Several years ago, while traveling home from a conference and wearied by two long layovers, I trundled into an airport coffee shop. I had been up since 6 a.m. When I arrived at airport number one at 8:30 that morning, I discovered I needed to switch flights. This meant spending an additional four hours waiting for flight number one. Waiting in an airport is the closest earthly experience to purgatory. Eventually I boarded flight number one. All went well and we landed at airport number two en route to airport number three and a ninety-minute ride home.
However, it was winter so flight number two was delayed. More waiting. Purgatory redux – the sequel was more tedious than the premiere. An already long day stretched into the interminable. Flight number two would not board until 7 p.m. The flight home would last two hours. The drive home would take ninety-minutes. At night. In the snow. In the cold. On bad roads. I sighed.
My entire day had been spent sitting in an airport and sitting on a plane. Not exactly taxing work, but those who have endured such days know how draining they can be. All I wanted to do was get home. I wanted to see my wife and hug my children. I just wanted my already long day to end. And yet, after fourteen hours I still had more hours and more miles to go.
So while waiting for the flight home, I trundled, luggage in tow, into an airport coffee shop. People tell me I am a jovial, friendly fellow: easy-going and affable. Feeling neither jovial nor friendly, I heaved myself forward to the counter.
And that’s when it happened.
The woman behind the counter smiled at me. It was a friendly smile – nothing untoward about it. It was a welcoming smile; so warm it could melt butter. It was the kind of smile that oozed grace, goodwill and cheer.
“And what I can get for you darlin’?”
I almost cried. My throat tightened. Why was I so emotional? I was tired, sure, but tears? Really? In an airport?! I coughed in order to cover the tightness in my throat. Then I half-stammered, half-mumbled my order, “I – I’d like a medium coffee and a cheese Danish, please.” The warmth and charm of the smile made saying “please” both appropriate and necessary.Fortified by the coffee and Danish I boarded my flight, drove home and fell into bed sometime around midnight.
I do not remember much from that long day – not the conference, not the airports I walked through; certainly not the flights. But I do remember that smile.
Until that smile I was a tired, irritable, mumbling grouch. I missed my wife and kids. I had spent an entire day in airports surrounded by people hustling and trundling who-knows-where. I felt all alone and mostly I felt sorry for myself. And then that smile happened. It didn’t shorten my layover. It didn’t alter my circumstances. But it did change me. Sometimes a smile is the best news we can ever get.
Have you ever had a moment like that?
Near the end of his life, the apostle John wrote this about Jesus
. . . .that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.
Just like that smile, the gospel is best news we can get. The gospel tells us that Jesus Christ makes it possible for us to have fellowship – communion – with God the Father and with one another.
And like that smile, John shares the gospel in order to make his joy complete. John wrote in order to share the smile the gospel shone into his life. The that in . . . . that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, is the Lord Jesus Christ.
Do you know Him? Do you know His smile?
On the night Jesus was born, the angel announced His birth to the shepherds by saying, “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people.”
Jesus’ birth was announced with a smile.
Dear Travelers, may this be the year your journey is made more joyful by the smile that brings good news of great joy.
Merry Christmas and you think about that.