"These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full", John 15:11.
2009In the Christmas season of 1951 many steelworkers were dealing with the effects of a layoff due to frequent union strikes. As a kid, I was oblivious to that because we were provided all the essentials and warmth of a loving family and a good home. All I knew at age nine was an all-consuming desire for my first bicycle for Christmas.
Early in December I inadvertently overheard my parents discussing our bleak financial situation and the bleak outlook for that Christmas. My father tried to comfort my mother by assuring her he could pick up an extra job or two. My heart sank, and I talked myself into believing that I didn’t really need a bike. I never mentioned it again that season.
The lesson of sacrifice I would learn would not have been so insightful had I not already experienced the sacrifices my father had made in providing for our family. On Christmas morning of the last year I awoke to see a bright orange metal basketball rim leaning against the fireplace. It wasn’t in a box like the ones at the sporting goods store. When I went to lift it I discovered the difference. My father had handcrafted the rim out of solid steel. The back was heavy steel and the net hooks were expertly welded in place. Dad had meticulously woven a net out of nylon parachute cord from his World War II mementos.
Part of the fun that season was that of having the opportunity to help him build my backboard and erect the goal in the back yard. I spent many days with my friends and never noticed any difference in my handcrafted goal until after an unusually severe windstorm that blew down and damaged most of the goals at school and in the neighborhood. Though blown down, mine barely had a small dent in it that was quickly repaired and easily rehung.
However, it was the Christmas of 1951 that impacted me so deeply. There on Christmas morning, leaning against that same fireplace was a new, shiny, red Western Auto Western-Flyer bicycle. Somehow my father had managed my unexpected miracle. The time-frozen moment for which I am eternally grateful was not feeling the smile on my beaming face, but rather the look of joy in my father’s eyes. In that brief moment I saw all the joy that comes from sacrifice and investment of time and effort spent to produce joy in another’s life.
As dad helped me take my new bike down the front steps, I glanced down at those strong hands full of creases, nicks, scars and dark work-lines. I wondered how many were there on my behalf. I stole a quick look back as I rode off and saw my father waving with a broad triumphant grin on his face. My eyes unexpectedly flooded with tears as I tried to steer my new bike realizing that I wasn’t the only one having fun.
Christmas reminds me of sacrifice and of nail-scarred hands. Hands scarred on my behalf because of God’s love. Every Christmas reminds me of God’s perfect gift, the unwrapping of it and the need and the joy of sharing it---that’s when the fun begins.
From an expose written by Jay Spencer Hurd for the Alabama Baptist, December 17, 2009.
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