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A Small Miracle

  (By Monica Cane) The Christmas parade is the most memorable event of the year in the rural town of Manteca, California. Various people from the community kick off the holiday season with floats, banners, and streamers, representing their businesses, schools and organizations. Each group sharing their holiday cheer as they march through the center of town.

Beginning at dusk, young musically-inclined children lead the parade by peeping out the jolly sounds of Jingle Bells on their clarinets. Tiny toe tappers follow close behind as they tap their way to holiday classics such as, Up on the House Top…click, click, click.

Next comes the onslaught of beautifully constructed floats with mounds of red ribbons, gigantic bows, fresh white flowers and lace to last a lifetime. Every possible item found in an arts and craft store make its way onto one of these holiday masterpieces.

The proud creators wave frantically to the crowd shouting Merry Christmas, as their floats pass through town. Each one seeming better than last as the ongoing festivities cheerfully announce the holiday season. I’ll never forget one particular parade that taught me more about the reason for the season than I had expected.

The air was exceptionally cold that night as a thin layer of fog descended on the parade.

I stood with my hands buried deep in my pockets, as I watched the last group of participants prepare themselves to roll down the parade aisle. A group of disabled men and women revved their motorized wheel chairs, eagerly anticipating their signal to go.

Though each wheelchair was covered with brilliant, multi-colored Christmas lights, it was the smiles on each chair owner’s face that lit up the scene for the grand finale to the parade. Adding to the precious setting, was a person dressed up as an angel perched on the back of each wheelchair. The angel’s gowns were stunning, their wings shimmered and their halos glowed brightly above their heads.

Each chair owner gasped with enthusiasm as the signal was given. The disabled men and women, with their angel close behind them rolled out one at a time down the center of town. The crowd cheered and roared as they saw the angels waving and the chair owners beaming with pride.

As the last chair owner was given the signal to pull out, a small red flicker caught my eye. It was coming from the angel but I couldn’t make it out. I leaned into the crowd, hoping I could get a better look. What is that red glow? I wondered silently. Suddenly, the red ember flew from the angel’s hand and on to the ground. Moments later, the wheel of the chair rolled over it and the glow was gone.

It was then that I realized the angel had been smoking a cigarette and had flicked it to the ground when given the signal to go. I was shocked and appalled. This has to be a mistake. What kind of angel is this? I mumbled.

This was definitely not what I expected to see on this night of celebration? A smoking angel was not the reason for the season—was it? For a few moments I stood in judgment of the smoking angel. I wondered who was in charge. Who was the one responsible for letting this cherub puff away? I ranted inwardly until a story from the bible came to mind.

More than two thousand years ago, a few "non-smoking" angels appeared to some unlikely shepherds in a field, announcing the birth of Christ. "Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord" (Luke 2:11) they declared with great joy.

Angels sharing good news from the heavens about a Savior was definitely not what the shepherds expected to see on that night. In fact, entrusting mere shepherds with the long awaited message of the Saviors birth was not expected at all. And the Savior himself, was quite different than expected.

Instead of a pampered prince, born in a palace, kept warm by royal robes, he was a helpless babe, born in a stable, kept warm by his mother’s arms. The whole scene was not what anyone had been expecting. It should have been done differently shouldn’t it? Yet, that first Christmas, the night Jesus was born, was the greatest gift to all mankind—A gift that would change the world forever.

I watched as the disabled man and the smoking angel rolled slowly down the street in the motorized wheelchair. Waving his hands to the crowd with exuberant joy, the man in the chair held a look of accomplishment on his face. All the while, toting his angel behind him. The angel rested an assuring hand on the man’s shoulder and joined him in waving to the onlookers. Merry Christmas, they shouted as the angel’s glimmering wings disappeared from sight. It was then that I reconsidered my judgment.

No, a smoking angel was not what I had expected to see as part of the parade that night. But the obvious blessing that the smoking angel was for the disabled man that carried him was not what I had expected to see either.

When I left the parade that night, a sense of wonder filled my heart. As with the shepherds in the field, Jesus born in the manger and the assuring touch of the smoking angel, I considered a possibility—What we call unexpected, God calls, foreseen. What we call unacceptable, God calls, uniquely ordained. And what we consider to be a mistake, God calls perfect and uses it for His own glory.

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Upload Date: 31/12/1969

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