Christmas was my favorite time of year. Just 7 years old and one of 8 children born to a farm family, I knew that money was tight...but this was Christmas time. There were always brightly wrapped presents with big bows and a tree to decorate. Just one more week until Christmas.
I remember mom and dad were sitting around the kitchen table talking. What were they saying? I know...listening in was wrong...but this was different...this was Christmas and I might get a hint of what would be waiting for me under the tree.
I strained to hear. Dads voice was low...almost a whisper. There was a sadness in his tone as he spoke to mom.
"We don't have the money for presents this year. I'm sorry...the crops were poor, milk prices down...winter has come early."
"What was he saying!" I thought. "No presents...no Christmas?? This couldn't be happening! It's not fair! Other people get presents...why not me?"
"I know," said mom, in her usual, calm, reassuring voice. "We will make do. I have been doing some knitting and I'll bake some treats. It will be alright. After all...It's what comes from the heart and is made with the hands that mean the most."
The next evening after dinner, I noticed dad go outside and walk up the hill to the old work shed. I was already asleep when he returned. The second night he left again. Why was he going up there in this cold, miserable weather? It was nearly 2 in the morning before he came back to the house.
The third night, I watched dad do what had become his usual routine...get his coat, hat, and boots and head up the hill to the work shed.
"I have to know!" I thought. "What was he doing up there? He's been so quiet and deep in thought since he and mom talked."
I put my coat on and went out the back door. The cold, winter wind blew right through my clothes. Why would anyone come out in this weather? But I wasn't turning back. I had to see what dad was doing.
I got to the side of the shed and climbed on the stack of firewood dad used to heat the shed. I tried to see through the ice covered window. Finally, the warmth of my hand melted enough of the ice that allowed me to peek inside. In the dimly lighted room, dad was bent over his workbench. I could see something in his hands. It was a toy!! A toy truck...bent, faded, and a tire missing. I watched closely as dad straightened the top of the truck, then put a tire back on the axle stem. He next picked up a paintbrush and dipped it into the can of bright red paint. I watched in awe as that toy...once bent and discarded, was transformed into new!!
"It's what comes from the heart and is made with the hands, that means the most." I could hear mom's voice in my mind.
I hurried back to the house and climbed in bed. I couldn't sleep. "Wow!! My dad cares that much for me. He works from daylight to dark, then goes to the shed every night to work until almost morning, making toys for us for Christmas."
I was beginning to feel guilty about being so greedy when I thought there would be no presents. I wanted to do something for my father...something to say..."I care!"
I thought about it...what could I do...I don't have any money...I don't know how to make anything. Then I thought about dad's work bench...All of his tools lying scattered around.
The next few days went by quickly. Christmas Eve was here and in our family...That meant we could open 'one' of our presents. I picked up a little package wrapped in blue. My eyes watered as I tore off the wrapping paper. It was a truck...a bright red truck!!! Dad had made this for me!! He had found toys that were broken and thrown away and fixed them up. They were now like new.
I watched dad pick up one of his presents...a big, square package covered with pieces of brown paper bag. He removed the wrapping and found a huge board about 3 foot wide and 4 foot tall. The edges were all broken and you could see where the board had seemed to outlive its usefullness. He saw a drawing where someone had traced the outline of a hammer and driven two rusty nails to use as a hanger for the tool. Next to it was the outline of a pair of pliers; then places for two screwdrivers; then a handsaw. Beneath each assigned spot were the names (although mostly misspelled) of each tool. It was written in the handwriting of a 7 year old. A smile came across dads face as he looked at me. I knew he had liked what had "come from my heart and was made by my hands."
It would be years later, a few days after mom and dad went to be with the Lord, I went by their farm. They had left the cold of Wisconsin and settled in Kentucky. I walked around thinking of how much they had accumulated in just the time since they moved, for they only transported one small truckload of goods...only the most important items were moved...everything else was left behind.
As I walked into dads workshop, I looked on the wall...there was an old board with a hammer, pliers, and other tools neatly in place. It had made the trip!! Dad had considered this small boys present as 'important enough' to be moved. Lying on the bench in front of the board were several small toys in need of repair. Sitting there on the window sill...all by itself...a bright red truck!!
I think of our heavenly father picking us up...much like my father did with that toy. Though we sometimes feel broken and discarded...He picks us up, remolds us, and makes us a new.
It is when we open our hearts and are in his hands that life means the most.
That is the meaning of Christmas for me.
the meaning of Christmas:
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