West Franklin Family,

As you may or may not know, Donnie Parker (a West Franklin deacon and husband to Dee) recently had COVID-19. He now has a significant mass on one of his lungs. That’s the bad news. The good news is that after receiving a pet scan Wednesday, he learned late Thursday that any cancer is apparently restricted to the spot on his lung. Donnie and Dee are elated, but of course still have a ways to go. Probably a good idea to pray for him if you think about it.

Why do I share this with you? Of all people struggling right now, why single out Donnie? Get this. He had no idea there was a large mass on his lung. . . until he ended up in the hospital due to COVID. Long story, but Donnie and Dee ended up at the “wrong” hospital. They ended up seeing a doctor they didn’t plan to see. Before discharging Donnie with quick instructions on how to manage his symptoms, the doctor (the “wrong” one at the “wrong” hospital) took a few minutes and looked at Donnie. He stopped what he was doing and just looked at him. Looked away from the screen. Paused to examine the patient, not the charts. Stopped long enough to notice. The doctor said, “Something else is going on here. You look sick and not just COVID sick.” Tests were ordered and administered. A mass was found. Now the Parker’s are thrilled because it hasn’t had time to spread. Had the doctor not taken time to notice. . . oh my.

Maybe it is because I recently read this book. Maybe it’s because I learned my need to slow down during sabbatical. Maybe it’s because I can’t quit thinking about what Jesus paid attention to while on the cross. Maybe it was all of these. But when Donnie and Dee told me what the doctor did and said, I was taken aback. He didn’t rush Donnie through the system. He didn’t just stare at charts and screens. He stopped and looked at Donnie and determined something else was going on. He took time to notice who was right in front of him and it made all the difference.

Please don’t misunderstand. Of all the professions who need to be loved on, supported, thanked, respected, and appreciated right now – it is our front-line medical workers. My goodness! I can’t imagine. The last thing I want to communicate here is that I am comparing this doctor to others. I’m not. I simply want to highlight Donnie’s doctor. Why? Because what he did for his patient is what every human being needs – especially right now. Every last one of us needs someone to notice us, acknowledge we are human, and care. Jesus has come, yes. Jesus is coming again, yes. But while we wait, it’s hard. Perhaps while we wait, however, He uses the presence of others to be present with us.

Let me challenge us with something, West Franklin. This week, don’t rush to get to the next thing. Don’t wish for something else, or something different. Don’t wish for someone else or more people or different people. Look at those you are with. Notice them. Acknowledge them as human – made in God’s image – beings. (There is a reason we are called human “beings” not human “doings” by the way.) Listen to them. Ask questions. Hear their answers. Empathize. To put it simply, be present. The people right in front of you (or over the phone, or FaceTime, or Zoom) are who God has placed in your life right now.

God didn’t send Jesus that first Christmas to move past us. Jesus didn’t come as “God over there.” No sir. Christmas means God came to be with us. His people are with-each-other people. Don’t look over your shoulder this week when someone is talking to you. Don’t wish lunch would get over with so you can binge your show. Take time to notice. It might just make all the difference.

God willing, I will see you (or you will see me on-line) with my Bible open to Luke 1:26-38. We may even see one another through our car windows at the Christmas concert tonight or tomorrow. Whether we see each other or not, I hope you have a very Merry Christmas. And don’t forget to be present while opening presents.

Because He Came,

Pastor Matt

Important Announcement re: Christmas Concerts: PLEASE check our social media pages throughout the day today (Facebook and Instagram). Due to the threat of rain later this afternoon/evening, the drive-in concerts for tonight (Saturday) may be cancelled. If so, all tickets will be honored at the 5 PM and 7 PM showings on Sunday night.