22 December 2015  

  

Welcome to this very special season, and thank you much for
being here with us.  This world is a much richer place for your
presence in it, and during no time of the year do we focus on
the value and beauty of our fellow human beings as much as
we do at Christmas.  May we one day do so all year long. . . . 

The Promise of the Doll
Ruth C. Ikerman

One Gift to Give

The Gift of a Child
Mary Ann Matthews

All I Want for Christmas
tom walsh
   
The Man Who Missed Christmas
J. Edgar Park

We have plenty of quotations and passages on Christmas available
for you on our Christmas page--please enjoy it!

   

What is Christmas? It is tenderness for the past,
courage for the present, hope for the future.
It is a fervent wish that every cup may overflow
with blessings rich and eternal, and that every
path may lead to peace.

Agnes M. Pharo

Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind.
To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy,
is to have the real spirit of Christmas.

Calvin Coolidge

The most vivid memories of Christmases past are usually not
of gifts given or received, but of the spirit of love,
the special warmth of Christmas worship,
the cherished little habits of home.

Lois Rand

  

  

The Promise of the Doll
Ruth C. Ikerman

When I met my friend on the crowded street, she held out her hand to me and said, "I hope you can help me.  I'm desperate."  Wearily she explained, "I'm about to cry and it's all over a doll.  I simply have to find this doll for my granddaughter."

As tears filled her eyes, I remembered the terrible shock we all had felt over the death of her daughter who had been such a vivacious young mother until stricken several months before.  The young husband was doing a fine job with the little girl, but it was on the grandmother that much of the burden of planning for good things remained.  And this explained her Christmas errand.

"I blame myself entirely," she told me, "for not starting earlier, but I never thought it would be a problem to find one of these special dolls.  Yet there is not one of this variety left in town."

I asked her, "Well, why can't you settle for another kind of doll?"

She shook her head.  "One of the last things my daughter ever said to me before the pain got so bad was how sorry she was that she had refused to buy this doll for her little girl.  

She told me she had thought the child was too young for such a doll, and had refused to buy it for her birthday, supposing there were lots of occasions ahead when she could get it for her."

Then she told the rest of the story.  The little girl had come to her mother's bedside and asked whether the doll might arrive at Christmastime.  The young mother grasped the tiny hand in hers and said, "I promise you this for Christmas."  Then she had asked her own mother to do this one thing, "Just make sure that my little girl gets that doll this Christmas."

Now my friend was about to fail in her mission.  "It's all my fault," she kept repeating.  "I waited until too late.  It will take a miracle now."

Secretly I agreed, but I tried to keep up a polite facade of courage.  "Maybe the child has forgotten, and will be happy with something else."

Grimly my friend replied, "She may forget, but I won't."  We parted to go our separate ways.

With my mind only half on my shopping, I found the ribbon a neighbor wanted to finish a baby blanket she was making.  A few minutes later I stopped at her door to leave the package and was invited inside.

Her two little girls sat on the floor, playing with their dolls.  As I sat down, I noticed that one of the dolls was the same type my friend was seeking.  Hopefully I asked, "Can you remember where you bought that doll?"

My friend gave me her warmhearted smile.  "That's not a doll," she said, "she's a member of the family, and as near as I can see she probably was born and not made.  She came to us by plane from a favorite aunt in the East."

So I told her that I had a friend who was searching frantically for such a doll for the little girl whose mother had passed away during the year.  Apparently unaware of us, the two children played happily.  The mother and I spoke in adult words about facing loss at the holiday time, and how much we wished I could help my friend.

Later when I got up to leave, the two little girls followed me to the door.

"Dolly is ready to leave, too," they told me.  Sure enough, she was dressed in a red velveteen coat and hat with a white fur muff.

"Where is dolly going?" I asked.

They laughed happily.  "With you, of course.  You know where the lady lives, don't you--the one who needs the doll so bad?"

I started to tell them that of course I couldn't take this doll.  then I looked at their faces, happy in the moment of giving.  If I say the wrong thing now, something within my heart warned, I may ruin their joy of giving for the rest of their lives.  Silently I took the doll, fumbling with my car keys so they did not see the mist over my eyes.

Their mother asked, "Are you both sure you want to do this?"  They answered, "Yes, we do. . . ."  The mother put her arms around them tenderly.

Later I rang the doorbell of my friend.  "Don't ask me how I got it, for I can't talk just yet.  The doll is a little smudgy, but the worn places are from kisses and maybe they won't show under the Christmas lights."

She fondled the doll as if it were made of precious metal.  Tears of joy welled up in her eyes when I finally was able to tell the story.

"How can I ever thank those children enough?" she asked.

"They already have received a blessing greater than anything you or I could give them," I told her.  "I saw their faces when they offered me the doll to bring to you."

And it was true.  In the moment of giving they had also received, in ways past our finding out.  A promise could be kept, linking here with there, in the eternal circle of love of which the great gift of Christmas itself is a part.

  

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One Gift to Give

At Christmastime, teacher Elizabeth M. Allen of North Carolina asked her class of fifth graders to answer this question:  "If you could give any gift you wanted to, what would you give and to whom?"  Here are some of the responses her students wrote: 

The gift I would most like to give would be love.  It lasts forever and never grows dull.  It can be given to anyone that you like.  ~~John Brandon

If I could give one gift I would give it to my parents.  If I could get them to get along together.  And live together forever.  Year after year, month after month.  If I could give that gift, I would give anything in this world if they would live together.  And make up their minds if they are going to live together.   ~~Fonda Hunter

I would give a small orphan child friendship, fun, and a home where he would be happy.  I would tell him never to be sad.   ~~Amanda Greene

I would give jobs and good homes to the poor and stop poverty all over the world.   ~~Laurie Kerr 

I would like to give happiness to the people that have not smiled.  ~~Larry Shaw

If I had one gift, I would give it to my mother.  I would give her a washer and dryer.  Because I love her, and she works too hard.   ~~Darlene Byrd

I would give my crippled grandmother the power to walk.  She stays alone down in her home in South Carolina.  We left our dog down there to keep her company.  She seems real happy when we come; but she gets sad when we leave.  She stayed two years in our house, but she wanted to go back home because she thinks she is too much trouble, but she's not.   ~~Sylvia Johnston

There are many lessons that we can take from children, and one of those is to try to see the true needs of the people in our lives, and to try to fulfill those needs in the best ways that we can. . . .
  

  
The Gift of a Child
Mary Ann Matthews

Christmas comes at different times for me every year.  I never know precisely when it will arrive or what will produce its spirit, but I can always be sure that it will happen.

Last year Christmas happened while I was visiting my parents in Conneaut, Ohio.  The day was frightfully cold, with swirls of snow in the air, and I was looking out of the living room window of my folks' home which faces St. Mary's Church.  Workmen had just finished constructing the annual nativity scene in the churchyard when school let out for the day.  Children gathered excitedly around the crèche, but they didn't stay long; it was far too cold for lingering.

All the children hurried away--except for a tiny girl of about six.  The wind lashed at her bare legs and caused her coat to fly open in the front, but she was oblivious of the weather.  All her attention was riveted on the statues before her.  Which one I couldn't tell.  Was it Mary?  The Baby?  The animals?  I wondered. . . .

And then I saw her remove her blue woolen head scarf.  The wind quickly knotted her hair into a wild tangle, but she didn't seem to notice that either.  She had only one thought.  Lovingly, she wrapped her scarf around the statue of the Baby Jesus.  After she had covered it, she patted the Baby and then kissed it on the cheek.  Satisfied, she skipped on down the street, her hair frosted with tiny diamonds of ice.

Christmas had come once again.

  
When my daughter was small she got the dubious part of the Bethlehem star in a Christmas play.  After her first rehearsal she burst through the door with her costume, a five-pointed star lined in shiny gold tinsel designed to drape over her head like a sandwich board.  "What exactly will you be doing in the play?" I asked her.

"I just stand there and shine," she told me.  I've never forgotten that response.

Sue Monk Kidd

  

  

Eyes Wide Open
tom walsh

All I Want for Christmas

This Christmas promises to be a nice one, a comfortable one, a hopeful one.  We have many reasons to be thankful, and we're not struggling nearly as much as we have been in the past.  We still have a long way to go in several different areas, but for the most part, things are going quite well.

Of course, I'm fortunate to be able to say that.  We don't live in Afghanistan or the Gaza strip or in a so-called third-world country in which people struggle for food and clothing and work.  I work hard, but I'm fortunate to have a job.  I'm fortunate to have the means to take care of a family, and I'm fortunate to have a home in which I can draw a nice hot bath after a long day of work.  I know this, and I feel a great deal of gratitude when I think of all we have.

But when Christmas comes and we start to think about giving and receiving, our focus isn't generally on what we have, but on what we could have, what may be, what may happen.  We tend to think about what we'd be able to do with this or that, and how our lives would change if we had this or that.  It's nice to imagine these things, but our imaginings are so often centered around material things that we know can't help us in the long term that the days and weeks after Christmas are often filled with a bit of disappointment.

One of my favorite Christmas songs was written by David Foster and Linda Thompson Jenner; it's called "Grown-up Christmas List," and its chorus goes like this:

"No more lives torn apart
That wars would never start
And time would heal all hearts.
Everyone would have a friend
And right would always win
And love would never end.
This is my grown-up Christmas list."

The ideas here are timeless, and they're relevant to all of us, all the time.  If these few things would come to pass, life on this planet would become a great joy for everyone, and we'd be able to focus on developing the parts of ourselves that we tend to ignore when we're struggling in other areas--we rarely grow in one area when we're worried or preoccupied with another area.  One of the reasons that many people stay in debt, for example, is that they get so worried about their money situation that they can't work on improving other areas of their lives that may help them deal with the debt.

All this said, I come to what I would love to have as a gift this Christmas:  the ability to learn from all the people I meet and all the things that happen to me.  I would love to be able to make my life more fulfilling and to be able to teach others about living full, happy lives, but I can't do so unless I put behind me many of my own behaviors that prevent me from learning lessons and applying them to my life.  For example, I often tend to discount what some people say simply because I don't feel comfortable with them, or because they tend to behave in ways that I'm not fond of -- perhaps they tend to insult others or gossip or steal from work and brag about it.  But their behaviors aside, there's still something to learn from everyone, and I often discount someone as a source of learning when I really shouldn't.

I also don't apply lessons as quickly as I could -- I learn things, but it sometimes takes me forever to apply the knowledge to my life.  I've learned that encouraging others is a great way to help them to grow and advance in life, but I still don't encourage others nearly as often as I could.  I've learned that taking things personally usually is uncalled for and destructive, but I still take things personally when I really shouldn't.

If I could have this gift, I know that I would be much better at helping other people to grow and to flourish as human beings, and I would be better at contributing to their happiness.  Imagine that:  I could help others to lead happy lives!

So that's it:  that's all I want for Christmas.  I've checked the malls and the department stores, and even the supermarkets and convenience stores, but I haven't been able to find anything similar.  None of the online stores that I shop at  offer anything similar, and I haven't seen any commercials on TV that offer what I want.  So where can I get this gift?  Who's going to give it to me?  Hmm. . . . maybe I'll just have to find it inside of myself and give it to myself as a stocking stuffer -- my guess is that this gift isn't going to take up a lot of space.

If you know where I can get this gift, let me know, okay?  I really would appreciate it!

  
  
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Every time we love, every time we give, it's Christmas.

Dale Evans Rogers


Thanks for joining us today!  Happy Holidays!

  

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The Man Who Missed Christmas
J. Edgar Park

It was Christmas Eve, and as usual, George Mason was the last to leave the office. He walked over to a massive safe, spun the dials, and swung the heavy door open. Making sure the door would not close behind him, he stepped inside.

A square of white cardboard was taped just above the topmost row of strongboxes. On the card a few words were written. George Mason stared at those words, remembering…

Exactly one year ago he had entered this self-same vault. And then, behind his back, slowly, noiselessly, the ponderous door swung shut. He was trapped–entombed in the sudden and terrifying dark.

He hurled himself at the unyielding door, his hoarse cry sounding like an explosion. Through his mind flashed all the stories he had heard of men found suffocated in time vaults. No time clock controlled this mechanism; the safe would remain locked until it was opened from the outside. Tomorrow morning.

Then realization hit him. No one would come tomorrow–tomorrow was Christmas.

Once more he flung himself at the door, shouting wildly, until he sank on his knees exhausted. Silence came, high-pitched, singing silence that seemed deafening. More than thirty-six hours in a steel box three feet wide, eight feet long, and seven feet high. Would the oxygen last? Panting and breathing heavily, he felt his way around the floor. Then, in the far right-hand corner, just above the floor, he found a small, circular opening. Quickly he thrust his finger into it and felt a faint but unmistakable, cool current of air.

The tension release was so sudden that he burst into tears. But at last he sat up. Surely he would not have to stay trapped for the full thirty-six hours. Somebody would miss him. But who? He was unmarried and lived alone. The maid who cleaned his apartment was just a servant; he had always treated her as such. He had been invited to spend Christmas Eve with his brother’s family, but children got on his nerves and expected presents.

A friend had asked him to go to a home for elderly people on Christmas Day and play the piano–George Mason was a good musician. But he had made some excuse or other; he had intended to sit at home, listening to some new recordings he was giving himself.

George Mason dug his nails into the palms of his hands until the pain balanced the misery in his mind. Nobody would come and let him out, nobody, nobody, nobody…

Miserably the whole of Christmas Day went by, and the succeeding night.

On the morning after Christmas the head clerk came into the office at the usual time, opened the safe, then went on into his private office.

No one saw George Mason stagger out into the corridor, run to the water cooler, and drink great gulps of water. No one paid any attention to him as he left and took a taxi home.

Then he shaved, changed his wrinkled clothes, ate breakfast, and returned to his office where his employees greeted him casually.

That day he met several acquaintances and talked to his own brother. Grimly, the truth closed in on George Mason. He had vanished from human society during the great festival of brotherhood and no one had missed him at all.

Reluctantly, George Mason began to think about the true meaning of Christmas. Was it possible that he had been blind all these years with selfishness, indifference, and pride? Was not giving, after all, the essence of Christmas because it marked the time God gave His Son to the world?

All through the year that followed, with little hesitant deeds of kindness, with small, unnoticed acts of unselfishness, George Mason tried to prepare himself..

Now, once more, it was Christmas Eve.

Slowly he backed out of the safe and closed it. He touched its grim, steel face lightly, almost affectionately, and left the office.

There he goes now in his black overcoat and hat, the same George Mason as a year ago. Or is it? He walks a few blocks, and then flags a taxi, anxious not to be late. His nephews are expecting him to help them trim the tree. Afterwards, he is taking his brother and his sister-in-law to a Christmas play. Why is he so happy? Why does this jostling against others, laden as he is with bundles, exhilarate and delight him?

Perhaps the card has something to do with it, the card he taped inside his office safe last New Year’s Day. On the card is written, in George Mason’s own hand:

“To love people, to be indispensable somewhere, that is the purpose of life. That is the secret of happiness.”

   

  

   

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