Posted by Rev. Jeff Dixon, Senior Equipping Minister at Covenant Community Church on Dec 3, 2002, 11:01
The Man Who Missed Christmas
It was Christmas Eve, and, as usual, George Mason was the last to leave the office. He walked over to a massive safe, spun the dials, swung the heavy door open. Making sure the door would not close behind him, he stepped inside.
A square of white cardboard was taped just above the topmost row of strong-boxes. On the card a few words were written. George Mason stared at those words, remembering...
Exactly one year ago he had entered this self-same vault. And then, behind his back, slowly, noiselessly the ponderous door swung shut. He was trapped--entombed in the sudden and terrifying dark.
He hurled himself at the unyielding door, his hoarse cry sounding like an explosion. Through his mind flashed all the stories he had heard of men found suffocated in time-vaults. No time clock controlled this mechanism; the safe would remain locked until it was opened from the outside. Tomorrow morning.
Then the realization hit him. No one would come tomorrow--tomorrow was Christmas.
Once more he flung himself at the door, outing wildly, until he sank on his knees exhausted. Silence came, high-pitched, singing silence that seemed deafening. More than 36 hours would pass before anyone came--36 hours in a steel box three feet wide, eight feet long, seven feet high.
Would the oxygen last? Perspiring and breathing heavily, he felt his way around the floor. Then, in the far right-hand corner, just above the floor, he found a small, circular opening. Quickly he thrust his finger into it and felt, faint but unmistakable, a cool current of air. The tension release was so sudden that he burst into tears. But at last he sat up. Surely he would not have to stay trapped for the full 36 hours. Somebody would miss him.
But who? He was unmarried and lived alone. The maid who cleaned his apartment was just a servant; he had always treated her as such. He had been invited to spend Christmas Eve with his brother's family, but children got on his nerves, and expected presents.
A friend had asked him to go to a home for elderly people on Christmas Day and play the piano-George Mason was a good musician. But he had made some excuse or other; he had intended to sit at home with a good cigar, listening to some new recordings he was giving himself.
George Mason dug his nails into the palms of his hands until the pain balanced the misery in his mind. Nobody would come and let him out. Nobody, nobody...
Miserably the whole of Christmas Day went by, and the succeeding night. On the morning after Christmas the head clerk came into the office at the usual time, opened the safe, then went on into his private office.
No one saw George Mason stagger out into the corridor, run to the water cooler, and drink great gulps of water. No one paid any attention to him as he left and took a taxi home.
There he shaved, changed his wrinkled clothes, ate breakfast and returned to his office, where his employees greeted him casually.
That day he met several acquaintances and talked to his own brother. Grimly, inexorably the truth closed in on George Mason. He had vanished from human society during the great festival of brotherhood; no one had missed him at all. Reluctantly, George Mason began to think about the true meaning of Christmas. Was it possible that he had been blind all these years with selfishness, indifference, pride? Wasn't giving, after all, the essence of Christmas because it marked to the time God gave His own Son to the world?
All through the year that followed, with little hesitant deeds of kindness, with small, unnoticed acts of unselfishness, George Mason tried to prepare himself...
Now, once more, it was Christmas Eve. Slowly he backed out of the safe, closed it. He touched its grim steel face lightly, almost affectionately, and left the office.
There he goes now in his black overcoat and hat, the same George Mason as a year ago. or is it? He walks a few blocks, then flags a taxi, anxious not to be late. His nephews are expecting him to help them trim the tree. Afterwards, he is taking his brother and his sister- in-law to a Christmas play. Why is he so happy? Why does this jostling against others, laden as he is with bundles, exhilarate and delight him? Perhaps the card has something to do with it, the card he taped inside his office safe last New Year's Day. On the card is written, in George Mason's own hand: To love people, to be indispensable somewhere, that is the purpose of life. That is the secret of happiness.
The Painting of a Son
Years ago, there was a very wealthy man who, with his devoted young son shared a passion for art collecting. Together they traveled around the world, adding only the finest art treasures to their collection. Priceless works by Picasso, Van Gogh, Monet and many others adorned the walls of the family estate.
The widowed elder man looked on with satisfaction, as his only child became an experienced art collector. The son's trained eye and sharp business mind caused his father to beam with pride as they dealt with art collectors around the world.
As winter approached, war engulfed the nation, and the young man left to serve his country. After only a few short weeks, his father received a telegram. His beloved son was missing in action.
The art collector anxiously awaited more news, fearing he would never see his son again. Within days, his fears were confirmed. The young man had died while rushing a fellow soldier to a medic.
Distraught and lonely, the old man faced the upcoming Christmas holidays with anguish and sadness. The joy of the season, a season that he and his son had so looked forward to, would visit his house no longer. On Christmas morning, a knock on the door awakened he depressed old man. As the walked to the door, the masterpieces of art on the walls only reminded him that his son was not coming home. As he opened the door, he was greeted by a soldier, with a large package in his hand. He introduced himself to the man by saying, "I was a friend of your son. I was the one he was rescuing when he died. May I come in for a few moments? I have something to show you."
As the two began to talk, the soldier told of how the man's son had told everyone of his father's love of fine art. "I'm an artist," said the soldier, and I want to give you this." As the old man unwrapped the package, the paper gave way to reveal a portrait of the man's son. Though the world would never consider it the work of a genius, the painting featured the young man's face in striking detail. Overcome with emotion, the man thanked the soldier, promising to hang the picture above the fireplace. A few hours later, after the soldier had departed, the old man set about his task.
True to his word, the painting went above the fireplace, pushing aside thousands of dollars of paintings. And then the man sat in his chair and spent Christmas gazing at the gift he had been given. During the days and weeks that followed, the man realized that even though his son was no longer with him, the boy's life would live on because of those he had touched. He would soon learn that his son had rescued dozens of wounded soldiers before a bullet stilled his caring heart.
As the stories of his son's gallantry continued to reach him, fatherly pride and satisfaction began to ease the grief. The painting of his son soon became his most prized possession, far eclipsing any interest in the pieces for which museums around the world clamored. He told his neighbors it was the greatest gift he had ever received.
The following spring, the old man became ill and passed away. The art world was in anticipation. With the collector's passing, and his only son dead, those paintings would be sold at an auction. According to the will of the old man, all of the art works would be auctioned on Christmas Day, the day he had received his greatest gift.
The day soon arrived and art collectors from around the world gathered to bid on some of the world's most spectacular paintings. Dreams would be fulfilled this day; greatness would be achieved as many would claim "I have the greatest collection." The auction began with a painting that was not on any museum's list. It was the painting of the man's son. The auctioneer asked for an opening bid.
The room was silent. "Who will open the bidding with $100?" he asked. Minutes passed. No one spoke.
From the back of the room came, "Who cares about that painting? It's just a picture of his son. Let's forget it and go on to the good stuff." More voices echoed in agreement. "No, we have to sell this one first," replied the auctioneer. "Now, who will take the son?"
Finally, a friend of the old man spoke. "Will you take ten dollars for the painting? That's all I have. I knew the boy, so I'd like to have it."
"I have ten dollars. Will anyone go higher?" called the auctioneer. After more silence, the auctioneer said, "Going once, going twice. Gone."
The gavel fell. Cheers filled the room and someone exclaimed, "Now we can get on with it and we can bid on these treasures!" The auctioneer looked at the audience and announced the auction was over. Stunned disbelief quieted the room. Someone spoke up and asked, "What do you mean it's over? We didn't come here for a picture of some old guy's son. What about all of these paintings? There are millions of dollars of art here! I demand that you explain what's going on here!"
The auctioneer replied, "It's very simple. According to the will of the father, whoever takes the son . . . gets it all."
Puts things into perspective, doesn't it? Just as those art collectors discovered on that Christmas Day, the message is still the same - the love of a Father - a Father whose greatest joy came from his son who went away and gave his life rescuing others. And because of that Father's love...whoever takes the Son gets it all.
"Penny for the cup? Spare change mister? A dollar for a cup of coffee?"
The bum sat up against a frigid wall between towering buildings.
"You aren't going to give him anything, are you? You know he'll just spend it on booze."
A wife with frosted hair tugged on her husband's arm as he reached into his cashmere pocket for a dollar.
"Now you don't know that."
"Look at him." Her gloved hand went up to her nose. "He's a drunk. He'll just go down and buy a cheap bottle of wine and drink it down and sleep the rest of the day."
"But it's Christmas. We might be the only hope he's got."
"The only thing he's hoping for is a bottle of cheap rotgut"
"That may be...but we're doing o.k. this year and I want to give something back."
"Give something back? Who gave us our money? This dirty man on the street? No. We worked hard for all we have. If you're going to reward anybody, it should be me for putting up with all those long hours at the office."
The husband scratched his head still looking at the filthy bundle of humanity below him.
"This could be us, you know."
"Don't be silly. We'd never let ourselves fall prey to an addiction. We're too smart for that."
"He may not be an addict."
"Yeh, right and that's Ivana's natural hair color."
"He may just be on hard times."
"Let's go, I'm getting cold and the curtain goes up in ten minutes."
The husband looked at the bum who was now looking directly into his eyes. The bum's eyes were blue surrounded by telltale wrinkles of being in the sun too long. He could have been a farmer who had spent years out in the fields. He could have been a veteran who had looked up at the beating sun in Viet Nam. He could have been a father who had tried to protect his son from the violence of the street. He could have been anything...he could have been him.
The wife walked on and quickly, the husband reached into his pocket and took out a $10 dollar bill.
"Here old man, before my wife sees. Merry Christmas."
The man in the cashmere coat walked on catching up to the drifts of perfume left by his wife.
"Merry Christmas to you, sir." The bum's voice was barely heard. The bum stood up from the wall and walked to the hot dog vendor down the street. After ordering five dogs he walked around the corner to the alley. There huddled against the other side of the wall was a little family of two children and woman. They hadn't always been here, but like the man had said, they had fallen on hard times. Things would be better in the new year.
"Here dear...Merry Christmas." He handed her the hot dogs which she passed out to the children.
A little girl of five looked up over her hotdog. "Is there change, Daddy?"
"Just a little."
"Then we shall have a present for Jesus' birthday."
" And when I start my new job after Christmas, we will remember this blessing. Yes, we will give Him a present too."
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