The Gift of a Child
Place and time, time and place, what does it matter? Too many Christmasses have been celebrated for it to matter. If a party goes on for over two thousand years, then surely it is a good one. Surely one part of the celebration is a part of the whole and so labels are irrelevant. The Christmas in question just was. A small girl was peering into the toy shop window. It was a fairly small toy shop within a village. She was holding her father's strong hand. They loved holding hands, the girl and her father. The times they spent together were the best times. The pair were whispering as if no one should hear them, but, if someone were able to hear them, that person would have stopped to hear more. The conversation was musical in its beauty. If ever words sounded like an angel choir, the words being spoken between the child and her father were those words. They believed. They believed in goodness. They believed in hope. They had so little in material terms yet they were wealthy.
After several minutes of whispered discussion, the pair went inside the toy shop. It was also a shop which sold small trinkets to delight grown-ups. There were bud vases, fruit bowls, nutcrackers and lots more fine items to please adults. The child and her father headed towards a display of children's toys centred around a scaled-down kitchen. She stared at the small pans, the wooden utensils, the mixing bowls and all the other paraphernalia which went to make a little girl's kitchen. She knew that, if she had some of these, she would be able to bake and cook for her mother. She was sure she would be able to do that with just a little instruction. She further discussed the kitchenware with her father but then noticed over his shoulder, as he bent down to hear her better, a topaz coloured dish. It was made of glass and had a pattern cut out of it. It was such a pretty pattern and the glass was new so that it caught the light as she moved towards it. These qualities, however, did not compare with the reason the child had shelved all ideas of having kitchen toys for her Christmas present. As her father patiently followed the child, she could hide her joy no longer and loudly remarked on the similarity between the topaz glass and the colour of her mother's eyes. She no longer wanted a child's gift. She wanted the glass so that she could give it to her mother on Christmas morning. How did the father react to this? He had so little in his purse. He wanted to purchase both the kitchen items and the dish. He was barely able to afford either one.
The owner of the toy shop was listening to the conversation between the child and her father. He had no children of his own but the child reminded him of his gentle and generous sister when she was of a similar age. He was a kind man but not usually given to sentimentality. Of course he did not offer an opinion, nor should he have done. He smiled when the father offered up the beautiful topaz glass dish which was the colour of his beloved wife's eyes. He took the money offered but had insufficient change in the till. The shopkeeper carefully wrapped the glass in tissue paper, then in printed paper which bore all the signs of Christmas. He took some strips of raffia and tied the parcel with it. The little girl watched with loving eyes as he did so. She was thinking of her mother and imagining her joy as she opened the package on Christmas Day. She would creep upstairs to her parents' bedroom and wait in the armchair until her mother was awake. Her mother may not wake early. That would depend on whether her medication had helped her during the night. Sometimes it worked better than other times. All of these thoughts were dancing through the child's head as the gift was wrapped and as the shopkeeper explained to her father that he would bring the change round the next morning after he had been to the bank. Her father explained that there would only be his wife at home and she would be unable to open the door to him. He described a plant pot, by the rear door, into which he might drop the change. They thanked each other and the little girl also thanked the owner of the toy shop.
When the father arrived home to eat his lunch the next day, he went to the plant pot and was about to tip it up when he noticed, behind it, a large package on which was written, "Nothing To Pay". There was no indication as to where it had come from but, on opening it, he knew immediately who had delivered it. Inside was a selection of spoons, pans, dishes, a whisk, a mixing bowl and other kitchen items which a child would need in order to prepare a meal. At once his heart sank and sang. He was elated yet deflated. His pride was hurt but his faith was renewed. The man was in a whirl of emotion, until he stopped and was thankful, remembering the humility which was the hallmark of his faith. Had not his saviour been born in a stable? Had he not been cradled in an animal feeder? And how did he thank his visitors? He had died for them, but, before that, he had lived for them. He lived that they might understand what it was God required of them and what God had given to them. Yes, this too was giving.
As he took the package indoors to hide it away until Christmas Day he planned his demonstration of thankfulness. He would not take a material offering to the keeper of the toy shop. He would tell him, with grateful thanks, how happy the little girl would be to receive her gift on Christmas morning. Later, in the quiet of the evening, he would kneel and give thanks again. The place and the time are not relevant, just the great love which is the story of Christmas.