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Christmas 08

Isaiah 11:1-10

December 8, 1998

Wesley, Doncaster East

This is Elizabeth English’ story.  It happened years ago.  She and her husband Herman ran their own old fashioned store with a bit of everything.  It had been a hard year.  It was Christmas Eve, 11 pm.  And they were dog-tired.

This year they’d sold almost all their toys and games.  Just one package, set aside for someone to pick up, remained.  Normally they’d have stayed around until everything was picked up, but the person just hadn’t appeared.

Early on Christmas morning Elizabeth, Herman and their twelve-year-old son, Tom, began opening their gifts under the Christmas tree.  But something was missing.  Tom had outgrown toys and only wanted clothes and games.

Breakfast over, Tom went next door.  Herman disappeared back to bed, mumbling, “I’m going back to sleep.  There’s nothing left to stay up for anyway.”

Elizabeth began washing up the dishes, feeling very let down.  It was 9 o’clock and the wind and rain outside made the day rather unpleasant.  “Sure glad I don’t have to go out on a day like this,” she thought to herself, as she began the task of picking up the wrapping paper and ribbons.

Then it began - something she’d never experienced before - a strong persistent urge: “Go to the store.”

She tried getting rid of the thought.  “Crazy,” she told herself, “Not on a day like this.”  She certainly wasn’t going to go.  She’d never been to the store on Christmas day in the ten years they’d been running it.  No-one opened up on Christmas day.  She didn’t want to go.  And she wasn’t going to.

For an hour she fought the feeling.  But it just wouldn’t go away.

She got dressed.

“Herman,” she said, feeling rather silly, “I’ll think I’ll take a walk down to the store.”

“Whatever for?” was his response, as he woke from his reverie.

“Oh, I don’t know,” she responded sheepishly.  “There’s not much to do here.  I just thought I’d wander down.”

He argued against it a bit, but she told him she’d be back soon.  “Alright,” he said, “but I don’t see any good reason for it.”

She’d put on warm clothes, but the weather outside was ever cooler than she’d imagined.  The rain seemed almost icy.

She felt ridiculous.  She had no reason walking out in the rain.

There was the store ahead.  “What in the world?” she said to herself.  In front of the shop window huddled two small boys, one about nine, the other about six.

“Here she comes!” yelled the older boy, his arm around his brother to keep the rain off him.  “Didn’t I say she’d come!”  The younger child had tears in his eyes, but when he saw Elizabeth his eyes opened wide and the sobbing stopped.

“What are you two doing out in the rain?” she scolded, hurrying them into the store.  You should be home on a day like this.  They were poorly dressed and their shoes scarcely held together.

“We’ve been waiting for you,” the older boy said.  In fact, they’d been there since 9 o’clock, the time the store normally opened.

“Why were you waiting for me?” she asked.

“My little brother, Jimmy, didn’t get any Christmas.  We want to buy some skates.  That’s what he wants.  We have these three dollars.  See, Miss Lady,” he said pulling the notes from his pocket.

She looked at the notes.  She looked at their expectant faces.  Then she looked around the store.  “I’m sorry,” she began, “but we’ve sold almost everything.  We have no ska..,” her voice trailed off, as her eyes caught sight of the one package, which hadn’t been picked up.  She couldn’t remember.  Could it just be..?

“Wait a minute,” she told the boys.  She walked over, pulled the package off the shelf, unwrapped it and, miracle of miracles, a pair of skates.

Jimmy reached for them.  “Lord,” she said silently, “let them be his size.”

And, miracle of miracles, they were his size.

Jimmy’s older brother tied the laces on the right skate.  When he saw they were the right size, he stood and presented the three dollars to Elizabeth.

“No,” she said, “I’m not taking your money.  I want Jimmy to have those skates and I want you to use your money for something for yourself.”

The two boys blinked at first.  Then their eyes became saucers, their grins stretching across their faces, as they realised she was giving them the skates and they could keep the three dollars.

What Elizabeth saw in Jimmy’s eyes was like a blessing: pure joy.  Her low spirits rose.

As they walked out the door, and she locked the door, she turned to the older boy and said, “You’re lucky I came along when I did.  But how did you know I would come?”

She wasn’t prepared for his reply.  His gaze was steady, as he answered softly, “I knew you’d come.  I asked Jesus to send you.”

The tingles up and down her spine weren’t from the cold.  She knew God had planned this.

They waved goodbye, and she turned for home to a brighter Christmas than she’d left.  Tom brought his friend over to the house.  Herman got out of bed.  Hi father, Papa English, and his sister, Ella, dropped in.  They had a wonderful Christmas sinner and a wonderful time.

But the one thing that made Christmas really wonderful for her that day was the one thing that she said makes every Christmas wonderful: Jesus was there.

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