I grew up eating mincemeat pie. Aunt Eva made them every
Christmas, and as a child I loved those pies. They were made of a finely
chopped, cooked mixture that included raisins, currants, apples, suet, sugar,
spice, candied peel and often meat, brandy or cider and other ingredients.
Mincemeat pies were as much a part of my Christmas sensory experience as the
scent of a Christmas tree freshly cut from our pasture and the sight of cheap,
festive lights just purchased from Live Oak Hardware in Watson, Louisiana.

Later, I grew tired of mincemeat. I am not sure if it
was the spices that got to me or if it was the coating that clung to my palate
several hours after having eaten one. Mae remembers my informing her soon after
we were married, “Aunt Eva still thinks I like mincemeat pies for
Christmas; but the truth is, I do not like them at all. I am tired of
them.” In fact, until one night recently, just outside the village of
Tobermorey on the Isle of Mull in Scotland, I do not think I had tasted mincemeat
pie since my grace awakening in Jesus Christ in 1985.

We had eaten our dinner that evening in the beautiful
little fishing village with the strange name. The night was velvet black as we
were winding our way back to our hotel. There was a trace of moonlight
squeezing through the low-pitched Hebridean clouds. The seemingly ancient roads
were narrowed to one lane. The endless flocks of sheep were grazing
nonchalantly on roadside grass. Suddenly my wife yelled, “Stop!” I
slammed on the brakes!

You probably think I was about to hit a sheep, but
that was not it at all. A craft store suddenly had appeared just to our right.
My wife had a woman’s intuition that this out-of-the-way little shop could
be the chosen spot where she would find a certain craft item she had been
looking for. I threw the car into a slide across some gravel and turned in. No
sooner had we parked our borrowed Volvo, the tires still smoking from the
abrupt stop and the sheep unmoved but safe, than my wife found her prize!

As she and John Michael continued to look over the
crafts, I noticed the upstairs part of the shop had been turned into a
little café. Wanting to satisfy my sweet tooth after dinner, I decided to climb
the stairs and look around. It was there, as I gazed through the glass case of
assorted pastries, that I spotted the little sign: Mincemeat Pies Freshly
Prepared. I had not thought about mincemeat in a long time, but deep inside I
knew this one certain piece was going to be mine. I wanted to learn why I had
loved mincemeat as a child and why I had turned against it as a young adult.
The cost was only a pound, so even if I still hated it, it would have been
worth it to say I had eaten a piece of mincemeat pie.

I did eat the pie, and I loved it. Like a child who had
found a long lost friend, I ran down and told Mae, “It’s mincemeat.”
She glanced over and said, “But you don’t like mincemeat.” It was
then that I announced, “But something has happened. I do like mincemeat
pie. I love it. It is wonderful. Just look at those apples and raisins and
orange peel and those chopped nuts and all of that other unidentifiable stuff
in there!”

Then I said it, and as I said it, I knew something deeper
than that pie was going on. “Honey, it reminds me of something…something
good…something warm…let’s see, how can I say it?” I paused, pondering
the connection between my heart and my palate. “I know. Mincemeat pie
reminds me of Christmas.”

Since then, I have thought more and more about mincemeat
pie and the meaning of that moment. Perhaps my dislike of mincemeat pie was due
to the ordinary shifts in tastes that happen to all of us as we move from one
stage of life to another. Or perhaps my prodigal journey away from the things
of God and, thus, away from the Christ of Christmas, caused me to loose my
taste for mincemeat. In the same way some people say you cannot eat peanut
butter and jelly sandwiches and be depressed or chew bubble gum and be serious,
I could not eat mincemeat pie–so associated in my mind with Christmas and the
wonder of faith–without the guilt associated with my distance from Jesus.

Sin sears the taste for beauty. What we once cherished
when we walked with God, we casually chuck when we walk with the world. Gifts
we once held as sacred under the umbrella of Christian influence, we throw away
as worthless under the sinister power of sin’s sway. What we once held close to
our breast as treasure in innocent days, we uncaringly discard as rubbish in
wicked times.

Sin had taken much from me on my wayfaring journey into
the far country. Lives, relationships, years, potential, prospects, happiness
and so much more were left with the hogs and the pods in that far-away land of
wasted living. By the grace of God, I came home; and God granted me a new life–a
new taste for living. Jesus does that. The Lord told the sinning people of God,
“So I will restore to you the years the swarming locust has
eaten” (Joel 2:25). God used that mincemeat pie as a small reminder
of the warmth of home and the serenity of mind and spirit that had been given
back to me by His grace.

I went back up the stairs to the little café and stood in
line to get the last piece of mincemeat pie in the glass case! But others were
ahead of me, and my family–the real testimony to His goodness in restoring what
the locust had eaten–waited for me downstairs. I did not have to cling to the
last piece of mincemeat pie after all. I could leave it. I had found something
that had been lost. I had been reminded of the promises of God. It was enough
now to remember the words of the psalmist and believe them and rejoice in them:

“The poor will eat and be satisfied; they who seek the LORD will praise him--may your hearts live forever!” (Psalms 22:26).

“How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Psalms 119:103).

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