During this season, we celebrate the coming of Immanuel–God with us–in the baby of Christ. Last night I got a glimpse of another Emanuel–Rebekah Emanuel.

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We had gathered our brood of sophomore students for a Christmas party and had decided to begin the evening with some Christmas caroling. I had contacted our senior adult ministry at church to locate some homebound members who might enjoy a quick visit from our hyped-up, sugar-ingested 15 and 16-year-olds. Our first stop was  Lackey Manor Nursing Home. We visited one of our members and sang carols up and down the halls to the residents who were willing to listen. Many of them stopped and told us they had been waiting for us to come all day.

As we made our way to a group of seniors playing dominos, we stopped and gave them a sampling of our off-key voices. As we were singing, I heard one of the sweetest voices singing along with us. As we finished, I bent down and said, “You have such a lovely voice. Thank you for singing with us.” She introduced herself–Rebekah Emanuel. She continued to tell us about herself. She was a former missionary who served in Japan for 35 years just following World War 2. Our students listened with great attention to her stories of how she and her husband planted churches in several cities.

Our students started asking the other residents to tell us their stories and this thought occurred to me: Mrs. Emanuel went to serve in Japan right after World War 2! Can you imagine? She went to the people who had bombed Pearl Harbor. She ministered to the people we bombed at the end of the war. She was an American living in a most likely hostile environment. And then I realized–her name was not just Emanuel. She was a representative of the incarnate Christ. She lived out Christmas every day of her life.

Today I’m more grateful than ever that I get to promote the cause of missions. But I’m even more grateful that I got to meet a hero–Mrs. Emanuel. It was the greatest Christmas gift this year.

Note: Mrs. Emanuel went home to be with Jesus on Monday, January 4, 2010. What a privilege I had to meet her while she was on this earth. Mrs. Emanuel is now with her beloved Immanuel face to face.