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Christmas Stories

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PESep84 A FABLE ON PEACE When Christ was born, the angel declared to the frightened shepherds, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of good will."  But the world has seen very few years of peace since Christ our Prince of Peace has come.  I discovered this fable on peace which challenges me.  "Tell me the weight of a snowflake," a sparrow asked a wild dove.  "Nothing more than nothing," was the answer.  "In that case, I must tell you a marvelous story," the sparrow said.  "I sat on the branch of a fir, close to its trunk, when it began to snow -- not heavily, not in a raging blizzard -- no, just like in a dream, without a sound, and without any violence.  Since I did not have anything better to do, I counted the snowflakes settling on the twigs and needles of my branch.  Their number was exactly 3,741,952.  When the 3,741,953rd dropped onto the branch, nothing more than nothing, as you saw, the branch broke off."  Having said that, the sparrow flew away.  The dove, since Noah's time an authority on the matter, thought about the story for awhile, and finally said to herself, "Perhaps only one person's voice is lacking for peace to come to the world."  From The Good News of Muskingum Valley, of Muskingum Valley Presbytery, February 1984.  Submitted by Rev. Ed Evans of the First United Presbyterian Church in Centralia, Illinois 62801+

PEApr86 INCARNATION For 18 years Dian Fossey, the California-born zoologist, worked with gorillas on the continent of Africa.  Working in the Virunga Mountains, located in the nation of Rwanda, she separated herself from civilization and those, who as poachers, sought to destroy the endangered gorillas.  Leaving life on one part of this world, she moved halfway around the world to the region of the gorillas and literally lived among them.  She first began in 1963 and four years later, by 1967, the gorillas had come to accept her.  Looking at the gorillas as deserving of her love, she identified with them, named them, cradled their babies, cried with them when they mourned their dead.  She once wrote:  "These powerful but shy and gentle animals accepted and responded to my attentions when I acted like a gorilla.  So I learned to scratch and groom and beat my chest.  I imitated my subjects' vocalizations (hoots, grunts and belches), munched the foliage they ate, kept low to the ground and deliberate in movement."  After 18 years with the gorillas, it was home.  She had made her home with them, she became like them, she dwelt among them, they were her friends.  And when faced with the danger of her mission, she would not leave.  In the end, as 1985 came to a close, Fossey died among those she came to save.  Apparently knifed by poachers whose trade she sought to destroy, she died like those she came to live among and save.  Two thousand years ago, Christ left the comfort of His heavenly home and entered into a hateful and hurting world.  He lived among us, he experienced grief and pain and injustice.  But He came with a purpose, to save a hopeless world.  And in the end of his earthly mission, he died upon a cross of shame, for us.  And with his death and resurrection, victory over the hostility of sin and death was won.  Submitted by Kurt Landerholm, United Methodist Church, Newport, Ohio. 45768+

SFDec86 GOD STOOPS TO US The depths of shame to which Jesus stooped was thrust quite suddenly upon the consciousness of a missionary held captive by the Chinese Communists.  In his book, When Iron Gates Yield, Geoffrey T. Bull writes:  After a meal, and when it was already dark, it was necessary for me to go downstairs to give more hay to the horses.  Chien permitted my going and I clambered down the notched tree trunk to the lower floor, which was given over in the usual manner to stabling.  Below, it was absolutely pitch black.  My boots squelched in the manure and straw on the floor, and the fetid smell of the animals was nauseating.  I felt my way among the mules and horses, expecting to be kicked at any moment.  What a place, I thought.  Then, as I continued to grope my way in the darkness toward the gray, it suddenly flashed into my mind, 'What's today?'  I thought for a moment.  In travelling, the days had become a little muddled in my mind.  Then it came to me, "It's Christmas Eve."  I stood still, suddenly still, in that oriental manger.  To think that my Saviour was born in a place like this.  To think that He came all the way from Heaven to some wretched eastern stable and, what is more, to think that He came for me.  How men beautify the cross and the crib, as if to hide the fact that at birth we resigned Him to the stench of beasts, and at death exposed Him to the shame of rogues.  God forgive us.  "Love to the uttermost, love to the uttermost, Love past all measuring His love must be; From Heaven's highest glory to earth's deepest shame, This is the love of my Saviour to me."  Submitted by C. James Pasma, Baptist Church, North Syracuse, New York.  13212+

SFDec86 A LETTER TO SANTA Dear Santa Claus:  You'll probably be surprised to receive this letter from an adult.  You may be even more surprised as you read it to find that the writer is neither a maiden aunt nor a disgruntled bachelor.  I'm a young mother.  It isn't my intention, Santa, to hurt your feelings.  You see, my family has paid tribute to you for many past Christmases:  my husband and I, when we were in our childhood, and now our children who are 6, 4 and 1.  They still care for you.  How much they care has really proved a problem in recent years.  It is threatening to happen again this holiday season.  Our children worship you.  They speak of you constantly.  They watch diligently for your Dec 25 appearance.  Can you tell us, Santa, what you have done to deserve this faithfulness from two generations?  Can you promise any future consideration in exchange for past loyalties?  During a family crisis, have you ever told us, "Lo, I am with you always?"  Were you ever with us during sorrow to comfort us with this words:  "But your sorrow will be turned into joy"?  And, Santa, there have been doubtful times.  Where were you?  We didn't hear from you the calming message, "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee."  We have come to the conclusion that you have been even less than a friend should be.  And we have been short changed.  My three children have stood in a windy, cold Main Street just to get a glimpse of your jolly face.  They have written heartfelt yearly letters.  They have gone to department stores to whisper in your ear.  They have worked hard at being good in anticipation of your Christmas Eve visit.  Yes, they've done all this -- as their father and I did before them.  But there's going to be a change this Christmas.  There isn't going to be any Santa Claus worship in our home.  We've decided to focus our attention and adoration on another Being -- One who has stood by us the other 364 days this past year; One who has comforted us during the sorrowful and doubtful times -- and, yes, the times of crisis also.  It's true that your name will probably be mentioned around our house, Santa.  Old habits are hard to break abruptly.  But Someone Else's name will be mentioned much more often.  The children will probably work just as hard at being good, but I hope they will do it for another inducement -- one that will last the whole year long -- to bring glory to Another's name.  That other One has given us so much more -- and not just on Christmas Eve!  You may call our family fickle, Santa, but we won't mind.  On this December 25, and all through the coming year, we want a Comforter, a Healer, a strengthening King.  We don't want a myth any longer.  You see, our Christmas thoughts will revolve around a manger and a tiny Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes.  We've talked it over.  This year we've decided to give tribute, honor, and worship to Someone who really deserves them -- to the True Giver -- our God and Saviour.  Farewell, A Young Mother.  By Ann Lamp, The Greenville News, Dec, 1972.  Submitted by Bruce Rowlison, Presbyterian Church, Gilroy, California.  95020+

SFDec86 SYMBOLS OF THE GREATER GIFT At a Christmas celebration in a nursing home, I asked the folks to tell us about their favorite Christmas experience.  The group seemed to light up.  Spontaneously one by one they told their Christmas story.  Each was different except in one respect.  Every experience was taken from their childhood.  They did not remember Christmas as a parent, but as a child.  Then I turned the question on myself.  I, too, returned to my childhood.  The first, and perhaps most memorable, experience I recalled took place when I was seven years old.  Early Christmas Eve, my mother took my brother and me out for a treat.  It was her way to get us out of our fifth floor apartment in the Bronx while my father prepared the evening festivity.  As we climbed the stairs back to the apartment, the shrill sound of a whistle filled the hallway.  What was that, and where did it come from?  Our pace quickened and a second burst of the whistle could be heard.  We dashed into the apartment.  There was father playing engineer with the biggest Lionel train ever made.  It was so magnificent, so unexpected, so wonderful.  Some fifty years later, I still have the train set and cherish it as much as any material gift ever received from my now sainted parents.  The train is a warm reminder of the greater gift my parents gave me.  This gift has nothing to do with any material advantages, or even with any piece of sage advice.  Unconditional love was their gift.  I never doubted their care for me, and from such grace sprang my own capacity to truth.  It was only years later that I fully understood the gift my parents made me had its source in God's gift of the Child to us all.  The sound of the whistle and the song of the angels have become one and the same.  They are both the signal of God's Love.  Andrew Wyermann, Advent Invitations (Creative Communications for the Parish, St. Louis, MO, 1986), page 28.+

SFDec86 VARIOUS INTERPRETATIONS OF THE NATIVITY As soon as the tree is trimmed, the next Christmas event in our home is getting out the nativity scene.  The pieces come from at least three different sets.  They include a 3-legged donkey and a one-horned cow.  (I'm not sure if that is from Luke or Matthew's version.)  Fortunately, all of them are either plastic or wood.  I say fortunately, because they have constantly occupied one little boy's waking hours.  Of course, this little boy's parents have been deliberate in teaching him each character's proper name and each animal's proper sound.  But his favorite thing is just trying to fit too many pieces into the too small stable.  Just when I was sure that boy wonder finally understood that camels go on the left with the wise men and the sheep on the right with the shepherds -- you know what he did?  He put one of the sheep in the manger and stood up baby Jesus by the wall with the other people.  Well, you can be sure my seminary training was not wasted.  I immediately returned the sheep to the shepherds (on the right side, of course) and put baby Jesus back into the manger.  Then my son, lacking proper theological training, again put baby Jesus with the other people characters and returned the baby sheep to the manger!  There would be no changing his mind about this.  I was forced to look at this nativity scene with a sheep in the manger!  It was ridiculous.  But I must admit that he knows something about the scene that his theologian father missed.  After all, mangers are for animals -- not for people.  And people like Jesus are for standing with the people.  And as for that little sheep in the manger . . . well, when he gets older he'll probably quote what some other Baptist preacher had to say:  "Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world."  Submitted by Charles Julian, River Avenue Baptist Church, Indianapolis, Indiana.  46221-0176+

PEDec86 A PARABLE OF CHRISTMAS EVE Once there lived a king who had power over all nations and peoples.  His courts were of richest Splendor; his tables were heavy with finest food.  Music and laughter and gaiety floated from his castle.  Clouds wrapped it in ethereal majesty.  Peasants -- in their valley of violence and hunger -- stopped and looked at the castle for a long while, wishing they might know the king.  But none were able to reach it.  In the cold of winter, the king's tailor entered the royal chambers with the latest additions to the king's wardrobe.  He had selected the finest materials and woven them into the most beautiful garments that eyes had ever seen.  But the king was not pleased.  He ordered his tailor out, vowing to make his own clothes.  The door to the throne room was shut and locked.  Weeks passed.  The royal court waited with anticipation to see what the king would make for himself.  They knew they were bound to be blinded by the glory of it.  Finally the awaited day arrived.  The door opened and the king appeared.  Everyone, especially the tailor, gasped in surprise.  His Majesty was dressed in the simplest, cheapest, most unkingly garments imaginable.  He had the choice of the world's finest materials, but he had chosen to wear the clothes of a beggar.  He spoke quietly to them all:  "I am going into the valley!" By Michael Daves, submitted by Al Reutter, San Jose, California.+

SFDec87 CHILDLIKE FAITH AT CHRISTMAS As Christmas approached, each grade 7 student was asked to create a Christmas banner.  The best creations were to be selected for the Children's Mass on Christmas Eve.  The day the selections were made, Vivian, a 7th grade girl, came home from school in tears.  Her heart was breaking.  Not only had the teacher rejected her banner but she told her she didn't have the proper respect for the project.  And certainly she didn't know what Christmas was all about.  To make matters worse, the rest of the children had laughed at her.  "Viv, dear," her mother asked, "what did your banner say?"  Through her tears Vivian managed to blurt it out.  "My banner said, 'Mary had a little Lamb.  His name was Jesus.'"  Her mother paused for a moment or two.  Then, with tears welling up in her own eyes, she took her daughter in her arms and gave her a long tight hug.  "I think you made a lovely banner, Viv.  Bring it home.  We'll put it up right over our family crib [creche]."  Vivian's banner became a prominent part of the family crib every year thereafter, proclaiming to all visitors their love for Jesus.  It seems God still uses simple child-like faith to show us his love.  May this Christmas bring each of us new insights into God's great love for us, whether it be through Mary's baby, Jesus, or Jesus, the Lamb of God.  A true story submitted by Myles Colgan, Niagara Falls, NY.+

PEDec83 THE STAR Back during World War II a little boy and his daddy were driving home on Christmas Eve.  They drove past rows of houses with Christmas trees and decorations in the windows.  In many of the windows the little boy noticed a star.  He asked his father, "Daddy, why do some of the people have a star in the window?"  His daddy said that the star meant that the family had a son in the war.  As they passed the last house, suddenly the little boy caught sight of the evening star in the sky.  "Look, Daddy, God must have a son in the war too!  He's got a star in his window."  Indeed, God has a Son who went to war, but Jesus came into our world to go to war with sin.+

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