhaps that distance is also why Lewis and Chesterton haven’t moved me to such an extent either.)

So I am grateful when books, current events, or my own personal experiences come about that move me to such an extent that I weep uncontrollably, fully experiencing the Holy Spirit wash over me. And that’s what I got from the Christmas Sweater. I remember sitting in bed, reading the last few chapters and being so overcome with the story of the boy running away from the darkness, not knowing where he would end up and not knowing if he could escape but experiencing the immense light of Christ before him, just as Paul did on the Damascus Road. I weeped and I weeped and was so grateful that I did, knowing that just like the boy in the Christmas Sweater, Christ is always here for me too. And, what’s more, I don’t have to run away from the darkness because I can stand and face it head on with the powerful Light of Christ. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!”

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