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Our Current Virtual Church Message

 Cloverleaf Motel

It was December 22rd and Roy rushed home from work to get ready to leave for Bernsville to join the family for Christmas. Bernsville was home. Roy 's mom and dad were in their late seventies, still spry, but Roy knew time was running short for them. Roy was Executive Vice-president of his company. Roy was un-married but with a special interest in someone Roy met at church convention a year ago. Roy rushed into his condo and threw some clothes into his suitcase, he collected the gifts he put together for everyone and carried everything out to his SUV. Roy had twelve hours of driving time ahead of him. At least twelve hours of driving time, weather permitting. On the way home, Roy heard on the radio there was a heavy snow warning out for the next twenty-four hours covering all of the U.S northeast. Roy was not worried about the weather. His SUV, now out of style, had a four wheel drive and the SUV could handle any kind of snowfall.

Christmas was always the big family re-union. Brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts, uncles, friends of friends gathered at Roy 's parent's old two-story home. Everyone planned to arrive on Christmas Eve as in previous years. Roy left early to get there early. Roy 's mother, Emma, decorated nearly every inch of every room. Christmas was the one time everyone made a special effort to get together. All the young kids brought sleeping bags and slept on the floor.

Already dark, the snow was falling as Roy pulled out of the driveway at 7:00 PM. Roy figured with no delays he would get home for Christmas at 7:00 AM on the 23rd, just in time for some of his mom's massive breakfast she liked to fix. Roy headed out to I-80 figuring he would be missing any rush hour traffic. The radio kept updating the weather forecast and things kept getting more and more ominous weather-wise. Now, instead of just calling for heavy snowfall, the weather advisory was upgraded to a blizzard. The snow seemed to be going horizontal and right at Roy as he traveled on I-80. Looking at the clock, Roy saw the clock was reading about 10:30 PM. The weather bulletins were now being interspersed with road closings. Some interstates were even being closed. The conditions on I-80 were getting seriously bad with drifting and blowing snow closing down the interstate to one lane on both sides of the interstate. Roy thought this Christmas was not looking too good for a re-union. Roy 's travel speed was now about 25 mpg. Suddenly a bigger blast of snow hit Roy 's SUV, the SUV for some reason started to stall out. Roy got seriously, seriously concerned. Then Roy blasted through about a four foot drift but 100 yards away, Roy 's SUV nearly ground to a halt in an even deeper drift.

Roy knew I-80. He had traveled the interstate for years. He knew just ahead about a mile or so, he would hit the Cloverton exit. Inching ahead at about ten miles an hour, Roy saw the exit sign, although the sign was not readable because snow had obliterated the wording. There was a truck stop at the exit. Roy figured he could hang out at the truck stop until the storm blew over. Roy had been in the truck stop's coffee shop a few times so he knew he could still get some java until the place ran out. Roy pulled over toward the exit ramp and crept up the ramp to S.R. 19. Roy did not see any lights where he expected lights from the 24 hour truck stop. Roy headed to where the truck stop should have been but the place was dark. Roy figured the place had been closed due to the economy. Roy was now sensing he was really in a fix. Roy didn't see a light of any kind or a vehicle of any kind, anywhere. He thought about turning around and heading back to I-80 but just as the thought entered his mind, he heard on the radio I-80 was shut down both ways.

Roy believed he was about eight miles from Cloverton. Roy thought he might find a place to stay or someone to stay with in Cloverton. About six miles down S.R. 19 Roy barely saw the Cloverton Motel. The motel appeared to be a hold-over from the forties or fifties when motels were being built right and left to accommodate the days when America hit the open road. Somehow the motel had lights on. There were no cars anywhere in the parking lot of the motel but Roy saw a light on inside of what he perceived to be the motel office. Roy pulled the SUV up next to the office. Roy crawled out of the SUV and tried to make his way through the blizzard to the office door. Roy opened the door and felt the warm air inside the office envelop him. The office manager or whoever he was, was an older gentleman likely in his eighties. Unbelievably, the guy had a long white beard. The guy wasn't wearing a red suit, just a flannel shirt, jeans, and suspenders. The room looked like it was new but very old, like the room was from a 1950's museum. There was a Philo console radio (the tall kind) and an RCA black and white television looking like it was also from the 1950's. The room was decorated wall to wall with Christmas deco. Roy thought about how his mom always decorated heavily for Christmas.

The old guy, who even seemed to act like a Santa Claus, asked Roy if he needed a room and Roy said "Yes, the blizzard has shut down everything and even I-80." The old guy said, "Well, no problem, we got 20 units and you are the only customer. Why don't you go over there by the Christmas tree and sit a spell. The wife just made some hot cocoa and cookies." The old guy introduced himself as Joe and said his wife's name was Mary. Roy thought the names were almost too coincidental. Roy met Mary as she brought in the hot cocoa and cookies. The three people sat next to the Christmas tree and exchanged conversation for awhile. Roy suddenly noticed a nativity set next to the tree. Roy knew his eyes were playing tricks on him but he thought the figures in the scene were moving. The figures were all about a foot tall and for the life of him, Roy thought the figures were alive. As Roy became engrossed in the figures in the nativity scene, he could see Mary holding the baby Jesus. The scene and the reality of the scene was astounding. There was also the silence. There was a silence in the room beyond any silence Roy had ever experienced. The silence was as if every moving thing in creation stopped at the birth of Christ. Roy did not know how long he was transfixed. The time could have been minutes or hours. The time did not matter. This time of being transfixed on the birth of Christ became a time of reflection, recommitment, and new learning for Roy . Being caught up in all things business, with his company nearing bankruptcy, and a cratering economy, Roy didn't think much about God. Being at the manger scene helped Roy see what was really important…and what was really important wasn't business. What was really important was Christ Jesus.

The silence was broken when Joe said "It is quite a scene isn't it Roy ?" Roy said "Yes, I am a Christian, but somehow I have forgotten about the power of Christ's birth to the world. I've forgotten about how Christ was the original gift."

Joe said, "Would you like a key to your room?" Roy replied, "Yes, if the blizzard keeps up, I may be here for more than one day." Joe gave Roy the room key. Roy said thanks and went to the room after pulling his bags out of the SUV. Even the motel room looked new but old. There was a new radio looking like it was built in the 1950's in the room. The radio was one of those old tube types. The bed felt better than comfortable. The scene of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph filled Roy 's mind as he drifted off to sleep.

Roy rolled over and looked at his watch. It was 8:30 AM. As Roy was getting dressed, there was a knock on the door. Roy went to the door, opened the door, and Joe was standing outside. Joe said, come on over to the office. Mary has a huge breakfast ready to eat. Roy replied, "OK, I'll be over in just a minute."

Indeed, Mary had a huge breakfast ready. It was the kind of mega-breakfast Roy 's mother liked to fix. The three people sat down at the table and Joe said a special prayer of thanks. Joe prayed Roy would have safe passage to Roy 's home. After breakfast, Joe drew Roy a map to enable Roy to get home within a few hours. Somehow Roy believed Joe knew which roads were open and which roads were not. Roy put fifty dollars on the table, using two twenties and one ten to pay for his room and food. Joe, Mary, and Roy all wished each other a Merry Christmas and said good-bye.

True to form, following Joes map, Roy got home in record time taking back roads and parts of highways that remained open. Incredulous, Roy was able to navigate when the whole region was shut down from the blizzard. Roy was greeted warmly by his family who were all expecting Roy to not make Christmas this year. Later that day, Roy found the fifty dollars he had given Joe and Mary tucked in his shirt pocket. Roy felt bad and decided on his return trip after Christmas to stop at the Cloverleaf Motel and insist Joe and Mary accept the money and a special gift Roy was going to give them.

After Christmas, Roy followed Joes map back to the Cloverleaf Motel or at least where Roy thought the Cloverleaf Motel should be. For some reason, Roy could not find the motel. Roy stopped at a nearby service station and asked about the location of the motel. The old gentleman running the service station sort of laughed and said, "You know, other people come in here from time to time wanting to find that motel. Some of them have told me they stayed there a few days before and wanted to give the manager money or something. The funny thing is, that motel has been gone for nearly forty years. They tore down the motel back in the late sixties or early seventies. Sure is funny how people still want to find it."

Whenever you read this, Merry Christmas to you and all those you hold dear.

Luke 2:1-52 (NIV) In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. [2] (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria .) [3] And everyone went to his own town to register. [4] So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David , because he belonged to the house and line of David. [5] He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. [6] While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, [7] and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. [8] And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. [9] An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. [10] But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. [11] Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. [12] This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." [13] Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, [14] "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests." [15] When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about." [16] So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. [17] When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, [18] and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. [19] But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. [20] The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. [21] On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise him, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he had been conceived. [22] When the time of their purification according to the Law of Moses had been completed, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord [23] (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, "Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord"), [24] and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: "a pair of doves or two young pigeons." [25] Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel , and the Holy Spirit was upon him. [26] It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord's Christ. [27] Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, [28] Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: [29] "Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. [30] For my eyes have seen your salvation, [31] which you have prepared in the sight of all people, [32] a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel ." [33] The child's father and mother marveled at what was said about him. [34] Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: "This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel , and to be a sign that will be spoken against, [35] so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too." [36] There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, [37] and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. [38] Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. [39] When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. [40] And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him. [41] Every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. [42] When he was twelve years old, they went up to the Feast, according to the custom. [43] After the Feast was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem , but they were unaware of it. [44] Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. [45] When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. [46] After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. [47] Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. [48] When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, "Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you." [49] "Why were you searching for me?" he asked. "Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house?" [50] But they did not understand what he was saying to them. [51] Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. [52] And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men. (NIV)

This story was fiction and appeared in December, 2009, in the Virtual Church web site at http://www.findthepower.com

 

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Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (RSV) are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, Revised Standard Version of the Bible, Copyright © 1952 [2nd edition, 1971] by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Shepherd's Care Ministries author and webmaster, Rev. Patrick Kelly, is affiliated through ministerial ordination with Church of God Ministries, Anderson IN 46018