The theme of this year’s Advent devotion is: Do you see what I see? An array of St. Paul voices selected a photo or photos that hold very special memories to them, then sat down and reflected on what that photo means to them. What do they see and remember that others may not when looking at this photo? Through their words and stories, hopefully, you’ll see a little of what they see.
We were not getting along at all. Any parent who has had, or currently has, a teenager can relate. Our younger son, Jonathan, could argue with me about the color of the sky (quite convincingly) and so, we were often at loggerheads!
He was taking French at Muscatine High School at the time (he is now 41) and, in my former life, pre-kids, I was a French teacher. French language and culture have remained great interests of mine. In his class, while they were doing seat work, the teacher would play the tapes of the musical, Les Misérables, in the original French. Jonathan knew that I loved the musical and that I loved French, so he asked Ms. Fillman if he could bring in blank cassettes (remember, this was in the 90s!) to copy her tapes of the songs. She agreed, and that was the Christmas gift he gave me in 1998.
I still have those tapes and still play them, from time to time, although the medium to play them gets more difficult to obtain. To me, they speak of the hope of this season, because that is certainly what they gave me back then. That a recalcitrant teenager, who did not get along with this mother AT ALL, would take the time to create such a thoughtful and meaningful gift, brought me to tears that Christmas and is still one of the highlights of the season for me, even all these years later!
Secondly, they speak to me of the enduring grace and love of God, manifested in the gift of God’s Son, Jesus, Immanuel, God with Us. Sometimes, I am the stubborn teenager, arguing with God (convincingly, in my mind) about the color of the sky. Despite those days and my attitudes, God comes through, again and again, with the wonderful gift of God’s Son, and this depth of grace and love brings tears to my eyes as well – every year!
The happy ending to the story is that the recalcitrant teenager grew up to be a wonderful person, and one of the joys of our lives! He lives in Grand Junction, CO, and we visit him often, even building a second home in GJ. And so, to parents of teenagers and to all of us who are teenagers in faith: This is the season of hope, grace, and love! Alleluia! Thanks be to God!
Kris Atwell is a homemaker who lives in Geneseo, IL, with her husband, Cal, and her furry friend, Libby. They are parents of two grown sons, Ryan and Jonathan.