I knew that as I gazed from my forgotten mount through the partially frosted window that this Christmas would be different. I knew that as I heard the indefinite click of the old man’s cane on the pavement and the harried command of the mother hushing her less than compliant brood, that this Christmas would tell a different story.

I had seen the strips of coloured ribbon, the flashings of crepe, foils, paisley, floral and crushed transparent wrap. I had heard the clapping of delighted hands, the murmurings of glee and the sparkle of crystal chimes as all kinds of gifts were wrapped for that special day.

I saw the man with the red face and bluish nose, who always tottered to the counter. I saw the woman with the scarf wrapped around her bruises and gloves over her scarred hands. I saw the child that was carried because cancer would make this Christmas his last. I saw the tears of the young wife as she returned his watch after watching him die. I knew that no gift on earth could heal these souls.

The store bell jangled and he dusted the snow from his hat. His smile was real and I could tell he was strong and gentle. He armed a leather Bible and hitched a heavy looking bag.

“Would you mind if I left Bibles and my number on your counter for the Christmas season, Sir?”

“That wouldn’t be a problem, but tell me how much luck you havin’ with those?”

He smiled. “I’m praying, so I think my chances are good.”

“You do this the whole season?” My old boss seemed surprised, if not a little convicted.

“Every Christmas”

“But why? You should be buying up my store, having parties and hanging with the little ones?”

The gentleman unruffled by the inquest simply nodded, “I have a new celebration in my heart now. I celebrate with the cold, the lonely, the lost and the angry. I give love, hope and faith. I share food, clothing and warmth. I take time where I did not and look with new eyes for those who might need me. I am a wealthy man. I used to open the door of my new car at Christmas and the ring box for my wife. I used to open the door to the new playhouse for the children, until one day I opened my front door and they were gone. For all my unwrapping – I was undone. Tears were my bitter drink that Christmas Eve, until a man came to visit. He was a neighbour I had never spoken to – in fact on occasion I recall being rude. He unwrapped Christ for me that season and my life was restored. I dare not keep that covered. So my old friend, for Christmas I choose to give Jesus for the world to unwrap”.

The amber lights caught the glisten in my old friend’s eyes as he reached for a Bible. As my arm struck twelve I knew that a new gift was available in our store. Yes, this Christmas was different.

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