They passed Allyson’s parked car on Williams Street. She had beaten them to church. Andy’s pulse quickened, hope surging once again. His traitorous heart should know better than to be excited to see a woman who was about to send him into oblivion, but he couldn’t help himself.
As soon as they entered the old stone building, Andy spied Allyson chatting with Megan and Richie Norton. She was stunning in her green wool dress, those tan boots he loved on her, and a red silk scarf.
Lord, I love her. Please, if you brought us together and want us together, please help Allyson to know that I’m hers for life.
He wouldn’t give up, especially not in God’s house. He needed a miracle, and where better?
With bold steps that became more tentative the closer he got to Allyson, Andy wove through the parishioners and made his way to the woman he loved. When he came up next to her, Allyson turned and broke into a wide smile. Thank you, Lord.
“Good morning, beautiful. Did you get some sleep last night?”
“Morning, Drew. I could use another two or three hours, but I’m not complaining. Today, tomorrow, and then the Christmas craze will be over.”
The lay reader walked to the pulpit, signaling the start of services. Andy offered Allyson his hand. “Shall we join my family?”
The initial readings didn’t have a chance of holding his attention as he reveled in the nearness of Allyson. He missed this, the physical closeness, the scent of her perfume. With any luck, she was planning to attend services tomorrow on Christmas Eve and Tuesday on Christmas day. Andy didn’t want to use church as an excuse to be with her, but he wasn’t going to turn down the opportunity if it presented itself.
Reverend Gillespie walked around the pulpit and stood by the ten-foot-tall Christmas tree formed from pots of poinsettias. “I’m sure we’ll all be unwrapping presents on Christmas morning. Maybe you’re expecting a new fishing pole, a nice sweater, a computer, or cell phone. I’d be thrilled with new waders.” He winked at his wife in the choir, and the congregation laughed.
Andy glanced at Allyson. She was so close, yet so far away. He wanted to lean over and whisper to her that she was all he wanted this Christmas and every Christmas yet to come. He stopped himself, buried the words in his heart, and waited for the reverend to continue, hoping his message might give him—them—direction.
“As much as I’d love those waders, I’m going to challenge us all to give up what we want this year and focus on what we’ve been given. Forget the presents under the tree, the food, the decorations, and even the folks you’ll be celebrating with. This Christmas, let’s focus on the true Givers and the true Gifts.
“God loves each of you so much that He gave you His only Son. And Jesus loves each of you so much that He was willing to lay down His life for you, for each one of you, so that nothing would separate us from our Father’s love.” The reverend paused, glancing over his shoulder at the large cross hanging on the back wall, and then out at the congregation. “Can you imagine a greater gift than the sacrificial love of God and Jesus?”
Parishioners nodded all through the pews, Andy included. He’d heard since childhood how Jesus entered the world, knowing He would ultimately lay down His life. In the last year, Andy had finally begun to understand the truth on a personal level. Inches away from the woman he loved, he considered what sacrificial love should resemble in him. He breathed in Allyson’s floral scent, closed his eyes, and envisioned their life together.
If they were ever going to celebrate a fiftieth wedding anniversary, he had to be willing to die for her. Not just die and be dead—that was almost easier. He had to be willing to lay down his wants and needs for her, to lay down being right for the sake of the relationship, and to lay down what was good for him in order to have what was good for them.
When the reverend finished preaching on Isaiah 40, Andy knew what he had to do. If Allyson needed space, he would give it to her. If she needed time, he would give her that. And if she needed more from him in order to believe in his love, he would give her everything he had within himself. Lord, help me to give her what she needs without asking for anything in return. Help me to be more like You.
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