By Cheri Fuller
This month I want to share with you the story that appears in my eNewsletter, "Heart to Heart with Cheri Fuller".
Moms, do you ever make your holiday plans, shop, wrap, bake, and make stockings Christmas stockings--and then hope everything will go the way you envison? Someone once told me that life is what happens when you're making other plans. I've found that when our plans go astray it opens a window for God to reveal to us what Christmas love and joy is about--even in unlikely places we wouldn't have chosen.
In 1975 our four-year-old son was in a hospital in Tulsa, Oklahoma, recovering from an asthma attack. We had planned to spend a happy family Christmas at home, but as it turned out our son was one of the few patients in the children's ward who they didn't release. Despite our carefully laid plans, it had become evident that Justin, along with a few other sick kids and their parents, would not be going home for the holidays.
Christmas.. the season of gifts great and small when joy is the nicest gift of them all.
I felt sorry for my child, who was stuck in a drab hospital hooked up to an IV instead of sitting on Santa's knee sharing his Christmas wish or playing with his little brother at home. And disappointed that my own last-minute plans for package-wrapping, cookie-baking, and stocking-stuffing had been spoiled. Being newcomers in town, we'd had not one visitor in the hospital, and despite the good intentions of the caring medical staff, a hospital was still a very lonely place to be at Christmas time.
I missed our baby, eighteen-month-old Christopher, who was at home with his dad in our family room which, when we left, had been all aglow with twinkling Christmas tree lights, gaily colored felt stockings all hung in a row, bright plaid bows, and shining candles. But Justin and I gazed for hours at the monotonous brown walls and faded cowboy curtains that blended so well with the gray hospital floors.
We read and re-read kids' books, as I needed to help keep Justin's spirits up until we could get him back home. My husband's parents had decided to postpone Christmas until the day Justin returned. They told me that until then, we should act as if Christmas hadn't yet arrived.
While we had expected to put Christmas off, God had other plans! Much to our surprise, He was to use this experience to teach us the true meaning of Christmas.
On Christmas Eve, God's love came first in the form of a man brightly dressed as Santa Claus. Bounding down the hall, he delivered a thoughtful, personal gift to each little patient. Justin was given a cowboy hat that, surprisingly, was just his size.
"Who is this from?" I asked the nurse in attendance. "Did some organization send this gift?"
I thought a local civic club had done this as its yearly project.
"On, no," she replied. "Three years ago a mom and dad's only daughter, a little three-year-old, died in this ward on Christmas Eve. Now each year the parents bring special gifts to the children who have to stay in the hospital at Christmas. Although they prefer to remain anonymous, they still manage to obtain the exact size or need of each child."
While that was sinking in, two little Campfire girls bounced in the room and handed our son a handmade white mitten ornament they'd decorated with holly.
"Merry Christmas!" they chimed to us as they continued down the hall.
Hardly had the cheerful words faded away when a family of Hispanic carolers arrived. Gaily dressed in red and green native costumes, guitars in hand, they sang "Joy to the World" and "Silent Night."
A little later when I was about to tuck our son in for the night, a big University of Oklahoma football player in his red and white varsity jersey walked in and began to chat with him. An avid football fan, Justin couldn't believe that a "real live" gridiron hero had come especially to see him. He was all the more amazed and delighted when the burley athlete produced a surprise gift for him. Opening it, Justin beamed.
"A cowboy rifle and spurs!" he exclaimed excitedly. "They go with the hat!"
The coincidence took my breath away, especially since these gift were what I would have bought if I could have gone shopping.
The next day, on Christmas morning, a tall, thin, shabbily dressed man quietly entered the room and sat on the edge of the bed. Like some character from a Dickens novel, his clothes were tattered and torn. Without a word, he took out an old flute and began to play a lovely Christmas medley. One carol blended into another as the simplicity of each song took on a beauty beyond any I had ever known. Finishing his serenade like the little drummer boy, he handed Justin a small cup full of tiny red candles. Then with a smile he slipped out the door. He had said very little and never identified himself.
Slowly, but clearly, I began to realize that none of the people who had shared their love and gifts with us knew us--or even told us their names. Unlike most Christmas gift-giving, we'd done nothing to earn or deserve their gifts. While my own hurts and needs had created a cold barrier around my emotions, these simple acts of kindness had caused the walls of neglected feelings to come tumbling down and opened my heart anew to the Savior.
That lonely hospital, with its drab walls lined with construction paper bells, had become a place of God's healing and reconciling love. Away from family, friends, and our baby son, without our family tree and familiar traditions, God had delivered to us His special Christmas gift. The loneliest and darkest of places was filled with the presence of angels and the brightest of lights.
(Use only with permission of author.)
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