Lisa Barry: As we near the Christmas holiday, it's fun to get into the spirit ahead of time. That's why Elisabeth Elliot will be spending the next two weeks sharing a number of delightful Christmas stories, and everyone in the family will enjoy them. Put a little hot cocoa in the mug, gather around the radio, and take a holiday journey for about 15 minutes. This is Gateway To Joy for a Monday, and now here's Elisabeth Elliot.
Elisabeth Elliot: "You are loved with an everlasting love." That?s what the Bible says. "And underneath are the everlasting arms." This is your friend Elisabeth Elliot, beginning today a series of Christmas stories. Some of them are distinctly children's stories, and some of them aren't. But I hope that all of my listeners will find something amusing, something inspiring, and something worth hearing.
The first story is by Pearl Buck, "Christmas Day in the Morning." "He woke suddenly and completely. It was four o'clock, the hour at which his father had always called him to get up and help with the milking. Strange how the habits of his youth clung to him still, fifty years ago, and his father had been dead for thirty years. Yet he waked at four o'clock in the morning. He had trained himself to turn over and go to sleep, but this morning, because it was Christmas, he didn't try to sleep.
"Yet what was the magic of Christmas now? His childhood and youth were long past, and his own children had grown up and gone. Some of them lived only a few miles away, but they had their own families. Though they would come in as usual toward the end of the day, they had explained with infinite gentleness that they wanted their children to build Christmas memories about their houses, not his. He was left alone with his wife.
"Yesterday she had said, 'It isn't worthwhile perhaps,' and he had said, 'Oh, yes, Alice. Even if there are only the two of us, let's have a Christmas of our own.' Then she had said, 'Let's not trim the tree until tomorrow, Robert. Just so it's ready when the children come. I'm tired.' He had agreed, and the tree was still out in the back entry.
"Why did he feel so awake tonight? For it was still night, a clear and starry night. No moon, of course, but the stars were extraordinary. Now that he thought of it, the stars seemed always large and clear before the dawn of Christmas Day. There was one star now that was certainly larger and brighter than any of the others. He could even imagine it moving, as it had seemed to him to move one night long ago.
"He slipped back in time as he did so easily nowadays. He was fifteen years old and still on his father's farm. He loved his father. He had not known it, until one day a few days before Christmas when he overheard what his father was saying to his mother. 'Mary, I hate to call Rob in the mornings. He's growing so fast and he needs his sleep. If you could see how he sleeps when I go in to wake him up! I wish I could manage alone.' 'Well, you can't, Adam.' His mother's voice was brisk. 'Besides, he isn't a child anymore. It's time he took his turn.' 'Yes,' said his father slowly, 'but I sure do hate to wake him.'
"When he heard these words, something in him woke. His father loved him. He had never thought of it before, taking for granted the tie of their blood. Neither his father or his mother talked about loving their children. They had no time for such things. There was always so much to do on the farm. Now that he knew his father loved him, there would be no more loitering in the mornings and having to be called again. He got up after that, stumbling blind with sleep and pulled on his clothes, his eyes tight shut. But he got up.
"And then on the night before Christmas, that year when he was 15, he lay for a few minutes thinking about the next day. They were poor, and most of the excitement was in the turkey they had raised themselves, and in the mince pies his mother made. His sisters sewed presents, and his mother and father always bought something he needed. Not only a warm jacket maybe, but something more, such as a book. He saved and bought them each something, too.
"He wished, on that Christmas he was 15, that he had a better present for his father. As usual, he had gone to the ten-cent store and bought a tie. It had seemed nice enough, until he lay thinking the night before Christmas and then he wished that he had heard his father and mother talking in time for him to save for something better. He lay on his side, his head supported by his elbow, and looked out of his attic window. The stars were bright, much brighter than he ever remembered seeing them. One star in particular was so bright that he wondered if it really were the star of Bethlehem.
"'Dad,' he had once asked when he was a little boy, 'what's a stable?' 'It's just a barn,' his father had replied, 'like ours.' So Jesus had been born in a barn and to a barn the Shepherds and Wise Men had come, bringing their Christmas gifts. The thought struck him like a silver dagger. Why should he not give his father a special gift, too, out there in the barn? He could get up early--earlier than four o' clock--and he could creep into the barn and get all the milking done. He'd do it alone--milk and clean up. Then when his father went into start milking, he'd see it all done and he would know who had done it.
"He laughed to himself as he gazed at the stars. That was what he would do, and he mustn't sleep too soundly. He must have waked twenty times that night, scratching a match each time to look at his old watch. Midnight. Half past one. Then two o'clock. At a quarter to three, he got up and put on his clothes. He crept downstairs, careful of the creaky boards, and let himself out. The big star hung lower over the barn roof, a reddish gold. The cows looked at him, sleepy and surprised. It was early for them, too.
"'Sooo Boss,' he whispered. They accepted him placidly, and he fetched some hay for each cow, and then got the milking pail and the big milk cans. He had never milked alone before, but it seemed almost easy. He kept thinking about his father's surprise. His father would come in and call him, saying that he would get things started while Rob was getting dressed. He'd go to the barn, open the door, and then he'd go to get the two big empty milk cans. But they wouldn't be waiting or empty. They'd be standing in the milk house, filled.
"He smiled and milked steadily, two strong streams rushing into the pail, frothing and fragrant. The cows were still surprised, but acquiescent. For once, they were behaving well as though they knew it was Christmas. The task went more easily than he had ever known it to before. Milking, for once, was not a chore. It was something else, a gift to his father who loved him.
"He finished. The two milk cans were full. He covered them and closed the milk house door carefully, making sure of the latch. He put the stool in its place by the door and hung up the clean milk pail. Then he went out of the barn and barred the door behind him. Back in his room, he had only a minute to pull off his clothes in the darkness and jump into bed, for he heard his father up. He put the covers over his head to silence his quick breathing. The door opened.
"'Rob,' his father called, 'Have to get up, son, even if it's Christmas.' 'All right,' he said sleepily. 'I'll go on out,' his father said. 'I'll get things started.' The door closed, and he lay still, laughing to himself. In just a few minutes, his father would know. His dancing heart was ready to jump from his body. The minutes were endless. Ten. Fifteen. He did not know how many. He heard his father's footsteps again. The door opened and he lay still.
"'Rob?' 'Yes, Dad?' His father was laughing a queer, sobbing sort of a laugh. 'Thought you'd fool me, did you?' His father was standing beside his bed, feeling for him, pulling away the cover. 'It's for Christmas, Dad.' He found his father and clutched him in a great hug. He felt his father's arms go around him. It was dark and they couldn't see each other's faces. 'Son, I thank you. Nobody ever did a nicer thing.' 'Dad, I want you to know I do want to be good.' The words broke from him of their own will. He didn't know what to say. His heart was bursting with love.
"'Well, I reckon I can go back to bed and sleep,' his father said after a moment. 'No, listen. The little ones are waked up. Come to think of it, son, I've never seen you children when you first saw the Christmas tree. I was always in the barn. Come on.' He got up and pulled on his clothes again and they went down to the Christmas tree.
"Soon the sun was creeping up to where the star had been. Oh, what a Christmas. How his heart had nearly burst again with shyness and pride as his father told his mother and made the younger children listen about how he, Rob, had got up all by himself. 'The best Christmas gift I ever had. And I'll remember it, son, every year on Christmas morning, as long as I live.'"
I thought that was a lovely story, and I thought it might give some of you children an idea. Some of you live on farms. I don't know whether anybody still milks cows by hand. Most of you live somewhere other than a farm, I guess. But you might be able to think of something that would please your father or mother, just as much as what Rob did for his dad that day. You might find out that you love them and they love you more than you thought.
May the Lord give you a wonderful Christmas in learning to be unselfishness, thinking not about what you want for Christmas, but about what you want to give to someone you love.
Lisa Barry: I hope you?ve enjoyed today?s Christmas program. As we close for today, I want to take a minute to remind you that Gateway To Joy is a program that is supported entirely by the gifts of those of you who listen. The fact that Gateway To Joy is on in your area means that there are many people just like you who enjoy hearing what Elisabeth Elliot has to say. And these people are investing in the program so that the message will continue on this station without interruption. You may be one of those people, and we thank you for that. Some of you might be procrastinating about giving financially to Gateway To Joy. It's not that you don?t want to, it?s just that you haven?t gotten around to it. Maybe today is the day. Pray about this and ask God what He wants you to do. Here?s our address:
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Today's program has been a production of Back to the Bible. We'll hear another Christmas story tomorrow called "Brother Robber." Find out what that's all about the next time we meet for Gateway To Joy.