A Special Christmas Gift

christmas-giftAlthough I first wrote this true story for Perspectives in 2009, I think it’s worthy of a repeat.

Quite a few years ago, Terry suggested that I make a doll house for our seven-year-old daughter’s Christmas present. I agreed.

We drove our station wagon to the lumber store, purchased the necessary material, and headed home. Child restraints and seat belts were not what they are today, so Angie sat in the back of the vehicle on the small stack of lumber that would soon become her doll house.

As we drove home, she asked, “Daddy, what are you going to build with this lumber?” While I don’t clearly recall the answer I gave, I suspect my response was not exactly the whole truth and nothing but the truth. There was no way I was going to spoil the surprise Terry had in mind.

To keep the surprise a secret, I confined my work on the project to the garage after our children’s bedtime hours. On Christmas Eve Angie was totally surprised and thrilled. Terry was happy. The doll house hasn’t fallen apart after all these years. It was a special Christmas gift!

Much more special at Christmas is God’s gift—Jesus, the Holy Child born in Bethlehem’s manger. Having been long foretold, his birth was neither a secret nor a surprise. It was very special!

Heralded by angels to humble shepherds, sought out and worshiped by kings from afar, worshiped by people around the world after all these years, this King of Kings and Lord of Lords is the most special gift ever given!

Terry and I send personal greetings and fervent prayers for a Blessed Christmas!

Brit Hume on Abortion

BabyAs a follow up to last week’s Perspectives, I feel moved to share the text of a commentary presented late last month by national television journalist Brit Hume. To view the video, click here.

Fox News commentator Bret Baier’s introduction: “Amid the calls for investigations and defunding of Planned Parenthood over the alleged selling of body parts from aborted fetuses, there is a larger point being made about the industry. Senior Political Analyst Brit Hume is here with that side. Brit …”

Brit Hume: “Whatever comes from the revelations about Planned Parenthood and its participation in the trafficking of fetal body parts, those revelations will have achieved one thing. They have parted the veil of antiseptic tidiness behind which the abortion industry has for so long operated. The sight of a senior Planned Parenthood official – and a doctor to boot – discussing the market for fetal body parts in between bites of salad and sips of wine was stomach turning. That’s because it laid bare the essentially brutal nature of abortion.

“Let’s be blunt. Abortion involves the extraction and killing of a human life, which within a couple weeks of pregnancy has a beating heart. Five weeks in, its hands and legs begin to grow. It is these tiny creatures, and too often ones that are far more developed, that are pulled from a mother’s womb and crushed with forceps. Oh, but oh so carefully so those body parts can later be sold or preserved.

“This gruesome procedure shows the extent to which we as a people have been anesthetized by the estimated 55 million – 55 million – abortions performed since the Supreme Court discovered a constitutional right to that procedure 42 years ago.

“Will we as a nation not someday come to look upon that decision and what it has done to us, not to mention the 55 million, with horror and regret? One can only hope we will.”

I thank God for the courage of this public journalist to speak the truth about what has often been portrayed as merely a matter of a woman’s choice, made for the sake of personal convenience or of her financial inability (real or perceived) to provide for the child developing in her womb. In fact, those who have observed an actual abortion testify to its gruesome and violent nature.

It’s encouraging that after 42+ years of legalized abortion, the attitude of the American people is seemingly moderating, although slightly. CBS News national polls showed that in 2007, 18% of those polled said abortion should never be permitted. Today those polls show that 25% said abortion should never be permitted. That’s a start, but we have a long way to go.

Recently I heard this simple but profound observation: “As a former fetus, I oppose abortion!” Can I get an “Amen!” to that?

The Night the Hotels Were Full

file0001472960139The couple reached the city late at night. They were weary from traveling, she, very pregnant and not feeling well. They were looking for a place to spend the night. A hotel, an inn, anything would do as long as it was not too expensive.

That would not be easy, as they soon discovered. At the first hotel the manager, a bad-tempered man, immediately told them there was no room. At the second hotel, the man in charge of the front desk looked suspiciously at the couple and decided to ask them for documentation. The traveler said he didn’t have any. In their rush to get away, they had forgotten their documents.

“And how do you expect to find a place in a hotel if you have no documentation?” asked the man in charge. “How do I know that you will be able to pay your bill?”

The traveler said nothing in reply. He took his wife by the arm and went on ahead. At the third hotel there was also no room. At the fourth—it was only a modest inn—there was room, but the owner distrusted the couple and decided to say that the establishment was filled up. However, in order not to make a bad impression, he resolved to invent an excuse.

“You see, if the government would provide incentives, such as the large hotels enjoy, I would improve things here. I could even receive foreign delegations. But up ‘til now, I haven’t gotten anything. Now, if only you had influential friends … You don’t have any friends in high places, do you?”

The traveler hesitated, then replied, yes, perhaps they did know someone in high places.

“Well then,” said the innkeeper, “tell him about my inn. So that the next time you come perhaps I can offer you a first-class room with a bath and all that goes with it.”

The traveler thanked him, but noted regretfully that their problem was more urgent—they needed a room that very night. They continued on their way.

At the next hotel they almost succeeded. The manager was expecting a couple of well-known artists who were traveling incognito. When the travelers arrived, he thought they were his expected guests and said, yes, their room was indeed ready. He even paid them a compliment: “Your disguise is very good.”

“What disguise?” the traveler asked curiously. “Those clothes that you are wearing,” said the manager. “This is no disguise,” replied the traveler. “These are the only clothes we have.” The manager acknowledged his mistake. “I’m sorry,” he apologized. “I thought I had a spare room, but it appears they are all occupied.”

The couple went on. At the next hotel, there was also no vacancy, and the manager tried to crack a joke. Nearby was a manger, he said, why not stay there? It would not be very comfortable, but the traveler could pay from day to day. To the manager’s great surprise, the traveler welcomed this as a splendid idea and even thanked him. The couple went out to move into the manger.

Before long, three Wise Men appeared, inquiring about a couple of outsiders. And that is when the manager first began to suspect he might have missed a couple highly important guests who had just arrived in Bethlehem from Nazareth. *

This Christmas and in the years ahead, our joy as Christians is grounded in the truth that the baby actually born in the manner described in this story has chosen, by God’s grace, to make his eternal dwelling in our hearts. O come, let us adore him, Christ the Lord!

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* Translated by Louis J. Reith, Seward, Nebraska, USA, this text was first published in the book, “A Massagista Japonesa” Editora LPM — Porto Alegre, 1982, and excerpted from “Contos para um Natal brasileiro [Tales for a Brazilian Christmas]. Editora Relume: IBASE — Rio de Janeiro, 1966, p. 9.