Thursday, December 4, 2014

Gifts of Christmas

Gifts of Christmas
December 4th: Gift That Can't Be Bought

We love to read. Mama, she loves books, and she taught us to love them too. She read so many wonderful books to us when we were little and she continues to read to the little guys. Every year when December rolls around, we carefully scan our bursting bookshelves full of well worn, but definitely well loved books, and we pull out our many Christmas favorites. There's one in particular. It lost it's dust cover long ago and the binding is loose. But aren't those the best sometimes? And this one? It holds one of our most favorite Christmas stories...

It's a story about selflessness and love giving. It's about things that can't be bought but only lived out and expressed from the heart. 

I hope you love it as much as I do...

The Gift That Lasts a Lifetime
Pearl S. Buck

We woke suddenly and completely. It was four o’clock, the hour at which his father had always called him to get up and help with the milking. Strange how the habits of his youth still clung to him after 50 years! He had trained himself to turn over and go to sleep, but this morning because it was Christmas, he did not try to sleep.
   Yet what was the magic of Christmas now? His childhood and youth were long past, his father and mother were dead, and his own children grown up and gone. He and his wife were alone.
   Yesterday she had said, “Let’s not trim the tree until tomorrow, Robert-I’m tired.”
   He had agreed, and the tree was still out in the yard.
   He slipped back in time, as he did so easily nowadays. He was 15 years old and still on his father’s farm. He loved his father. He had not known how much until one day a few days before Christmas, when he had overheard what his father was saying to his mother.
   “Mary, I hate to call Rob in the mornings. He growing so fast and he needs his sleep. I wish I could manage alone.”
   “Well, you can’t, Adam.” his mother’s voice was brisk.
   “I know,” his father said slowly, “but I sure do hate to wake him.”
   When he heard these words, something in him woke: his father loved him! He had never thought of it before. He got up quicker after that, stumbling blind with sleep, and pulled on his clothes, his eyes tight shut, but he got up.
   And then on the night before Christmas, that year when he was 15, he lay on his side and looked out of his attic window. He wished he had a better present for his father than a 10-cent store tie.
   The stars were bright outside, and one star in particular was so bright that he wondered if it were really the Star of Bethlehem. “Dad,” he had once asked, “what is a stable?”
   “It’s just a barn,” his father had replied, “like ours.”
   Then Jesus had been born in a barn, and to a barn the shepherds and the Wise Men had come, bringing their Christmas gifts.
   The thought struck him like a silver dagger. Why should he not give his father a special gift? He could get up early, earlier than four o’clock, and he could creep into the barn and get all the milking done. He’d do it alone-milk and clean up, and then when his father went in to start the milking, he’d see it all done. And he would know who had done it.
   He must have waked 20 times during the night. At a quarter to three he got up and put on his clothes. He crept down stairs, careful of the creaky boards, and let himself out. A big star hung low over the barn roof, a reddish gold. The cows looked at him, sleepy and surprised.
   He had never milked all alone before, but it seemed almost easy. He kept thinking about his father’s surprise. He smiled and milked steadily, two strong streams rushing into the pail, frothing and fragrant. The cows were still surprised but acquiescent. For once they were behaving well, as though they knew it was Christmas.
   The task went more easily than he had ever known it to before. Milking for once was not a chore. It was something else, a gift to his father who loved him.
   Back in his room he had only a minute to pull off his clothes in the darkness and jump into bed, for he heard his father up. He put the covers over his head to silence his quick breathing. The door opened.
   “Rob!” his father called. “we have to get up, son, even if it is Christmas.”
   “Aw-right,” he said sleepily.
   “I’ll go on out,” his father said. “I’ll get things started.”
The door closed and he lay still, laughing to himself. The minutes were endless-ten, fifteen, he did not know how many-and he heard his father’s footsteps again.
   “Yes, Dad-“
   “Oh son-“ His father was laughing, a queer sobbing sort of a laugh. “Thought you’d fool me, did you?”
   “It’s for Christmas, Dad!”
   His father sat on on the bed and clutched him in a great hug. It was dark and they could not see each other’s faces.
   “Son, I thank you. Nobody ever did a nicer thing—“
   “Oh, Dad.” He did not know what to say. His heart was bursting with love.
   “Well, I reckon I can go back to bed,” his father said after a moment. “No, listen – the little ones are waking up. Come to think of it, son, I’ve never seen you children when you first saw the Christmas tree. I was always in the barn. Come on!”
   He got up and pulled on his clothes again and they went down to the Christmas tree, and soon the sun was creeping up to where the star had been. Oh, what a Christmas, and how his heart had nearly burst again with shyness and pride as his father told his mother and made the younger children listen about how he, Rob, had got up all by himself.
   “The best Christmas gift I have ever had, and I’ll remember it, son, every year on Christmas morning, so long as I live…”
   They had both remembered it, and now that his father was dead he remembered it alone: that blessed Christmas dawn when, alone with the cows in the barn, he had made his first gift of true love.
   On an impulse, he got up out of bed and put on his slippers and bathrobe and went softly upstairs to the attic and found the box of Christmas-tree decorations. He took them downstairs into the living room. Then he brought in the tree. It was a little one- they had not had a big tree since the children went away – but he set it in the holder and put it in the middle of the long table under the window. Then carefully he began to trim it.
   It was done very soon, the time passing as quickly as it had that morning long ago in the barn. He went to his library and fetched the little box that contained his special gift to his wife, a star of diamonds, not large but dainty in design. He tied the gift on the tree and then stood back. It was pretty, very pretty, and she would be surprised.
   But he was not satisfied. He wanted to tell her – to tell her how much he loved her. It had been a long time since he had really told her, although he loved her in a very special way, much more than he ever had when they were young.
   Ah, that was the true joy of life, the ability to love! He was quite sure that some people were genuinely unable to love anyone. But love was alive in him, alive because long ago it had been born in him when he knew his father loved him. That was it: love alone could waken love.
   And he could give the gift again and again. This morning, this blessed Christmas morning, he would give it to his beloved wife. He could write it down in a letter for her to read and keep forever. He went to his desk and began his love letter to his wife: My dearest love….
   Then he put out the light and went tiptoeing up the stairs The star in the sky was gone, and the first rays of the sun were gleaming in the sky. Such a happy, happy Christmas!

“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 Savior, which is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2: 10-11)

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