Christmas Memories – Advent Devotion
December 15, 2020
“Freezing at Disney World”
2 Corinthians 12:1-10
The year was 2010. It was a cold day at Disney World’s Epcot. How cold? At 5:00 p.m., the wind chill dipped to about 20 degrees. Looking at the photo above, you might ask yourself, “Why were Joe G, his wife, and friends at Disney on such a cold day?” Well, allow me to tell you the story.
Up until five years ago, Disney World held an annual event called Night of Joy. It was held at the Magic Kingdom for two nights the weekend after Labor Day. Disney would bring in Contemporary Christian Artists from around the country and world to entertain at the event. Christian youth groups from several states away would flock to the event. It was always a sellout.
You might ask, “Joe, what does that have to do with the shivering people in the photo?” Good question. Each year in late November, Disney’s special events group would send out invites to youth group leaders. The invite was for the leader and one guest to come to Epcot in December for a special event, the Candle Light Processional, and concert at Epcot.
The youth leaders who accepted the invitation were given two free passes to Epcot on a specific day (I believe the photo at the top of the page was taken on December 13 of 2010.) We’d pick our free tickets up in the morning at the gate, enjoy Epcot for the day, then we’d be admitted to a particular event building in Epcot about 2 p.m.
There was always coffee, snacks, desserts, and sometimes even hors d’oeuvres available. Everyone would be seated throughout the room. Eventually, a special guest (The “star” who was reading the Bible verses from Isaiah, Luke, and Matthew at the concert) would come out for a meet and greet. Generally, it was a Christian artist, like Michael W. Smith. On other occasions, it could be a Disney star like Jodie Benson, the voice of Belle, and The Little Mermaid.
After the Q & A, the entire group (usually about 200) were escorted to the American Pavilion. Reserved seating was awaiting the group for the processional and concert. I know that was a long set-up, but it helps you understand why we were there.
One thing you can say about living in Florida is, “If you don’t like the weather, wait 10 minutes.” Storms come off the ocean and Gulf very quickly and leave just as fast. The same can be said for the temperature in December one day, it can be 75 degrees, and the next is down in the ’40s (like tonight as I’m writing this devotion.)
Well, 2010 was our lucky day. The day before, it was cool but got up to the low 70’s. In the morning, Kathy and I met two of our friends, Leslie and Tim (fellow pretty chilly at Disney Springs, and the weather just went downhill from there.
When we arrived at the open-air pavilion for the concert, the temperature was in the ’30s, and winds whipped at 20-25 miles an hour. When you live in Florida, no matter how many layers you have on when it’s that cold, you are freezing.
Somehow, we survived the weather, enjoyed the concert, and headed straight to the parking lot afterwards. Kathy and I hopped a bus back to Disney Springs, and turned the heat on in the car full blast all the way home.
Over my life, I’ve experienced extreme heat as well as cold. I’ve traveled the Arizona desert with temperatures over 105 degrees. The day Kathy and I moved from Chicago to Colorado, it was 40 below zero in North Platte, Nebraska, where we spent the night during our trip.
Generally speaking, extreme heat and cold are temporary setbacks. We, as a nation, are blessed. If it’s hot outside, we find air-conditioning, and if it’s cold, heat is generally available to us in our home or car.
The cold my friends and I experienced at Disney that day in December, ten years ago, was a minor affliction. But what about the ailments we all live with that never seem to go away.
My wife Kathy has M.S., and she copes with it the best she can. I have my own physical issue as well, and for both of us and many of you, these afflictions are thorns in our side.
In 2 Corinthians 12, the Apostle Paul speaks about his affliction. Biblical scholars have many theories as to what Paul’s physical problem was. We can be sure of reading the passage since he called it a “thorn,” it was some type of sharp pain that was with him all the time.
Paul goes on to say that he pleaded with God to take his ailment away to no avail. Instead, God said to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
“Thank God for thorns, whatever form they may take, for they remind us that we are weak. And when we know we are weak, then we can be strong – in Christ. Those who find their strength, in Christ can then, with Paul, be strong for Christ.” (People’s Bible Commentary, Second Corinthians, David J. Valleskey.1992)