The 29¢ Christmas
“You can let me off here.”
“Are you sure? We can take you right to your house if you want; so you don’t have to walk in the cold.”
“No, this is all right. I just live a few houses from here.”
“Okay, thanks for coming over. Susan’s father and I enjoy you almost as much as Susan does.”
“Thanks for the ride. Goodnight, Susan. It’s been a special day.”
“Yes, it has. Merry Christmas, Tom. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Merry Christmas, Tom.”
“Merry Christmas to you, Mrs. White. Thanks again.”
Tom felt soft flakes of snow brush against his face as he watched the car lights disappear in the darkness. He turned and headed home. His thin Levi jacket didn’t seem to want to keep out the cold air, so Tom began to jog, leaving large footprints behind him in the powdery snow.
Colored lights decorated the passing houses. Down at the end of the road Tom climbed the barbed wire fences and quietly walked through the Moore’s backyard. Through the window he noticed their brightly decorated tree with its colored lights flashing on and off. He stopped for just a moment and then continued on through the open gate. Here he stopped again, his eyes falling upon the small frame house before him.
The light from the small window seemed to make a passing playground for the falling snowflakes to dance upon as they darted back and forth in a never ending game of tag.
“Some Christmas,” thought Tom. “I wonder why we never have anything. I can’t even bring my friends here.”
The light from the small window became blurred as tears filled Tom’s eyes. “If Susan ever finds out I live in this chicken coup she’ll drop me fast.” Discouraged, Tom wiped the tears from his eyes and entered the house.
“Hi Tom. I’m glad you’re home.”
“Oh, hi Mom.”
“Did you have a nice time son?”
Tom opened the stove and stuck a chunk of oak wood into the red flame. Tiny sparks shot from the disturbed fire and Tom thought of the colored lights on the houses down the street.
“I guess we’ll never have colored lights,” thought Tom. “Outside or inside.” Tom’s eyes fell sadly upon the small Christmas tree in the corner. Through the dim light of the room he could see the homemade ornaments hanging silently where he, his younger brothers, and mom had placed them. Somehow it didn’t look very pretty compared to Susan’s and the Moore’s tree next door.
“There’s some beans left, if you’re hungry, Tom.”
“Thanks mom. Are Dad and Gary in bed?”
“Yes, it’s been kind of a quiet Christmas Eve. I think I’ll go on to bed, too. Besides, I want tomorrow morning to come so we can open the presents you and Gary have put under the tree for us.”
“Don’t get your hopes up too high,” cautioned Tom as his eyes caught the smiling face of his mother.
“Oh, I’m not, but it’s the thought of giving, the token of love, that’s important. Good night, son.”
“Good night, mom.”
As Tom finished his beans his eyes fell upon the old worn Bible at the other end of the table. It was still open to the place where his mom had been reading. Tom picked it up and read:
“And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.
(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)
And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)
To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.” (Luke 2; 1-8)
Tom looked across the room to the picture of a manger scene that his younger brother had found in the Sears catalogue. The catalogue was a Christmas special and Tom remembered the smile Gary had on his face as he stuck the picture to the wall with some pitch from a piece of the wood in the wood box.
“What a place for the Savior of the world to be born.” Tom read on:
“And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” (Luke 2:9-14)
Again, Tom’s eyes were directed to the manger scene. “I guess it wasn’t much of a place, but that didn’t seem to bother the angels. That old stable has become a wonderful place, a sacred place because of who was there and what he did with his life.”
Tom’s eyes quickly scanned the dimly lighted room he sat ln. The linoleum floor was clean. The dishes had been washed, dried, and neatly placed in the small cupboard next to the sink. The colored curtains made from flour sacks were clean and ironed in expectant anticipation of Christmas day. The wood box was full of the best wood, ready to make our early morning fire to warm the house before the family arose.
“I guess,” thought Tom, “l guess the glory of this old house depends on the attitudes of the people who live here and what we make of our lives. Jesus spent his life in serving others. I guess he gave the greatest gift of all. He gave himself.”
Again tears came to Tom’s eyes as he quietly knelt by his chair and offered a silent prayer of thanksgiving for the birth and life of someone who lived over nineteen hundred and fifty-six years before. For the first time in his life he really believed that the Savior of the world did live and that he loved him.
The next morning Tom could hear his dad building a fire in the stove. Soon his dad returned to bed. All was silent again except for the crackling and popping of the fire which seemed to echo back and forth against the thin walls of the old wooden house. It wasn’t long before the warmth of the fire had embraced the three rooms of the small home. With the warmth came courage to leave their warm beds and soon the whole family was up and enjoying a light breakfast before the exchange of gifts.
Gary was especially excited and was the first to finish eating and fix himself in front of the Christmas tree. As the rest of the family gathered around the few small presents wrapped in various homemade wrappings, Tom’s father spoke.
“This has been a difficult year for us. Work has been scarce and money even more scarce, but we can all be thankful to the Lord for our health and strength. Your mom and I are thankful for you two boys. We feel bad that we can’t give you more for Christmas, but we want you to know that we would give you more if we could.” Father’s voice broke a little as he continued. “Just …just know that we…that we love you and are very proud of you.”
All were silent for a moment and yet what was said could have filled a book.
“Gary, you be the Santa Claus.”
“Okay, Mom,” smiled Gary as he reached for the gifts.
Tom sat silently as Gary passed each gift to whom it belonged. Gary was the first to open his gift; a pair of white shoe laces. He smiled with delight as he began threading them, just so, in his worn tennis shoes.
Father had two gifts. One was a homemade card which read:
“To a great Dad. We promise to cut wood, shovel snow and not complain.”
Love, Gary and Tom
The other was a note folded in half which read:
“Thank you, Frank, for eighteen years of love and kindness and two wonderful sons.”
All my love, Mary
Mother also had two gifts. One was a homemade card which read:
“To my beloved Mary. Thank you for a life of love and inspiration; a life of eternal friendship and partnership. Thank you for being the mother of my two fine sons. May our love be everlasting.”
Tom watched as his mother leaned over and took his father’s hand and kissed him tenderly on the cheek.
“Thank you, Frank.”
The other gift was from Tom and Gary. Carefully the brown paper bag wrapping was removed and in her hands their mother held a small wash tub and scrub board, carved by the loving hands and hearts of two young boys for someone they dearly loved. Carved in the side of the small tub were these words:
“To the best mom in all the world who washes away our troubles.”
We love you, Gary and Tom
Tears trickled down her face and only the words, “Thank you,” were able to struggle forth in grateful appreciation.
Now all eyes turned to Tom who sat holding his small present. Slowly he unwrapped his gift. As the paper fell away, Tom held proudly in his hand a shiny, red ball point pen still enclosed in its plastic and cardboard carrier.
Tom sat transfixed, gazing upon the 29¢ price printed on the cardboard jacket. “A 29¢ Christmas,” thought Tom.
Tom looked up into the questioning, almost aching eyes of his father and mother. Through tear filled eyes, Tom managed the words, “This is the best Christmas I’ve ever had. I shall always remember it.”
Then, as if being pulled by a large magnet, Tom gathered both parents in both of his arms and for a long moment squeezed in tender, loving, gratitude.
Many thoughts raced through Tom’s mind, but the one that warmed his heart and caused him to tingle all over was, “A 29¢ Christmas…worth more than all the money in the world, because money couldn’t buy it.”