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.
“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.