Flakes of snow spiraled down . Each flake a unique droplet of color from the brush of the master painter. By working together each flake played a part in painting the landscape in the color of Christmas.
On the ground, in a little American town far from the notice of the world, a streetlight cast a yellow pool beneath it. A young woman was huddled in the light, staring at the house before her.
Her target was there.
She could see him, pacing before his office window. She wouldn’t bother him at all but she had no other place to go. No one else to turn to. She exhaled, sending a stream of fragile vapor into the cold air before her. She was afraid of what was to come. Still, she knew she had to do something. It was time.
The children’s choir practicing in the sanctuary hit a crescendo. Which would be alright, except for the fact that twenty different notes were being hit at the same time…in twenty different keys, if that were possible.
On the bright side, they were better than last week. Perhaps another sermon on judgement and wrath would wake them up. Then again, he had learned over the years that preaching to the choir was never helpful.
It would be more helpful to invest in a morphine prescription.
Brad Mallet paced his living room. His dark eyebrows were crinkled and the corners of his thinly pressed lips were experiencing a serious downturn.
Much like the graph he had just seen showing his progress on the stock market.
“Well God. What am I supposed to do?” He flung out his hands in an expression of helpless surrender. “Christmas. I’ve preached on that a thousand times. What can I say about it that hasn’t been said a thousand times already?”
Another flake fell from the ceiling, adding to the smattering of paint flecks that already covered the wretched brown carpet.
“Merry Christmas Brad,” he mumbled to himself.
There was no other response to his plea and so he returned to his desk.
Some members of his congregation said he should use a computer, however, the problems with computers were obvious. Crumpling them and hurling them against the wall created far more problems than when he simply crumpled and hurled balls of paper against the wall. That was a problem on nights like this.
Maybe he was just overtired and over stressed.
He surveyed the stacks of paper on his desk.
Apparently, clutter was a sign of an intelligent mind, if that were true he was one of the more intelligent people in this world. However, if he was so intelligent, why couldn’t he come up with a new sermon idea?
He didn’t have much time left to do it.
If only he could simply say what he wanted to say.
His head swiveled toward the picture displayed upon his desk.
The portrait of a slender young woman with beautiful blonde hair and a friendly smile held his gaze for much longer than one would expect.
She was coming for him tonight.
He had to be ready.
As if underscoring this truth, the mob of children in the sanctuary next door began stampeding back and forth in the hallway before his office. No doubt the mob was being lead by that new girl, deceptively called Grace.
Brad felt pressure boiling up within him.
He had never liked children, that’s why he and his wife had stopped with one.
He took a breath, struggling to calm himself.
The breeze began to pick up speed.
The gentle flakes of white that had been content to settle softly to the ground were thrown into chaos, scattered to the four winds.
The young woman thrust her hands into the pockets of her parka and headed down the sidewalk leading toward the Church that glowed with a million different colors of light. Her long mane of hair was being tossed and tangled by the wind but she could care less.
The waves of pain pulsing through her body were growing stronger. She needed to get help. One by one, feet traversed the concrete steps leading up to the front door. She felt tension rising within her as she prepared her fist to pound on the door.
The celebrations of the children in the sanctuary steadily increased in volume. It was like being at a rock concert with a deaf sound tech at the controls.
Still, somehow, he could hear her voice.
The young woman in the picture seemed to be calling to him.
Brad had always been close to her. That is why it hurt so much when he had discovered her betrayal. What would his congregation think if the pastor’s daughter married someone from another race? That was the main question he had concerned himself with then.
He had been pretty vain as a young Pastor.
A blond haired, blue-eyed, poster boy for health and wealth.
Looking back on it now, he wished that he had spent more time worrying about doing good than looking good. If he had, he would still have his daughter with him. He leaned toward her picture as if summoned by a higher power.
Her voice seemed so real. It was almost as if she were in the room with him.
After he had interrupted a Christmas gathering with a self-righteous tirade she had stormed out. She was determined to get married, with or without his blessing.
What would she be like now?
After all these years?
He would soon find out. She had promised to visit him tonight.
Tonight! He couldn’t wait.
Oh for a chance to erase those racist words he had shouted in a fit of foolish emotion. Oh for an opportunity to restore their relationship. He had prayed for this for many years. Now at last, his chance was at hand.
He only hoped that he wouldn’t blow it.
The tiny fists of children were beating against his door. It sounded like a horde of orcs was out there preparing to pillage his fortress.
He forced himself into the present.
These wild children needed to be dealt with.
With that thought in his mind he marched toward the door leading to the rest of the Church.
“Hello, may I help you?”
A small child had opened the door.
“Hello.” She paused for a moment. “Is the Pastor in?”
“He’s in alright. In deep trouble.” The child giggled.”I wouldn’t talk to him right now if I were you.”
“Please, I need help.” Amy gasped as pain shot through her. “Please.”
“No. We don’t have room for you.” The child began to close the door. “My Mom said not to let strangers in.”
“Wait a minute! I…” It was too late. The door had slammed shut in her face.
Amy tried the knob but it was locked.
Now what could she do?
She leaned against the door for support. In her condition she couldn’t go much farther. Her breathing was growing heavier. Things were coming to an end.
Strings of multicolored Christmas lights flashed and flickered all around her. They were beautiful, however, she didn’t pay any attention to them.
Her boyfriend was worthless. Everyone at home had warned her about getting involved with that spoiled white boy. Still. Why had her boyfriend abandoned her here?
No one in this town seemed interested in talking to her. Because of her skin color and heritage they all thought of her as a criminal.
Racism is only an academic problem until it happens to you.
Sometimes words stab like a murderer’s knife into the back of a victim. That is how it felt when she had overheard some teenagers mocking her as she passed them on the street.
Oh how she wanted someone to care for her.
Was that even possible?
Tears began to flow down her face as the hopelessness of her situation became clear.
Brad pulled open the door of his office.
As his eyes took in the destruction littering the hallway his mouth opened to make way for the shout about to burst forth from it.
Grace bounded up. Her pig tails bounced with every step. As she stopped before Brad, her face broke a charming, toothy grin. For a moment, he felt his heart of ice begin to melt. Then, she shot a foam dart into his chest. Before he could recover, Grace was off, giggling and scampering down the hallway to join the rest of her clan.
He took a breath and then exhaled.
Calm Brad! Calm!
He returned to his office. He knew that he should be working on his sermon but he just couldn’t force himself to concentrate.
It would be so much easier if he could just speak from his heart.
He began pacing the room again.
The picture on his desk beckoned to him, yet he remained in motion.
Any minute now she would be here, at his door.
He breathed out another prayer. Another in a long string of them. Begging God to give him the words to say to her. Words that would help heal the wounds of the past, not inflame them any further.
Was that her?
He stopped pacing and listened.
The young woman stared at the door before her.
If only she could punch her way through it.
If only she could make these people understand the pain that she was suffering.
Was that too much to ask?
The young woman brushed away a sheen of falling snow. Resolve was building within her. She would stay here and pound on the door until the Pastor himself told her that he didn’t want to speak to her.
She didn’t have any other choice, did she?
Her baby was about to be born.
It needed a home.
With that, she began to pound on the door with a newfound force.
Yes. At last! It wasn’t just his overactive imagination, there actually was someone knocking on the door, someone that urgently wanted his attention.
It must be her!
Brad headed through the garage toward the entrance leading toward the great outdoors. As he reached it, he took a deep breath and then pulled it open. A slender woman wearing a dull brown parka stood in the doorway. He studied her well-tanned oval face, her tired dark eyes, and her long black pony tail.
The hope he had been celebrating vanished.
“Oh.” Brad sputtered. “I was expecting someone else.”
“Hello. I’m Amy…I don’t know how to say this, but I…I need your help.”
“Um. Okay. What do you need?”
“Help. I’m about to deliver a baby.”
“I’m sorry I don’t know if I’d be much help with that, I’m just a Minster after all and…”
“Please. Just let me come in. I don’t have anywhere else to go.”
There was a moment of silence as the two people stared at each other. Around them, winter continued to hurl ice pellets and snow flakes toward anyone in its path, but they didn’t notice.
“Alright come in and wait. I’ll call for help.”
“Thank you.” Amy stumbled into the dimly lit garage that lay between her and the main Church building.
“How close are you?”
“Very close. I don’t know if help will get here in time.”
“Get into my car then. Hurry.”
Amy didn’t need any more prompting. The contractions were coming fast now. She struggled through the debris scattered in the garage toward the passenger side of the preacher’s long black Cadillac.
All the while Brad was working his cell-phone. Struggling to explain the situation to an operator that seemed to be extremely hard of hearing.
Amy settled into the soft leather seat and closed her eyes. With or without professional help, she was about to become a mother.
She gasped out a prayer for help.
“Friends, last night I decided to change careers. I became a midwife.”
The congregation before him laughed. This was great. Jokes like this were why they kept him on as a pastor. What was the man going to say next?
“I had an unexpected visitor drop in last night, which is why I don’t have much to share with you by way of a message today. For that I apologize.
However, I can say that I will never forget how little Jamie came into this world. It was in the garage attached to this very Church building. I’m told that giving birth beside a lawnmower isn’t a normal birthing procedure but somehow, we managed it anyway.
What can I say? Maybe little Jamie was anxious to get out and celebrate the season!”
The congregation laughed again but this time their laughter was muted. As if they were catching on that this might not be a joke after all.
“Thank God my daughter arrived shortly after the baby was born. I don’t know what I would’ve done without her help. It was tough. However, I’m glad to report this morning that both the mother and the baby are doing well.”
Brad took a moment to survey his congregation.
It was a historic day. Nobody was sleeping. Everyone was staring back at him, waiting for him to deliver a punch line of some sort.
Even little Grace was sitting still this morning.
It was a day for Christmas miracles indeed.
Why not take a chance and speak from his heart? Brad hesitated for a moment and then he plunged forward into a political minefield. At least for his congregation.
“I can’t help but think of another child that we celebrate around Christmas time. Another child that was born into challenging circumstances. Another child that was unwanted and unrecognized by most of the world of his time. A child who would grow up and teach us to recognize those that are called the ‘least of these.’ Meaning, those that society at large looks down upon as lesser.’”
“I…I…” Brad paused and cleared his throat. “I must confess that I haven’t done all that I should in this regard. However, I’ve come to realize that some changes need to be made in my life.
According to the Scriptures, an angel once proclaimed that what we now recognize as the the first Christmas was ‘good news of great joy that will be for all the people.’ Notice that little word, ‘all.’ That includes people of all shapes and colors.
All are precious in His sight!
What a thought! To be honest, it isn’t one that I’ve always believed in. However, Christmas is a season for celebrating new birth. Therefore, I feel it is the perfect time to commit myself to a season of personal renewal. I would encourage us all to do the same.
Instead of saying things like, ‘those kinds of people are all bad news.’ Let us become more committed to becoming the kind of people who are busy sharing good news, of great joy, that is for all the people.
Let us become the kind of people who celebrate Christmas all-year long. Not by the giving of gifts, or by attending an endless stream of programs, but by taking to heart the teachings buried at the heart of the season.
Now, I’ve got nothing further to share with you, so I guess I’ll leave it at that. I do wish you all a Merry Christmas and I sincerely hope that your day is full of fun and family. Thank you for coming and you are dismissed.”
The congregation began to chatter as they rose from their pews and made their way to the doors. Some people would be put off by this short sermon. Some people would raise their eyebrows at the words that he had said, however, he had finally realized that it was time for him to serve a higher calling.
Brad left the pulpit and made his way toward the back of the Church.
His daughter stood before him, looking nervous.
“Did I come at a bad time?”
“No. No.” Brad smiled. “I was just thinking about you actually.”
“Really?” Faint hope sparked in Heather’s eyes.
“Yes. Last night was quite the night. I’m sure glad you came along when you did.”
“I gathered that.”
“You heard my sermon?”
“I was in the back. I heard every word.”
“Good, then come on home. Me and your Mother have alot to talk about.”
“Are you sure?” Hope colored her voice as her eyes met his.
“I’ve never been more sure of anything. I was wrong to say the things I said to you about your choice of marriage partner. I really want to make things right.” His voice was strong now. He had chosen his path. “Will you come home?”
“Can I bring George?”
“Of course, he’s your husband now isn’t he? Bring him along. I want to meet him.”
Heather’s grin revealed the same mouthful of white teeth that he remembered. Then her arms were wrapped around him in an embrace that tried its best to erase five years of pain.
“You know Dad, it sure is good to see you again.”
“You can say that again.” Brad’s voice faltered as emotion trapped the words in his throat. Now that the moment had come, he realized that he wasn’t as bitter as he had thought only moments before.
“You know Dad, it sure is good to see you again.”
Brad began to laugh as they broke off their embrace. “Well, it’s nice to see your sense of humor hasn’t changed anyway.”
“Really?” His daughter tossed her hair and winked in the mischievous way that he remembered. “What can I say? God has given me a lot of reasons to be happy lately.”
Grace scampered by, her pigtails bouncing as she ran.
“Grace, hold it, remember, don’t run in Church.” Brad’s voice was firm but gentle. Grace slowed, flashed him a charming smile, and then joined her clan of children.
“Grace huh.” Heather chuckled. “You know, maybe we all need a little wild and crazy Grace at Christmas.”
“I never thought I’d say this but maybe we do” Brad chuckled and shook his head. “Why don’t we go home? We have a lot to talk about. Starting with finding a place for Amy and Jamie to stay.”
“Lead the way Dad.” Heather chirped. “I’ll text George to join us.”
On that note they headed out to face a new day.
It was a fine winter morning, yet, the strings of multicolored lights dangling from the Church building continued to flicker in their patterns. Every light in a string had been created unique. However, even though every light was a different color, all the colors shining, fulfilling the purpose they had been created for, created a truly beautiful sight.
A display of light heralding the joy of the season.
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