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  • Writer's pictureMike Bongo

The Word on the Street - 12.15.2022

“Isn’t it pretty to think so?” is the last line of Hemingway’s first novel, The Sun Also Rises. It would be pretty but untrue to say we never suffer any setbacks, any moments when we doubt where the Lord is leading us, even in this Advent season when we are reminded of what the baby John in Elizabeth’s womb knew for a certainty, leaping for joy with the prenatal knowledge of Jesus’ presence! We may walk the earth many years with the Lord, but it never stops being a walk of faith, of following.

I have a sister who was recently diagnosed with a serious and invasive cancer. She became angry with me for asking her if she belonged to Jesus, so that I would know how to pray for her. I tried to explain, but she rather insisted it should make no difference to me whatever her spiritual state was in praying for her recovery. I asked for her forgiveness, understanding that I did not understand what she is going through. Sometimes, I think I am the worst evangelist ever!

Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world…” (Philippians 2:14-15)

A Reverse Layaway Plan

It also weighed on my spirits, seeing some of the coats given away downtown had apparently been sold or traded by the recipients. The same person may appear to be freezing on multiple occasions, selling each coat he or she receives in response. In the midst of Paris’ slums in the 17th century was the “Court of Miracles” where beggars returning home would be “miraculously cured” of the illnesses they had feigned throughout the day. Some say this is where acting began in Europe. Ken said there is a hardware store down the road from us that buys coats from the homeless. I guess they have a reverse layaway plan, right before Christmas!

But there are times when the coats are gratefully received and worn, as they were intended. I saw Sharon still wearing the light blue coat I had given her weeks before, while her man was wearing a different coat than the one I had given him. And a man who said they called him “Grubby” (though I saw no evidence that personal hygiene was an issue) received a nice coat; we prayed together that he would draw close enough to the Lord to feel the warmth of His love. To be clothed in Christ is the warmest coat of all. I understand that I don’t understand what they are going through. All we can ever do is lift them up in prayer and provide what means we can to ease their burdens. God does the rest.

The first Noel, the angels did say, was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay. In fields where they lay keeping their sheep on a cold winter’s night that was so deep.

I met my first shepherd in Romania, early in the evening. He was a young man and he was riding one of the sheep home from the field like a war-horse. He was not well-dressed for the cold and the dirt was caked on both him and his sheep. It is so unfathomable it has to be true, the mirth and love of the Lord, that the greatest musical performance given this side of heaven, the angels singing above for the birth of the Lord Jesus, had those like this poor, dirty shepherd for the audience! I hope we can find some angels to come downtown and sing Christmas carols to people like Grubby in the street this Christmas Eve!

Gloria, in Excelsis Deo!

I saw Lisa this weekend, the lady with MS I spoke with this Autumn, prayed for, who was sleeping on a park bench when someone stole her medicine. She has a place to stay now, praise God! A woman her age shouldn’t be sleeping on a park bench in one of the richest countries in the world. I have this hope that someday people will realize all the Christmas presents they receive, all the Christmas presents they give, do little to increase their own happiness, anyone else’s happiness, where there is no real need. We have asked our kids this year to provide us only with hats, coats, gloves to give away to the homeless on Christmas Eve. This is also what we ask for the church to do, even come downtown to see it really is better to give where there is want, give where there is need, rather than to receive as some children do – rip, rip, tear, tear…hey, what else did you get me?

The last book written by Hemingway was “A Moveable Feast”, about his years in Paris in the 1920’s. Easter is also called a Moveable Feast because it has a different date from year to year. I followed Hemingway through the streets of the Latin Quarter, sipped coffee at Le Deux Magots, browsed the Shakespeare and Company bookstore on the Seine across from Notre Dame, even visited other Luminaries of the Lost Generation where they rest quietly under the spreading boughs of Pere Lachaise, though the harsh call of crows in the cemetery sounds a note as stark as the painting “Wheatfield with Crows” by the painter Van Gogh. In the end, for all my efforts at communing with him, the mirror was empty, no Hemingway staring back. Forlorn, the very word a bell to toll me back to my sole self, as Keats said. Futile, finally, my pursuit of literary heroes. They are gone.

It is different, I find, following the Lord Jesus through the streets of Harrisburg:

“For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” (Matthew 18:20)

Interesting to me that it was not one, not 100, among whom the Lord said His Presence could be found. It was two or three, He said. Coats or cancer, we must pray first and foremost, I think, that the presence of the Lord would be within us and so among us. Merry Christmas to all, when we remember His choice to come to earth for us and to remain with us for all eternity, to never leave us nor forsake us! May we all leap for joy, as we come into his presence!

And that is the Word on the Street!

~Jeff Mason

For more information, or to learn how to join us in reaching people for Jesus, please email Living Water’s Director of Outreach, Mike Bongo, at and he will get you plugged in! You will be blessed as you become a blessing to others!

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