Advent Devotions 2022

A Kind of Magic

Posted by Sheridan Henson on


I’ve always loved magic and illusions. When I was just waist-high to my father, his best friend was an amateur magician who, whenever the family visited, would produce a little routine for my mother to endure. She would serve as his untrained assistant and volunteer victim. Usually, something like a miniature guillotine would chop off my mother’s index finger to the amusement of my two older sisters and I, and of course, all the adults would sit and scratch their heads at the feat. He was also obsessed with Harry Houdini, and would proudly walk us through his collections of original Houdini handcuffs and other magical artifacts. One little contraption had a tiny pop cap that would cause a bit of smoke to obscure the trick, which allowed just enough time to suspend reality and fool us all into thinking our local magician had infinitely superhuman powers of illusion.

As a teenager, I would shoot rifles and shotguns with my grandfather. We would either have casual shooting practice in the fields of his farm or we would venture out into adjacent fields and hunt squirrels with our .22 rifles. He had a technique of sending his grandson downrange of the squirrel so that I would pass the tree hiding the squirrel. As I stalked past, my noisy boots encouraged the critter to run around the tree trunk to the side facing my grandfather. He would take his shot, and we would bag a half-dozen before breakfast time.

The smell of spent gunpowder served as a kind of incense for me. It heralded my arrival on the rifle range when I served as a Marine, and it would always calm me on shooting qualification days. The peace it gave my mind translated to the 500 yard shots I carefully placed in the center mass of a man-sized silhouette. After each shot, my coach and I would eagerly wait for the Marines in the forward trenches to mark the hit on the target and send us a signal showing our success. I was always amazed that I could calculate windage and elevation, cover the tiny pin-sized target in the distance with my front sight post, and after squeezing the trigger, my speck of a bullet would pass through the target 5 football fields away.

Even after all the training, patience, concentration, and discipline required to consistently make those shots, I still felt like there was a bit of magic behind the art of shooting. Even now, every time I encounter the aroma of spent gunpowder, I’m reminded of the magic my father’s friend could conjure, my grandfather’s squirrel hunting tricks, and those long, humid, 500 yard shots taken on the ranges.   

It seems like it’s hard to find magic in 2022. At 43, I work, teach, email, call, cook, mow the yard, and wash laundry. I do this week after week with what feels like my head down into the wind. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of opportunities for fun, relaxation, and entertainment with my family and friends, but there’s no magic. Each night during the school week, I read a chapter of one of the many Harry Potter books to my nine-year-old son Finn, and the two of us get to imagine at bedtime the magical world of Hogwarts. Still, that’s only a story playing out in our minds. Neither of us get the chance to be totally immersed in it.

That all changes on December 24th. It’s the one day when Christians, whether they approve of Harry Potter books or not, get to experience true magic. The Christmas Eve service gives me the sights, the scents, the music, and the unexplainable magic that’s the birth of Emmanuel, God with us. But instead of my senses falling victim to illusions or nostalgia, I’m met with the shared faith of my brothers and sisters in Christ. It flows through the sanctuary and fills the pipe organ, and it immerses me in the star-lit night when a child was born of a virgin in Bethlehem. We worship with one voice the arrival of our king. Beyond all human comprehension, this greatest of miracles came to earth, and the Father put into motion an indelible history that would lead to the highest form of true magic known to man: the resurrection and salvation of all mankind. To me, standing on that history precipice each December 24th leaves me in a state of wonder. God’s power to redeem the broken is manifested that night. It’s the one form of true magic remaining in this world that I wait patiently for each year, and it’s the one time I can safely and confidently encourage everyone to lay down their burdens and let their senses take them back to a moment in history when God’s heart and his will were made known through what seems like magic, but is really the unmerited favor of our Creator.

1/4 c. sweetened condensed milk
1/4 butterscotch topping
2 tbsp. whipped butter, room temp
1 & 1/2 c. vanilla cream soda
optional: whipped cream and butterscotch candy sticks

Combine condensed milk, butterscotch topping, and butter in a heatproof measuring cup. Heat in microwave for 1 minute. Remove and stir until butter has melted and incorporated into mixture. Meanwhile, heat cream soda in another heatproof measuring cup for 1 minute 30 seconds. Divide butterscotch mixture between to 12-ounce mugs. Fill mugs with heated cream soda and stir thoroughly. Serve garnished with whipped cream and/or an old-fashioned butterscotch candy stick.


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