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Wednesday, February 10, 2016  |  319 Days Until Christmas
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Stories, Poems and Humor
Left Book Take Hold of Love
by Carter, Henry
Right Book

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Language: English

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I was working feverishly on my Christmas sermon -- the hardest time in any minister's year to find something fresh to say -- when the floor mother appeared at the study door. Another crisis upstairs.

Christmas Eve is a difficult day for the emotionally disturbed children in our church home. Three-quarters of them go home at least overnight, and the ones who remain react to the empty beds and the changed routine.

I followed her up the stairs, chafing inwardly at the repeated interruptions. This time it was Tommy. He had crawled under a bed and refused to come out. The woman pointed to one of six cots in the small dormitory.

Not a hair or a toe showed beneath, so I addressed myself to the cowboys and bucking broncos on the bedspread. I talked about the brightly lighted tree in the church vestibule next door and the packages underneath it and all the other things waiting for him out beyond that bed.

No answer.

Still fretting at the time this was costing. I dropped to my hands and knees and lifted the spread. Two enormous blue eyes met mine. Tommy was eight, but looked like a five-year-old. It would have been no effort at all to simply pull him out.

But it wasn't pulling that Tommy needed -- it was trust and a sense of deciding things on his own initiative. So, crouched there on all fours, I launched into the menu of the special Christmas Eve supper to be offered after the service. I told him about the stocking with his name on it provided by the women's society.

Silence. There was no indication the he either heard me or cared about Christmas.

And at last, because I could think of no other way to make contact, I got down on my stomach and wriggled in beside him, bedsprings snagging my suit jacket. For what seemed a long time I lay there with my cheek pressed against the floor.

At first I talked about the big wreath above the altar and the candles in the windows. I reminded him of the carol he and the other children were going to sing. Then I ran out of things to say and simply waited there beside him.

And as I waited, a small chilled hand crept into mine.

"You know, Tommy," I said after a bit, "it's kind of close quarters under here. Let's you and me go out where we can stand up."

And so we did, but slowly, in no hurry. All the pressures had gone from my day, because, you see, I had my Christmas sermon. Flattened there on the floor I realized I had been given a new glimpse of the mystery of the season.

Hadn't God called us, too, as I'd called Tommy, from far above us? With His stars and mountains, His whole majestic creation, hadn't He pleaded with us to love Him, to enjoy the universe He gave us?

And when we would not listen, He had drawn closer. Through prophets and lawgivers and holy men, He spoke with us face to face.

But it was not until that first Christmas, until God stooped to earth itself, until He took our very place and came to dwell with us in our loneliness and alienation, that we, like Tommy, dared to stretch out our hands to take hold of love.

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