Joseph Avenue Christmas is the story of one man's journey to the true meaning of Christmas. Not just the birth of the babe, but the salvation of the soul. Set on the wintry streets of Rochester, NY it is a visit to the heart of that city and the hearts of some of its best and bravest people. From their good example, and the simple lessons of their own lives and faith, a troubled man finds on a dark Christmas Eve an escape from an increasingly failed life.
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I suspect they were very tired.
The apostles had returned from their labors, healing the sick and teaching the gospel that Christ preached, and Jesus said that they should take a break. They'd hardly even had time to eat.
So the Savior and his apostles got in a little boat and headed down the lake, to a remote area, to rest and refresh. But people saw them and knew them and the word spread and soon there was a growing crowd of people walking along the shore, keeping pace with the boat, beckoning for its occupants to come ashore.
Which they did.
Jesus took pity on the people and sailed to the shore, so he could bless them and teach them and heal their sick. And for the remainder of the day he and his apostles did just that. Their day of rest turned into a day of service and work. The time they had reserved for themselves they freely gave to others.
Then the evening came and the wonderful miracle of the feeding of the 5,000. Jesus took the dinner of a little boy and blessed it and passed it around and it became enough to feed hundreds and hundreds and hundreds. And Jesus told the apostles to go. To get in the boat and go ahead of him while he sent the people away.
So they set out, and a storm came up and thrashed them. It blew directly at them, as they rowed against its gales. Large waves and howling winds, all beating upon them and their little boat in the darkening and lengthening night.
After the crowds were gone Jesus climbed a mountain that overlooked the lake and knelt down to pray, and he prayed for most of the night, until the early hours of the morning.
While out on the lake the exhausted apostles struggled at their oars against the storm.
It was in the hours before dawn that they saw him finally coming to them, walking upon the water. Soon he was to them, and stepped into their boat, and the wind and the waves were calmed.
At last, they were delivered. It had been hours, probably six or nine, and their struggle was complete. Jesus had saved them.
But why did he wait so long?
Why, as they toiled in the storm through the long, dark night, did Jesus leave them to face the tempest alone? Weren't they already exhausted from their labors in his behalf? Hadn't they given up their day off to care for the thousands on the shore? Shouldn't they have spent that night ashore themselves, safe and asleep?
Why did he leave them to row?
I don't know. And I don't suspect they did either.
But it's that way sometimes.
Sometimes the trials of life seem pointless and never ending. They just continue, and our sorrows and difficulties string out end to end as far as we can see. Sometimes there is no "why," at least not that we can know or understand, maybe not as long as we live. Sometimes you just have to row.
The apostles may have felt abandoned out there on the lake. Their obedience took them into the teeth of the storm, and they must have felt terribly alone. But they were not. They were seen from the mountain, and their struggles were known, and in the Lord's own time he came to them.
In the Lord's own time.
They were not abandoned. They were not unseen.
And help did come.
In the darkest hour.
As it will for us. If we have faith and endure.
But, sometimes, you just have to row.