Light one candle for love, one bright candle for love.
He brings love to every heart. He comes! He comes!
For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face.
Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.
And now faith, hope and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love. 1Cor 13: 12-13
I found this story several years ago. As far as I know, its author is unknown, as is its source. It’s a sweet, simple and secular tale, but it reminds me that no matter how much we spend on presents and Christmas festivities, the greatest gift we can ever give is love – for that is the gift given to us in the birth of God in Jesus.
‘Christmas is for love’
Mark was an 11 year old orphan who lived with his aunt – a bitter, middle-aged woman greatly annoyed by the burden of caring for her dead sister’s son. She never failed to remind Mark that if it hadn’t been for her generosity, he would be a vagrant, homeless waif. Nevertheless, in spite of the scolding and chilliness at home, Mark was a sweet and gentle child.
I had not noticed Mark particularly, until he began staying after class each day (at the risk of arousing his aunt’s anger – I learnt later) to help me straighten the room. We said little, but if he did talk, Mark spoke of his mother. Although he was quite small when she died, he remembered a kind, gentle, loving woman who gave him all her time.
As Christmas drew near, Mark stopped staying behind after class and I was disappointed as he scampered from the room with the others. I stopped him one day and told him I missed him. His grey eyes lit up and he replied “Did you really miss me?” I explained he had been my best helper. “I was making a surprise for Christmas,” he whispered, and dashed in embarrassment from the room. He didn’t stay any more after that.
On the last day of term, Mark crept slowly into the room late that afternoon with his hands holding something behind his back. “I have your present. I hope you like it” He held out his hands and there lying in his tiny palms was a tiny wooden box.
“It’s beautiful, Mark. Is there something in it?” I asked as I opened the top to look inside.
“Oh, you can’t see what’s in it. You can’t touch it, see it, taste it or feel it but mummy always said it makes you feel good all the time and safe when you’re all alone.”
I gazed in to the empty box. “What is it Mark, that will make me feel so good?” “Its love” he whispered softly, “and mummy said it’s always best when you give it away.” Then he turned and quietly left the room.
So now I keep the small box, crudely made of scraps of wood, on the piano in my living room and only smile as friends raise quizzical eyebrows when I explain it is a Christmas gift, full of love.
God of hope, peace and joy,
the time is near, the time is right.
Choirs of angels are rehearsing;
Mary is uncomfortable and Joseph is nervous.
The world waits with bated breath for the gift of love to break in through a rush of pain.
Vulnerable love. Sacrificial love. Divine love.
Come Lord Jesus, break into our lives again
that we may love others as you have loved us. Amen