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The best way to end a year

Welcome, LaGrange friends, to our last “front porch” visit of 2017.

I know of no better way to close out the year than this: To refer you once again to the greatest story ever told.

Oh, it is not that you haven’t heard it all many times in the last few weeks. But perhaps this will help tie us over until we can come back to it again, sometime in the year 2018.

Besides — after two decades of Saturday morning front-porch visits — you have learned that we never let the sun set on a year without joining in its rehearsal. Perhaps it is our way of hitting the reset button before embarking into whatever awaits next.

We’ll start with the record of a first century writer, evangelist, and doctor named Luke. Luke’s gospel — with little doubt — is the loveliest book ever written. During these family and Jesus-focused days of chilly December, I think we appreciate the physician’s gospel and brilliant storytelling more than ever. Of course, he doesn’t take on his writing task alone. He has Heaven guiding and blessing each stroke of his pen.

You will remember that he is the only author of such stories as the prodigal son and the good Samaritan. But did you know that he alone tells the story of that cluster of shepherds tending their sheep on a silent, holy night? Of all the gospel writers, only he tells of the angel appearing suddenly to these scared men trembling beneath a heavenly light. Only he gives us a front-row seat to the world’s greatest announcement that night, a narrative we’ve heard a thousand times:

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour which is Christ the Lord.”

Luke, of course, does not stop there. He takes us on a long, thrilling journey until we reach a tomb outside Jerusalem where an angel again appears — this time not to shepherds in the field but to grieving women of faith at a sacred graveside. And, in the most resounding chorus in all of Luke’s narrative, he shares another glorious angelic declaration:

“He is not here, but is risen!”

Luke’s account — from the beginning on that spectacular night to the powerful grave-bursting victory three decades later — is the greatest story ever told. Shakespeare, Hemingway nor Twain can compare.

Amazingly, we now come along two millennia later to rehearse the story of this babe born in a manger and of the risen Saviour. Thousands of men and women through the ages have put their minds and pens to the task, as evidenced by the infinity of books that fill the world’s libraries.

Today, we again take our place alongside those thousands.

But even as we do, we realize that neither we nor the books in those vast libraries can grasp the complete meaning of Heaven’s immortal story. At the heart of the story is our very reason for being, a thought at which we can only marvel.

John — who, unlike Luke, is an eyewitness to many of the powerful events from 2000 years ago — concludes his memoir with this reminder:

He says that if all the things the Lord does in his life “should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.”

Amen, again.

So, today — at the sunsetting of 2017 — we re-join the writers of the ages and glance back at the world’s greatest story, one that all begins with a child born with very little fanfare, far away in a manger.

But we know such a simple story could not survive the test of time were it not heaven-sent.

We know, too, that many of you particularly need the strength this story brings as you reflect on the many mountains and valleys of the past year. It gives great meaning to your looking back and to your looking ahead.

So — as you end this year and launch into the new — cling to the angels’ announcement for the ages:

“Unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.”

Steven Ray Bowen is a former Granger who lives and writes in Red Oak, Texas.