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Monday, 25 December 2017

December 25, 2017

Christmas Day

Christmas Day

December 25, 2017

Luke 2:8-20


The sudden appearance of angels shocked and terrified the poor shepherds, but what followed must have been the high point of their life. First there was the message that a savior had been born “to them”!  Then there was the anthem by the heavenly host choir.  They had the experience of finding Mary and Joseph and the child lying in the manger.  Finally, perhaps they had the greatest gift in being able to share what had happened to them.


Receiving a gift is one thing.  Sharing a gift can be an even greater gift.


I would like the share a story with you.  The author is unknown.  The title is, “Exchanging Gifts”.

I grew up believing that Christmas was a time when wise and royal visitors came riding, when at midnight the barnyard animals talked to each another, and in the light of an amazing new star our Savior came to earth as the Christ Child. Christmas to me has always been a time of serene enchantment, and never more so than the year that my son Marty was eight years old.

That was the same year that my three children and I had moved into a small (but warm) mobile home in a forested area just outside of Redmond, Washington. As the Christmas season approached, our spirits were cheerful, not to be dampened by the winter rains that swept down dousing us daily and keeping the floors constantly muddy. Throughout that December, Marty was the most spirited and the busiest of us all.

Marty was my youngest, a cheerful eight year old boy, blond haired and playful, with a quaint habit of looking up at you and cocking his head like a puppy when you talked to him.

The reason for this was that Marty was deaf in his left ear, but it was a condition that he never complained about. For weeks I'd been watching Marty. I knew that something was going on with him that he was not telling anyone about. How eagerly he made his bed, took out the trash, set the table and helped his older brother and sister prepare dinner before I got home from work. I saw how he silently collected his tiny allowance and tucked it away, never spending a penny of it.

I wasn't sure what all this quiet activity was about, but I suspected that somehow it had something to do with Kenny. Kenny was Marty's best friend, and ever since they'd found each other in the springtime, they were seldom apart. When I called to one, they both appeared. Their world was in the meadow; a horse pasture broken by a small winding stream, where they caught frogs and snakes, and searched for arrowheads and golden treasure. Times were hard for my children and me, but Kenny's family was desperately poor. His mother was having a terrible struggle feeding and clothing her two young children. They also were a fatherless family, but Kenny's mother was a very proud woman. She had strict rules about taking from others.


How we worked, as we did each year, to make our home festive for Christmas. Our gifts were all finished and safely hidden away, and decorations hung from every corner and surface imaginable. Marty and Kenny would sometimes sit still at the table long enough to help make paper-chains or cut beautiful stars for the tree. But then, in a flash, one would whisper to the other, and they would be out the door and into the horse pasture or sliding cautiously under the electric fence that separated our yard from Kenny's.

Shortly before Christmas, Marty came into the kitchen and told me in a voice filled with great pleasure and pride, "Mom, I've bought Kenny a Christmas present. Want to see it?" So that's what he's been up to, I said to myself.

"It's something he's wanted for a long, long time," Marty said. After wiping his hands on a dishtowel, he pulled a small box from his pocket. Lifting the lid, I saw a pocket compass that my son had been saving all those allowances to buy. A little compass to point an eight year old adventurer through the woods. "It's a lovely gift, Martin," I said, but even as I spoke, a disturbing thought came to mind. Kenny's family could barely afford to exchange gifts between themselves and giving presents to others was out of the question.

I felt sure that Kenny's proud mother would not permit her son to receive something he could not return in kind.

Gently, carefully, I talked over the problem with Marty. He understood what I was saying. "I know, Mom, I know ... but what if it was a secret? What if they never found out who gave it?" I didn't know how to answer him, so I left the matter in the hands of the Lord.

The day before Christmas was rainy, cold, and gray. My children and I put finishing touches on Christmas secrets and prepared for family and friends who would be dropping by. Darkness settled in, and the rain continued. I looked out the kitchen window over the sink and felt an unusual sadness. How very mundane the rain seemed for a Christmas Eve. Would wise men and kings come riding on such a night? It seemed to me that curious and wonderful things happened on clear nights. Nights when one could at least see a star in the heavens.

I turned from the window, and as I checked on the bread in the oven, I saw Marty slip out the door. He was wearing his coat over his pajamas. I knew he was clutching a little, colorfully wrapped box in his pocket.

Later Marty told me all that had happened to him that night. He had gone down through the soggy horse pasture, slid under the electric fence, and sloshed through puddles across the yard to Kenny's house. He had tiptoed up the steps, with his muddy shoes squishing. He silently opened the screen door just a crack, placed the gift on the doorstep, took a deep breath, and pressed on the doorbell really hard. Quickly Marty turned, ran down the steps and across the yard in a wild race to get away without being seen. Then, in the dark, he suddenly crashed into the electric fence.

The powerful shock sent him reeling. He lay stunned on the wet ground, gasping for breath. Feeble, confused, and frightened, he found his way back through the darkness of that rainy Christmas Eve. "Marty!" I cried as he stumbled through the door. "Marty, what happened?"

His lower lip quivered, and his eyes brimmed with tears. "Mom, I forgot about the electric fence. I ran into it, and it knocked me down!" he said.

I hugged his muddy little body to me. He was still dazed, and there was an ugly red mark from the fence beginning to blister his face from his mouth to his ear. I treated the blister, and with a warm cup of cocoa soothing him, Marty's bright spirits were restored. I tucked him into his bed, and just before he fell asleep he looked up at me, and said with relief, "Mom, I'm sure Kenny didn't see me."

I went to bed feeling sad and discouraged. The encounter with the electric fence seemed such a cruel thing to happen to a little boy while on the purest kind of Christmas mission, doing what Heavenly Father wants us all to do; give to others, and in secret at that. I did not sleep well that night. Deep inside I was feeling disappointed that it was Christmas Eve, and it was just another ordinary, problem filled night, not a night of joyous enchantment at all.

But I was wrong. By morning the rain had stopped and the sun shone brightly for Christmas Day. The burned streak on Marty's face was red and swollen, but I was grateful to see it was not a dangerous wound. We opened our gifts to each another, and soon, not unexpectedly, Kenny was knocking on the door, eager to show Marty his new compass and tell about the mystery of its arrival. It was plain that Kenny didn't suspect Marty at all, and while the two of them talked, Marty smiled and smiled and smiled.

Then I noticed that while the two boys were comparing their Christmases, nodding and gesturing and chattering away, Marty was not cocking his head as usual.

When Kenny was talking, Marty was listening with his deaf ear, the ear that had slammed into the fence.

Weeks later a report came from the school nurse confirming what Marty and I already knew: "Marty now has complete hearing in both ears." The miracle of how Marty regained his hearing, and still has it, remains just that: a miracle. Doctors feel that the shock from the electric fence was responsible. Probably so. Whatever the scientific reason, I just remain thankful to Heavenly Father for that pure exchange of gifts on that rainy Christmas Eve.

So you see, strange and wonderful things still happen on the night that we celebrate the birth of our Savior, the Christ Child. And one does not have to have a clear night to follow a star.


I’m not sure what gifts you will receive today, or have already, but I think you know what the greatest gift of Christmas is.  It’s a gift that gives forgiveness and life and the promise of God’s never ending love.  Enjoy that gift, and, if you want it to be an even greater gift, share the gift of Jesus today and every day.  AMEN