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Christmas 2009: Windsor Township family shows how good can come from bad

Cheryl Johnson, right, and her sister Vicki finish a Nativity scene on boards covering the front of Cheryl’s Windsor Township, Pa., home. A minivan crashed into the front door of the home, and the Johnson family turned that bad incident into a good moment. See a “before” photo below. Also of interest: Easter in York County, 1919: Sadness, joy, hope and Pre-World War II Thanksgiving holds lessons for York countians today and Henry Laurens’ Christmas in York Town: ‘I will not quit my post, although I … fear that I may perish on it’.
I wrote the following to be used as the editorial in today’s – Christmas Day’s – York Daily Record/Sunday News.
Merry Christmas! … .

Fifty years ago, John Coltrane sat in the first chair
among jazz saxophonists.
He could hit notes in the top
edge of the upper stratosphere
and played with the likes of
Dizzie Gillespie, Miles Davis and
other high-altitude jazz musicians.
Sociologist/theologian Os
Guinness insightfully tells about
Trane in his book “The Call.”
In the early 1950s, Coltrane
nearly died of a drug overdose.
When he recovered, he put away
the drugs and put his faith in
Thereafter, he produced some
of his best work, including “A Love Supreme,” which
Guinness described as “an
ardent thirty-two minute out´
pouring to thank God for his
blessing and offer him Coltrane’s
very soul.”
After one moving performance, Trane stepped from the
stage, set down his instrument
and said, “Nunc dimittis.”
Those words came famously
in the prayer of the just and
devout Simeon in Jerusalem and
were later rendered into Latin.
According to the Bible, Jesus’
parents brought him to the
Temple on the mount in Jerusa´
lem, 40 days after his birth in a
lowly stable in Bethlehem.
This was the moment the
aged Simeon had waited for all
his life. There, he held Jesus,
who he regarded as the promised Savior, in his arms.
And then he prayed to God.
“Nunc dimittis” were the
opening words of a canticle that
later became part of the
church’s evening prayers: “Lord, now lettest though thy servant
depart in peace, for mine eyes
have seen thy salvation.”
Guinness uses John Coltrane
as an example of someone who
responded to God’s call along
the line of one’s giftedness. But
the purpose of that giftedness is
service to others, not selfishness.
The author summarized this
with a play on words: Instead of
you are what you do, you do
what you are. That’s a major
theme on this day in which
Christians celebrate Jesus’ birth.
The York community witnessed a recent example of selflessness in the Johnson family of
Windsor Township.
After a young driver drove
into their house, they painted a
Nativity scene on their home’s
boarded-up front.
This gesture communicated to
their neighbors that good can
come from bad, that though the
vehicle’s front end and
headlights bulged into their
house, they were going to shine
their light of forgiveness outward.
In that regard, they held no
antipathy toward the errant motorist. In fact, the two families
have become friends.
The Johnsons did what they
“Somehow we human beings
are never happier,” Guinness
writes, “than when we are expressing the deepest gifts that
are truly us.”
On that night in which he
breathed “Nunc dimittis,” Coltrane felt he could never again
play “A Love Supreme” with
more perfection.
“If his whole life had been
lived for that passionate thirty-
two minute jazz prayer,” Guin´
ness said, “it would have been
worth it.
“He was ready to go.”

The minivan still in the Johnson’s Windsor Township home.