Karen Lynn Woo
The Rev. Karen Lynn Woo serves a small church in Nebraska. Every year, close
to Christmas, the local newspaper in Cozad runs a special section that
includes articles by the local pastors. Since beginning her work in Cozad,
Karen has chosen to write a children’s Christmas story for the paper. I have
always found that well written children’s stories also have an important
message for adults. I share this one with you as a way of celebrating the
Advent season with you and a prayer that you will take the time to be quiet
and wait, with anticipation, the coming of Jesus Christ this Christmas and,
at precisely the right time, his coming again as King of kings and Lord of
‘See You on the Other Side of Heaven’s Gates”
By Rev. Karen Lynn Woo
Tom awoke to see tears in his son’s eyes and felt the strong grasp of his
son’s hand around his own. ‘I thought we’d lost you, dad,” Paul said.
Looking around the room Tom realized he was in the local hospital, but try
as he might he couldn’t remember what had happened or how he got there.
‘Son,” he said slowly and softly as he struggled to sit up. ‘I’m not sure
what happened but I do know a day is coming when I won’t wake up here but on
the other side of heaven’s gates where your mother is waiting for me. I’m
not worried. Why are you?”
‘Dad,” replied Paul, ‘how do you know that? How can you be so certain mom
is waiting for you on the other side of heaven’s gates? How can you be so
sure heaven actually exists?”
Tom looked directly into his son’s eyes, ‘After all these years . . . after
everything this family has been through . . . are you telling me you still
have doubts about God? Are you telling me you still don’t know the truth of
‘I know what I’ve been told,” Paul responded looking down at the ground. ‘I
know what I’ve read in the Bible. But I’m not sure I believe it. I can’t say
with any kind of certainty that what I’ve heard and read is true.”
Tom nodded. ‘I hear what you’re saying. Until your mother got sick I can
honestly say I was just like you. I’d been baptized, I went to Sunday
School, I was confirmed in the church . . . I thought I knew everything
there was to know about God, but I was so wrong! When your mother became
sick I suddenly realized while I knew a lot about God, I didn’t actually
know God. I didn’t have a personal relationship with Jesus. I knew about Him
in my head but I didn’t know Him in my heart.” Tom became quiet for a
moment as a tear fell from his eye. ‘And two years later, when your mother
finally died, I discovered I was lost. The faith that I thought was so
strong was actually non-existent.”
Tom paused for a moment and glanced out the window. Night had fallen. The
cross on the top of the church was barely visible. ‘It was about that time
that the new pastor was called to our church,” he continued. ‘At first I
thought he was just talking through his head. His sermons didn’t make much
sense to me and his delivery came across as just plain cocky. To tell you
the truth I don’t even know why I kept going to church when so many others
dropped out . . . but I did. For weeks, maybe months, I left the church
angrier than when I went in; and then one day I realized my anger wasn’t
about the new pastor, it was about me . . . it was about God. It was about
the changing world in which I suddenly found myself, over which I had no
control . . . a world in which I watched in agony as the woman I loved more
than life itself slowly die over the course of two years . . . and the God
who not only didn’t answer my prayers to heal her, but who led our pastor to
take another church when I needed him most. How could a loving God allow
this to happen?
It was then that I realized despite by baptism, my confirmation, and all my
years of attendance at church, I really didn’t KNOW God at all. Only then,
in my utter helplessness and hopelessness . . . in my quiet desperation . .
. did I do what I had heard the new pastor tell the congregation to do time
and time again; I sought the Lord. I sought the Lord in a way I’d never
sought Him before. I no longer wanted to know about God. I wanted to know
God. I wanted to know God the way our new pastor seemed to know God. I
wanted to walk with God and talk with God. I wanted to feel His presence
wherever I went. I wanted to know, with certainty, that God is real and that
His Gospel is true. I wanted to know, without a doubt, that when I died I
would awake on the other side of heaven’s gates and find your mother waiting
there for me. I wanted to know then what you want to know now and, in time,
‘So where do I begin, dad? Where do I start to obtain a faith like you have
now?” asked Paul.
Tom smiled. ‘You’ve already started son. The Bible says when you call upon
God . . . when you come and pray to Him . . . He will hear you. When you
search for God, you will find Him. If you seek God with all your heart, He
will let you find Him. So call on Him, pray to Him, search for Him, seek His
face, and establish a personal relationship with Him. Imagine if, several
years ago, your wife had taken a job in another country and you only saw her
a couple of times a year. How strong do you think your relationship would be
‘Not very strong,” Paul answered.
‘Exactly,” said Tom, ‘and your relationship with Jesus Christ is no
different. If the only time you encounter Christ is when you go to church
and you only go to church a few times a year, you can’t expect to have much
of a relationship with Him.”
‘I guess not,” replied Paul. ‘But dad, after all these years . . . after
all the things I’ve done . . . do you really think Jesus still wants to have
a relationship with me?”
‘Take a look out the window and tell me what you see,” said Tom.
‘Dad, it’s dark outside.”
‘Yes it is. Tell me what you see.”
‘Ok,” replied Paul. Looking out the window he saw the nativity scene lit up
on the front lawn of the church. ‘I see the manger encircled with animals
and shepherds talking to Mary and Joseph.”
‘Anything else,” Tom asked.
‘No,” said Paul.
‘Look again,” his dad told him.
Paul looked again. The street was dark except for the nativity scene.
‘What do you see above and behind the manger?” his dad asked.
Only then did Paul notice the dimly lit cross at the top of the church.
‘I see the cross,” he said.
‘That’s right,” his dad replied momentarily closing his eyes. ‘The first
year our new pastor preached at Christmas he said he never looked at the
manger without seeing the cross in the distance. I didn’t understand what he
was getting at when I first heard those words, but I do now.”
Opening his eyes, Tom looked directly into the face of his son. ‘The manger
reminds us that Jesus, the Son of God, came to earth to tell us . . . to
show us . . . who God is and how we are to relate to Him and to one another.
But the manger is meaningless without the cross. The cross is the symbol of
God’s great love for each one of us. Christ’s love for God’s children was so
great He willingly died on a cross with the sin of all humankind for all
time upon Him so that everyone who believes in Him may not perish but may be
resurrected, as Jesus was resurrected, to eternal life. That’s how I know
with certainty that when I die I will awake on the other side of heaven’s
gates and find your mother waiting there for me. And that’s how I know no
matter how long it has been or what you have done Jesus wants you to be in
relationship with Him. Christ loves you so much He willingly took the
punishment which should have been yours because of your sin. He loves you so
much he willingly went to the cross to die in your place. There’s no
question Jesus wants a personal relationship with you. The question is, do
you want a personal relationship with Jesus?”
‘I do,” said Paul looking once again at the nativity scene on the front
lawn of the church and the cross in the distance.
‘Good,” Tom replied as he laid his head back down again on his pillow.
‘Your mother and I will be waiting for you when you arrive on the other side
of heaven’s gates.”
‘What do you mean by that dad?” said Paul turning back towards his father.
‘I’m afraid your father has gone to be with your mother,” said the pastor
who had, for some time, been standing in the doorway to Tom’s room listening
to their conversation. ‘But,” the pastor continued, ‘if you truly believe
in Jesus . . . if you will seek His face and establish a personal
relationship with Him . . . in time you will acquire the same faith your
father demonstrated tonight, and you will see your father and your mother
again . . . on the day you, yourself, enter heaven’s gates.”
‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was
God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through
him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being
in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines
in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory,
the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth . . . From his
fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given
through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever
seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who
has made him known.
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who
believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” ~ John 1:1-5,
14, 15-18; 3:16
Herein lies the true reason for the season. May the joy of God’s Truth bring
peace to your heart.
If you do not have a church home, or if your church is not planning to have
a Christmas Eve service, please join me and the members of First
Presbyterian Church (819 E Street, Cozad) at 6 p.m., on December 24th, for
our annual candlelight communion service. All are welcome so bring your
family and friends. ~ Pastor K