CHRISTMAS (2002) "IT WAS NIGHT BEFORE" & "CHRIST FILLED" poem & story
It was NIGHT before Christmas, I'd finished my task,
I had gotten their presents, whatever they'd asked;
Now I'd sit by the fire and then kick off my shoes;
Maybe I could catch me a forty wink snooze.
But I wasn't finished, with things left to do,
Like assemble computers and take out old Blue,
And wrapping some presents.........; I wished I were done,
Because whatever I do, just isn't fun.
It will take me all year to pay for this stuff,
And making a living has gotten so rough,
My wife and myself are both having to slave,
While our marriage is slipping into the grave
I'll just take a drink, it should ease me of pain,
And drown out her whining that pounds on my brain...
I've given my all, I'm worn to a frazzle,
Marraige and fam'ly have long lost their dazzle.
I thought that by now I'd have reached all my dreams,
With my houses and cars and boats and my schemes.
But I'm empty inside, there's no peace and no cheer,
And all I can see is another dark year.
I turned on the CD, I wanted to block
Out the thoughts of my life being dashed on the rocks.
My kids had left in some songs of the season,
About Jesus being the holiday's reason.
I smirked as I heard the familiar old songs,
Of One born to rid us of all of our wrongs.
About a dark world all wrapped up in sin's night,
About a star leading men with its bright light.
I sat in my chair as I started to muse,
About a Boy Baby, Who came to the Jews.
He came not to live, but to die on a Cross,
And trade me His treasures for all of my loss.
I heard the sweet message which angels had told,
To shepherds awatching o'er sheep in the cold,
And how in the stable of Bethlehem's Inn,
They found God's Own Lamb, Who would take away sin.
At some point the CD had started to play,
Songs about wise men who had lived far away,
But then they had traveled to worship this King;
Gifts of great value to Him they did bring.
I remembered the story of Herod so vile,
He sent out his soldiers to kill the Christ child;
He killed little boys, to serve his own plan,
He would not be conquered by this Son of Man.
I started to weep as it dawned upon me,
I had shut out the Child in spite of His plea.
I too, had decided to kill off the One,
Who loved me to death, God's Only Son.
Christmas was not to be found at the store,
Or corked in a bottle or on the dance floor,
It's letting Lord Jesus come into your heart,
Forgive all your sins as He gives a new start.
I bowed my poor soul as I knelt on the floor,
And asked Him to enter my life evermore.
I joined with the ones who had welcomed His birth,
And with a great throng who discovered His worth.
I now know the meaning of that special day,
Not tinsel or Santa or money I pay;
But love and contentment, and peace in my heart;
My past is forgiven, I have a new start.
It was NIGHT before Christmas, until the Son shone,
Out of His manger like a glorious throne;
I understand now what they meant way back then,
When they said Peace on Earth and Good Will to Men.
Pastor David Leroyal Gould
December 20, 2002
Original short story by Pastor David Leroyal Gould
"Maybe I can beat him to the parking lot." John told himself as he juggled his briefcase and overcoat. He grabbed his keys from his pocket and reached for the package on his desk.
"Too much stuff" he fumed as he dropped his briefcase and knocked over a tray of correspondence. Sticking his leather key-holder into his mouth, he picked up the clutter. But he didn't reach his briefcase in time. Someone had already retrieved it and was holding it for him.
"Of all people", John griped to himself, as he smiled and said, "Thanks Hal." He really wanted to call him "Holy Hal" or "Holy Roller Hal" as Harold was often called behind his back.
Hal told him he was welcomed and reminded him of his Church's Christmas program this coming Sunday evening. "I really hope you can make it John."
John nodded, but was thinking, "No way am I coming to your lunatic church." He headed for the door while putting on his coat. On their way to the parking lot, Hal said a few more things and then wished John a "Christ filled Christmas." "Huh?...Oh, Umm Hmm." John muttered through clenched teeth.
John turned and started toward his car. "That guy just never quits" he thought as he fumbled for his keys. "Why doesn't he get a life? How he got to be office manager is beyond me...well, yeah, he does know his stuff and he is the hardest worker in the company... but still... every chance he gets, he tries to shove that church stuff down my throat. You'd think he'd get tired of talking to me about it, I know that I am tired of hearing it."
"Where are those keys" he fussed as he checked his other pocket.
John stacked all of his things into his right arm while he searched the left pockets of his pants and coat. Just then John saw Hal's hand headed for his face. Flinching back, he felt a tug, as Hal removed the key case from his mouth and heard him say, "Here John, let me give you a hand, it looks like you need it, what with that big present you have there. I still need to get my son a gift yet."
"Yeah, thanks, you know, Christmas and all that" John shot back.
"Yeah, I know" Hal chirpped with a knowing smile, as he turned toward his car.
"What a nut" John thought to himself.
In his car, John could escape the religious nuts of the world, like Hal. He would much rather contend with the "highway crazies" and "road rage" than with Hal and his kind. "Why, the way they talk about Christmas, you would think it was some kind of religious holiday of something."
John followed the car in front of him through the fourway stop. He had failed to stop because he was fumbling with the dial on his radio, hoping to get the radical talk show everyone in town was listening to, MAD COW MAN. Suddenly he noticed the car coming from his right screeching to a halt. "Oh, man, I almost hit that guy....... Oh No..... It's Hal."
After a moment of shock, John smiled sheepishly and waved at Hal. "Yeah, thanks..." John mouthed as he continued slowly through the intersection of the parking lot.
Hal smiled broadly and gave John the "thumbs up" sign.
Forgetting the radio, John thought, "All that guy can think about is religious stuff. And this Jesus thing? You would think that he was God or something the way Hal acts. And Christmas, I appreciate a good holiday just like the next guy, but all this religious stuff is just out of place. You would think that the church crowd had some kind of special claim to it or something. Why can't they just stick to their own business and quit trying to make everything Christian?"
Turning toward home, John subconsciously joined in with,
pa rum pum pum pum
I am a poor boy too,
pa rum pum pum pum
I have no gift to bring
pa rum pum pum pum
That's fit to give our King
pa rum pum pum pum
rum pum pum pum
rum pum pum pum
Shall I play for you!
pa rum pum pum
on my drum.
John sang, never realizing the Little Drummer Boy was giving his best to the Babe of Bethlehem and certainly not realizing he was not giving anything to the Christ Child.
Approaching the traffic signal he could see the decorations hanging from the light poles and the people crowd around the City Square for the evening Christmas concert. Some of the smaller churches in the community got together every year and did a series of benefit Christmas concerts for the local Children's Home.
John muttered outloud, "Man, I hate this time of year. The hustle and bustle, the commercialism, and those pushy Christians. Everybody wants something from you"
The people were thronging about...There was a group of teens dressed in ancient Mid-Eastern attire, inviting everyone to the inter-Church Christmas pageant at the amphi-theater. There would be no charge, but a love offering would be taken for the Battered Women's Home. The JESUS LOVES YOU-CITY MISSION, people were giving out coats to transients and inviting them to come in for a hot meal and shelter from the cold night air. Just down the block John could see that radical group from Hal's church. They always held street meetings and hung with the druggies and other unsavory types, but now they were doing the Christmas thing, they didn't miss a trick.
Away in a manger, no crib for His bed,
The little Lord Jesus lay down his sweet head.
The stars in the sky looked down where He lay
The little Lord Jesus, asleep on the hay.
He joined in as he turned toward the mall.
"Wow," he thought to himslef, "I haven't sung that song for years. It's amazing what you remember from your childhood."
"Hello", John said as he answered his cell phone. "Yeah, I'll get them. When will you be home?.... Oh.... What about supper?... Oh,... Anything else?... OK... I love y...", but his wife was gone before he could finish his sentence. "Yeah, I love you and miss you." he mockingly repeated to himself. "Pick up some supper and the kids from the mall," he reminded himself. "I guess somebody needs me after all...hey, I'm a poet."
About that time he passed a crowd gathered outside of the local High School . "What the...." he exclaimed as he saw some people carrying protest signs and blocking the way to the auditorium steps. "Oh, those people." A few locals had gathered to demonstrate against the school auditorium being rented and used by a small group of Christians who had just lost their church building to a tragic fire. The police said it looked like arson.
"Stay with it... they can go rent a room somewhere else," he yelled out the window as he passed by, "Get those religious nuts out of the school. This is America, after all." Then he punctuated his support with 6 blast from his horn, drowning out...
Joy to the world! the Lord is come;
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
and heaven and nature sing,...
"Right Wing Radicals" he thought to himself. If they don't like our country why don't they start their own."
"Let's see... what should I get for supper?... chicken?... burgers?... pizza?... Chinese?... Pizza?..., yeah and a few BREWS to chug down with it. Maybe I should stop at the liquor store and get a little HOLIDAY CHEER too," he chuckled to himself.
While John was driving the five miles to the Pizza House he was trying to figure out what to order. He hardly noticed as the choir on the radio sang,
Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,
Glory to the newborn King;
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!
Joyful, all ye nations rise,
Join the triumph of the skies;
With thíangelic host proclaim,
Christ is born in Bethlehem!
He had to wait for about 5 minutes to put his order in because of the line ahead of him and he started to hum along while the store played that old Judy Garland song, "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas."
Through the years
We all will be together
If the Fates allow,
Hang a shining star
On the highest bough,
And have yourself
A merry little Christmas now.
"I want two large with everything, one large with pepperoni and Italian sausage and one large with green peppers, onions, olives and mushrooms....huh, oh, green...Yeah, and two orders of bread sticks" John told the hostess. Paying her he asked, "How long will that be? OK, I'll be back."
Out the door he headed to get some "liquid refreshment." It turned out that he needed all 20 minutes because of the crowd at the Package Store. On his way in he almost got knocked down by someone who was already on the celebration trail. But that didn't bother him much, after all it is Christmas; but he hated to pass by the religious nut who stood outside the doors and offered people those pamphlets against alcohol and saying something about the "REAL SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS DOESN'T COME IN A BOTTLE".
"Can't you guys do something about that nut outside" John asked the clerk when he finally got served.
"No, we've tried, but some stupid law allows him to do it. There ought to be laws against those jerks", the clerk said as he filled Johns order.
John tried to rush past the young crusader but then turned quickly when he heard,
"Hi, Mister Jones. "
John looked blankly at the kid, trying to place him, when the boy spoke up,
"I'm Harold's son, I've seen you at the office."
"Oh, yeah, happy holiday kid" John sputtered, half forgetting where he was until he waved good-bye with his bottle of booze in hand.
"And the best of Jesus to you sir." John heard as he wheeled around.
Rolling his eyes, John thought, "Man...of all the stinking luck, seeing that kid here today." John fumed as he rushed into the Pizza House. "You'd think there was a conspiracy or something" he continued to muse.
Quickly he grabbed up his pizzas and whooshed out of the door to the strains of, DASHING THRU THE SNOW.
"Well, I'll be home soon where I'll be away from the Bible Thumpers," he said, climbing into his car. Backing out of his parking spot he joined in the final chorus of O Come All Ye Faithful,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.
As John approached the mall he saw the traffic backing up and stopping access to the parking lot.
"Oh Great, a wreck and it's backed out onto the main road. Another delay. Well, maybe the kids will see me and I won't have to get into that mess."
However, the kids didn't see him and he had to go to another entrance and walk over to the area where they should be waiting.
"Don't they have enough sense to come on out and save me this aggravation?" He grumbled. "They probably won't even be ready."
"It must have been bad", he thought almost out loud. About the time he heard the distant whine of the ambulance siren, he also heard,
"Daddy, Daddy, over here."
"Well good, they are ready and waiting." He thought
"Oh Daddy, it was terrible" Jenny cried as she ran up to hug him.
"Now, now, honey, don't worry, we will just go on home." John soothed.
"But we can't, J.J. is over there" pointing to the crowd.
Seeing the look on Jenny's face, John felt his blood run cold and his stomach get queezy.
"Not, J.J.," he barked
Jenny shook and nodded all at once. "Yes...I mean no...I mean... he almost got hit, but he's OK. But Daddy," she cried, "It's so terrible."
As they approached the scene, John saw J.J. talking to a police officer while glancing at something on the ground behind him.
John rushed up and grabbed J.J.
"Are you OK?" He demanded as he and J.J. trembled in each others arms.
"Yeah, but that poor guy..." J.J. said, pointing to the man in a puddle of blood.
"What happened?" John said with only a little more composure.
"We were waiting here for you, when all of a sudden, out of nowhere, some guy came straight at us in his car. I guess he was drunk or on something...that's him over there in the cop car." J.J. said pointing accross the bus lane.
Looking at the driver, John clinched his teeth and fist as he saw someone who looked vaguely familiar. John's anger turned to nausea as he recognized the red flushed face with the stupid grin belonged to the man he had seen only minutes ago, staggering out of the liquor store.
The crowd was gathering around the man on the ground.
"Well, what's with that guy?" John asked J.J. looking toward the injured man.
"He saved us Daddy...that man saved me and J.J. He jumped in and pushed us out of the way and that car hit him instead." Jenny said through her tear streaked face.
"He did Dad, he saved our lives...but I don't think he is going to make it. He got a real bad head injury."J.J. added.
John moved toward the crumpled body, but he could tell it was bad just by the way the people were acting. He tried to approach the man but a Security Cop stopped him. John explained that he wanted to thank the man for saving his children.
About that time the police officer said, "Let him through, it can't hurt anything anyway."
With that response John felt a second wave of nausea sweep over him. He felt this guy wasn't going to make it. Then he knew for certain, as soon as he saw how much blood the man had already lost.
As he knelt down in the red pool, he cried out, "Mister, I just wanted to say thanks for saving my kids."
John was shocked as the man turned his head slowly toward him and smiled.
"Hal...Harold...it's you." John cried.
Harold nodded slightly.
"Can I do anything for you?" John asked and then realized how stupid the question was.
"Tell my family I love them." Hal gurgled.
All of a sudden, the picture of that boy handing out gospel tracts in front of the Liquor Store and John's own words of criticism hit John right between the eyes.
"I will." John struggled.
"And John..." Hal continued, "I won't see you at the Church Christmas program, but let Jesus spend this Christmas with you and tell my family I am going to spend this Christmas with Jesus."
With that, Hal's head rolled to one side and a mixture of blood and air came rushing out of his mouth.
They had waited until the ambulance arrived and carried Hal away. They knew he was dead...no doubt whatsoever. Then they sat in the car for several minutes, until John could get settled and regain his bearings. They hugged and cried and John told the kids a little about Hal. And then John cried some more.
He finally started the car and headed back to the Liquor Store, but for a different reason this time. John was afraid that some stranger or news program would break the news to Hal's son.
The radio was still on and a choral group was singing the last verses of, "O Little Town of Bethlehem."
How silently, how silently, the wondrous Gift is givín;
So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His heavín.
No ear may hear His coming, but in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him still, the dear Christ enters in.
O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin, and enter in, be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel!
There he was, faithful at his post. A boy doing what John knew he wasn't man enough to do. Loving and warning people at the same time. Scoffed and ridiculed for trying to spare somone a terrible loss.
The three of them left the car and approached Harold's boy. They had him come and sit in the car while they explained what had happened. The boy sat there silently, weeping, almost heaving.
After a period of time he told them, "Thanks for coming, but I need to get home, the family's going to need me."
John said that they would come over to see what they could do for the family, if that would be all right with his mom.
The boy said, "Sure, that would be great, Dad would like that."
As he left the car he leaned back in the open door and said, "Oh, maybe you can come to the Church Christmas program Sunday night, I know Dad would like that too. And one more thing, Y'all have a Christ filled Christmas."
John couldn't speak, and no one could have understood all of the emotions which were welling up in him at that moment. He choked a little and then said, "We'll be there, and you can count on it."
Again the car was totally silent except for the Christmas music on the radio. As they were driving home, they sat quietly when they all heard the words from the last verse of "Good Christian Men Rejoice", on the radio singing out to them,
Good Christian men, rejoice, with heart and soul and voice;
Now ye need not fear the grave: Peace! Peace! Jesus Christ was born to save!
Calls you one and calls you all, to gain His everlasting hall.
Christ was born to save! Christ was born to save!
original story by David L. Gould
The Little Drummer Boy...
Away In A Manger...
Joy To The World...
Isaac Watts... Lowell Mason
Hark The Herold Angels Sing...
Charles Welsley... Felix Mendelssohn
Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas...
Hugh Martin... Ralph Blane
O Come All Ye Faithful...
John Wade... Frederick Oakley
O Little Town of Bethlehem...
Phillps Brooks... Lewis Redner
Good Christian Men Rejoice...
Heinrich Suso/John M. Neale... German Melody