It is Christmas Eve 2020, and all is calm in my house. The stress and work of the last semester ended last week, and the hustle and bustle of preparing for Christmas is now finished. Tonight, my memories go back nearly fifty years to a time when our oldest children were toddlers. We arose that Christmas morning and went through the excitement of opening presents with small children. Then I disappeared into the kitchen to create a fantastic Christmas dinner – and missed all the fun of playing with the children and simply enjoying them. I determined that changes would be made for future Christmas celebrations.
The next year we enjoyed a nice Christmas Eve dinner and had plenty of leftovers. Since I was finished cooking and baking, I could enjoy Christmas Day with my family. We added other Christmas Eve traditions over the next few years. The first one was to have the toddlers and small children act out the nativity story of the birth of Jesus Christ. Soon, we added angel food cake for dessert and sang “Happy Birthday” to Baby Jesus.
These traditions built over the years, and the children kept the rituals going in their own families. However, we added a new twist this year. The family in Alaska had our Christmas Eve dinner on December 23 because a family member is scheduled to work both Christmas Eve and Christmas Night for the police department. We planned to do our nativity a day early also, but our plans changed at the last minute.
With our family isolated in our various homes across the nation, we acted out the traditional nativity story on Zoom. Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, and the angel were in one home in Spanish Fork, Utah. Shepherds were in another home in Sandy, Utah. Wisemen were in third home in Texas with King Herod and his scribe in a fourth home in Alaska. It worked well, and I enjoyed seeing all the family on Christmas Eve. We even had a short appearance by our oldest grandson who is on a mission in Pennsylvania.
Later this evening, I sat down at my computer to write something profound for my blog, and a scripture kept going through my mind: “For God so love the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:16). As I contemplated this scripture, I remembered a story shared by a dear friend. I share this story with you, but I do not know the name of the author.
Years ago, there was a very wealthy man who, with his devoted young son, shared a passion for art collecting. Together, they traveled around the world, adding only the finest art treasures to their collection. Priceless works by Picasso, Van Gogh, Monet, and many others adorned the walls of the family estate.
The widowed elderly man looked on with satisfaction as his only child became an experienced art collector. The son’s trained eye caused his father to beam with pride as they dealt with art collectors around the world.
One year, as winter approached, war engulfed the nation, and the young man left to serve his country. After only a few short weeks, his father received a telegram. The young man had died while rushing a fellow soldier to a medic.
Distraught and lonely, the old man faced the upcoming Christmas holidays with anguish and sadness. On Christmas morning, a knock on the door awakened the sad old man. As he opened the door, he was greeted by a soldier with a large package in his hands. He introduced himself to the old man by saying, “I was a friend of your son. I was the one he was rescuing when he died. May I come in for a few moments? I have something to show you.”
As the two began to talk, the soldier told of how the man’s son had told everyone of his, and his father’s, love of fine art. “I am no artist,” said the soldier, “but I want to give you this. “As the old man unwrapped the package, the paper gave way to reveal a portrait of the man’s son. Though the world would never consider it the work of a genius, the painting featured the young man’s face in striking detail. The soldier had done an admirable job.
Overcome with emotion, the man thanked the soldier, promising to hang the picture above the fireplace. A few hours later, after the soldier had departed, the old man set about his task. True to his word, the painting went above the fireplace, pushing aside millions of dollars’ worth of art. His task completed, the old man sat in his chair and spent Christmas gazing at the gift he had been given.
During the days and weeks that followed, the man realized that, even though his son was no longer with him, the boy would live on through those he had touched. He learned that his son had rescued dozens of wounded soldiers.
As the stories of his son’s gallantry continued to reach him, fatherly pride and satisfaction began to ease his grief. The painting of his son soon became his most prized possession, far eclipsing any interest in the pieces for which museums around the world clamored. He told his neighbors it was the greatest gift he had ever received.
The following spring, the old man became ill and passed away, and the art world’s anticipation for the collector’s paintings was heightened. According to his will, all his art would be auctioned on Christmas Day.
The day soon arrived, and art collectors from around the world gathered to bid on some of the world’s most spectacular paintings. The auction began with a painting that was not on any museum’s list. It was the painting of the man’s son. The auctioneer asked for an opening bid, but the room was silent. “Who will open the bidding with $100?”
No one spoke. From the back of the room came a voice, “Who cares about that painting? It’s just a picture of his son.”
“Let’s forget about it and move on to the good stuff,” more voices echoed in agreement.
“No, we have to sell this one first,” replied the auctioneer. “Now, who will take the son?” Finally, a neighbor of the old man spoke. “Will you take ten dollars? That’s all I have. I knew the boy; so, I would like to have it.”
“I have ten dollars. /will anyone go higher?” asked the auctioneer. After more silence, the auctioneer said, “Going once, going twice, gone.” The gavel fell. Cheers filled the room, and someone exclaimed, “Now we can get on with bidding on the real treasures!”
The auctioneer looked at the audience and announced that the auction was over.
Stunned disbelief quieted the room. Someone asked, “What do you mean, it’s over? We didn’t come here for a picture of some guy’s son. What about all these precious paintings? There are millions of dollars’ worth of art here!”
Said the auctioneer, “It’s very simple. According to the will of the father, whosever takes the son … gets it all.”
This story puts things into perspective! Just as those art collectors discovered on Christmas Day, the message is still the same: the love of a Father, whose greatest joy came from his Son who went away and gave His life rescuing others; and because of that Father’s love, whoever takes the Son gets it all. In life, many things will catch our eye, but only a few will catch our heart.
We celebrate Christmas because God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, into the world to save the world. However, we would not celebrate Christmas if we had no Easter. We celebrate Christmas, not because a Baby was born, but because that Baby grew into a Man who gave His life that all mankind might live. We celebrate Christmas because of Easter, the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Whoever takes the Son gets it all! Merry Christmas!