God’s Shepherd – A Short Inspiration Christmas Story

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The frost of forty winters had etched deep lines into the shepherd’s face. Having spent his entire life outdoors on Bethlehem’s hills, he was old at forty — and cold. The hillside where he sat this day was cold, too, and he pulled his mantle close about him to block the wind.

Every so often he would shift position, not out of discomfort so much, but from a sense of unease, anxiety, crowdedness. Instead of hundreds of sheep with whom he felt quite at home, this hillside was flocked with people — thousands of them — listening attentively to the Teacher. They could hear him fairly well, except when the wind whisked away his words.

Tobias ben David (pronounced da-VEED) was the shepherd’s name, though people called him Toby. His flocks were in good hands this week, cared for by his grown sons, but Toby had left them to listen to Jesus of Nazareth. Today the Teacher was talking about salvation, how God came to save his people from their waywardness and sins, to rescue them and gather them close.

Now Jesus’ illustration turned to sheep. Toby felt better. He knew a lot more about sheep than people.

“The good shepherd,” Jesus was saying, “lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand who doesn’t own the flock runs away when he sees the wolf coming, but not the good shepherd….” One night, years ago, the men Toby had hired to watch the flock with him fled when they saw a mountain lion roaming the hills. But Toby had stayed. Shepherding was his livelihood. He knew the sacrifices that good shepherding required. He knew about defending defenseless lambs. He knew about putting his life on the line for the sheep. That’s what good shepherds did.

Jesus continued, “Suppose you have 100 sheep and when night comes one is missing. What do you do? You leave the 99 sheep all safe together and then climb the hills, looking, searching until you find the lost sheep. Then you pick him up, put him on your shoulders, bring him down the hill to the camp, and ask your fellow shepherds to rejoice with you.”

“Your heavenly Father is like that,” Jesus said. “When you have lost your way, he will rescue you and save you and never give up on you until he finds you — and you find him.”

Toby’s heart was racing. He felt a lump in his throat. He understood. Toby had combed the hills for lost sheep, not stopping, not quitting. He knew the joy of discovery, of rescuing the sheep from a thicket, of bringing it back and celebrating with his friends. He had been that kind of shepherd.

But he also knew how it felt to wander off, feeling lost, aimless, trapped. Clueless about where he was and where he was going. Flailing about, struggling to climb out of what seemed like a steep ravine. That’s why he came today to hear the Teacher, hoping to regain the faith he had felt as a child, a ten-year-old child.

His mind spun back to the evening of his tenth birthday. Like nearly every night, he was out on the hills with his dad or his uncles, caring for the sheep. The stars were brilliant, dancing in the black sky. But suddenly an overpowering bright light flooded the hillside. A voice boomed out, “Behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people. For to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord!”

A savior, a rescuer — shepherds’ work. He had often wondered about the boy-child they discovered that night, lying in a manger, just as the angel had said. Toby had knelt down and worshipped the baby who bore the world’s destiny upon his tiny shoulders. What had become of him, this baby? By now he must be thirty-something. Had this savior saved anyone yet? Rescued anyone? Could he rescue me from my aimless existence? Toby wondered.

Just then the wind caught Jesus’ words and blew them Toby’s direction. “I am the Good Shepherd,” Jesus was saying, “who lays down his life for the sheep. Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,” he said with warmth and joy full on his face, “for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

I wonder? thought Toby as he felt big tears begin to roll down his cheeks and into his beard. I wonder? thought Toby as joy and the certainty of God’s love began to fill his heart until it seemed like he would explode. I wonder? thought Toby, if this Jesus is the little baby I saw that night, the Savior of the world? Yes, thought Toby, he must be. His words found me and, frankly, he sounds just like he’s … God’s shepherd.

This story quotes Matthew 11:28-29; John 10:11-13 and refers to Luke 2:8-18.

“Copyright Ralph F. Wilson. All rights reserved. Used by permission.”

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Whatever Happened to Christmas? – A Short Inspirational Christmas Story

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Remember when no one started Christmas shopping until after Thanksgiving?

Wisconsin author LeAnn R. Ralph remembers it very well.

‘When I was growing up on our dairy farm forty years ago, the stores didn’t put up Christmas displays until the day after Thanksgiving. No one was really thinking about Christmas shopping before that,’ Ralph said. ‘In fact, my mother felt so strongly about it that she didn’t even like to hear the word ‘Christmas’ until after we had finished eating Thanksgiving dinner.’

Ralph’s new book, Christmas In Dairyland (True Stories From a Wisconsin Farm), celebrates Christmas during that simpler time.

‘Back then, happiness was baking cookies, decorating the Christmas tree, and eating lefse that my mother had made,’ Ralph said.

Lefse (pronounced lef’suh) is a flat potato pastry brought to this country by Norwegian immigrants who settled in Wisconsin. Ralph’s mother was the daughter of Norwegian immigrants, and their 120-acre family farm was homesteaded by Ralph’s great-grandfather.

‘When I was a kid, people enjoyed simple pleasures. The Sunday school Christmas program was an event at the little country church just down the road from our farm that was attended by nearly everyone in the neighborhood,’ Ralph noted.

‘At the time, if someone had told me the Christmas season was going to change so drastically that you would eventually get Christmas catalogs in the mail in August and September — and that you would find Christmas decorations on sale in August and September, too — I wouldn’t have believed it,’ she said.

‘I also would have never thought that dairy farming would change so much. I always took it for granted that we lived in ‘America’s Dairyland,’ but today, most of the small family dairy farms have disappeared,’ Ralph noted.

According to statistics from the United States Census of Agriculture , Wisconsin has lost two-thirds of its dairy farms since 1969. Forty years ago, Wisconsin had 60,000 dairy farms. Today, only about 20,000 dairy farms remain.

Nation-wide statistics from the United States Census of Agriculture show the same trend. In 1969, more than a half a million dairy farms operated in the United States. Today, only about 80,000 dairy farms remain.

‘As far as I was concerned, one of the best parts of Christmas was going out with my dad to cut a Christmas tree. We had small stands of pine trees planted around the farm to stop soil erosion. We would walk around until we found a nice tree, and then we would cut it and bring it home,’ Ralph recalled.

Ralph’s book, Christmas In Dairyland (True Stories From a Wisconsin Farm) (August 2003; ISBN1-59113-366-1 ; trade paperback; 153 pages), features 20 stories set on her family’s farm during the Christmas season. Story titles include ‘The Lefse Connection,’ ‘Milkweed Pods and Poinsettias,’ ‘Wintergreen,’ ‘White Christmas,’ ‘Jeg Er Sa Glad Hver Julekveld,’ ‘The Most Perfect Toboggan,’ ‘A Candle for Christmas,’ and ‘A New Year Unlike Any Other.’ The book also includes recipes for lefse, fattigman (a Norwegian cookie, pronounced ‘futty-mun’), julekake, and Christmas cookies, as well as instructions for making candles out of old crayons, as featured in the story ‘A Candle for Christmas.’

‘Several years ago a story of mine about my dad making ice cream was published in an e-mail newsletter. The title of the story was ‘Dad’s Favorite Recipe,’ and for several weeks after that I received e-mails asking for the recipe. That’s why I decided to include recipes in the book for some of the foods mentioned in my stories,’ Ralph explained.

Ralph earned an undergraduate degree in English with a writing emphasis from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and also earned a Master of Arts in Teaching from UW-Whitewater. She taught English at a boys’ boarding school for several years and worked as a newspaper reporter for more than eight years. She is a freelance writer for two weekly newspapers in west central Wisconsin and is the editor of the Wisconsin Regional Writer, the quarterly publication of the Wisconsin Regional Writers’ Assoc.

For more information about Christmas In Dairyland (True Stories From a Wisconsin Farm), visit http://ruralroute2.com. The book also can be ordered through any brick-and-mortar bookstore.

About The Author

LeAnn R. Ralph is the editor of the Wisconsin Regional Writer (the quarterly publication of the Wisconsin Regional Writers’ Assoc.) and is the author of the book, Christmas In Dairyland (True Stories From a Wisconsin Farm) (Aug. 2003); trade paperback. For more information about Christmas In Dairyland, visit http://ruralroute2.com
bigpines@ruralroute2.com

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The Christmas Cuckoo

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ONCE upon a time there stood in the midst of a bleak moor, in the North Country, a certain village. All its inhabitants were poor, for their fields were barren, and they had little trade; but the poorest of them all were two brothers called Scrub and Spare, who followed the cobbler’s craft. Their hut was built of clay and wattles. The door was low and always open, for there was no window. The roof did not entirely keep out the rain and the only thing comfortable was a wide fireplace, for which the brothers could never find wood enough to make sufficient fire. There they worked in most brotherly friendship, though with little encouragement.

On one unlucky day a new cobbler arrived in the village. He had lived in the capital city of the kingdom and, by his own account, cobbled for the queen and the princesses. His awls were sharp, his lasts were new; he set up his stall in a neat cottage with two windows. The villagers soon found out that one patch of his would outwear two of the brothers’. In short, all the mending left Scrub and Spare, and went to the new cobbler.

The season had been wet and cold, their barley did not ripen well, and the cabbages never half- closed in the garden. So the brothers were poor that winter, and when Christmas came they had nothing to feast on but a barley loaf and a piece of rusty bacon. Worse than that, the snow was very deep and they could get no firewood.

Their hut stood at the end of the village; beyond it spread the bleak moor, now all white and silent. But that moor had once been a forest; great roots of old trees were still to be found in it, loosened from the soil and laid bare by the winds and rains. One of these, a rough, gnarled log, lay hard by their door, the half of it above the snow, and Spare said to his brother: –

“Shall we sit here cold on Christmas while the great root lies yonder? Let us chop it up for firewood, the work will make us warm.”

“No,” said Scrub, “it’s not right to chop wood on Christmas; besides, that root is too hard to be broken with any hatchet.”

“Hard or not, we must have a fire,” replied Spare. “Come, brother, help me in with it. Poor as we are there is nobody in the village will have such a yule log as ours.”

Scrub liked a little grandeur, and, in hopes of having a fine yule log, both brothers strained and strove with all their might till, between pulling and pushing, the great old root was safe on the hearth, and beginning to crackle and blaze with the red embers.

In high glee the cobblers sat down to their bread and bacon. The door was shut, for there was nothing but cold moonlight and snow outside; but the hut, strewn with fir boughs and ornamented with holly, looked cheerful as the ruddy blaze flared up and rejoiced their hearts.

Then suddenly from out the blazing root they heard: “Cuckoo! cuckoo!” as plain as ever the spring-bird’s voice came over the moor on a May morning.

“What is that?” said Scrub, terribly frightened; “it is something bad!”

“Maybe not,” said Spare.

And out of the deep hole at the side of the root, which the fire had not reached, flew a large, gray cuckoo, and lit on the table before them. Much as the cobblers had been surprised, they were still more so when it said: –

“Good gentlemen, what season is this?”

“It’s Christmas,” said Spare.

“Then a merry Christmas to you!” said the cuckoo. “I went to sleep in the hollow of that old root one evening last summer, and never woke till the heat of your fire made me think it was summer again. But now since you have burned my lodging, let me stay in your hut till the spring comes round, — I only want a hole to sleep in, and when I go on my travels next summer be assured I will bring you some present for your trouble.”

“Stay and welcome,” said Spare, while Scrub sat wondering if it were something bad or not.

“I’ll make you a good warm hole in the thatch,” said Spare. “But you must be hungry after that long sleep, — here is a slice of barley bread. Come help us to keep Christmas!”

The cuckoo ate up the slice, drank water from a brown jug, and flew into a snug hole which Spare scooped for it in the thatch of the hut. Scrub said he was afraid it would n’t be lucky; but as it slept on and the days passed he forgot his fears.

So the snow melted, the heavy rains came, the cold grew less, the days lengthened, and one sunny morning the brothers were awakened by the cuckoo shouting its own cry to let them know the spring had come.

“Now I’m going on my travels,” said the bird, “over the world to tell men of the spring. There is no country where trees bud, or flowers bloom, that I will not cry in before the year goes round. Give me another slice of barley bread to help me on my journey, and tell me what present I shall bring you at the twelvemonth’s end.” Scrub would have been angry with his brother for cutting so large a slice, their store of barley being low, but his mind was occupied with what present it would be most prudent to ask for.

“There are two trees hard by the well that lies at the world’s end,” said the cuckoo; “one of them is called the golden tree, for its leaves are all of beaten gold. Every winter they fall into the well with a sound like scattered coin, and I know not what becomes of them. As for the other, it is always green like a laurel. Some call it the wise, and some the merry, tree. Its leaves never fall, but they that get one of them keep a blithe heart in spite of all misfortunes, and can make themselves as merry in a hut as in a palace.”

“Good master cuckoo, bring me a leaf off that tree!” cried Spare. “Now, brother, don’t be a fool!” said Scrub; “think of the leaves of beaten gold! Dear master cuckoo, bring me one of them!”

Before another word could be spoken the cuckoo had flown out of the open door, and was shouting its spring cry over moor and meadow.

The brothers were poorer than ever that year. Nobody would send them a single shoe to mend, and Scrub and Spare would have left the village but for their barley-field and their cabbage- garden. They sowed their barley, planted their cabbage, and, now that their trade was gone, worked in the rich villagers’ fields to make out a scanty living.

So the seasons came and passed; spring, summer, harvest, and winter followed each other as they have done from the beginning. At the end of the latter Scrub and Spare had grown so poor and ragged that their old neighbors forgot to invite them to wedding feasts or merrymakings, and the brothers thought the cuckoo had forgotten them, too, when at daybreak on the first of April they heard a hard beak knocking at their door, and a voice crying: –

“Cuckoo! cuckoo! Let me in with my presents!”

Spare ran to open the door, and in came the cuckoo, carrying on one side of its bill a golden leaf larger than that of any tree in the North Country; and in the other side of its bill, one like that of the common laurel, only it had a fresher green. “Here,” it said, giving the gold to Scrub and the green to Spare, “it is a long carriage from the world’s end. Give me a slice of barley bread, for I must tell the North Country that the spring has come.”

Scrub did not grudge the thickness of that slice, though it was cut from their last loaf. So much gold had never been in the cobbler’s hands before, and he could not help exulting over his brother.

“See the wisdom of my choice,” he said, holding up the large leaf of gold. “As for yours, as good might be plucked from any hedge, I wonder a sensible bird would carry the like so far.”

“Good master cobbler,” cried the cuckoo, finishing its slice, “your conclusions are more hasty than courteous. If your brother is disappointed this time, I go on the same journey every year, and for your hospitable entertainment will think it no trouble to bring each of you whichever leaf you desire.”

“Darling cuckoo,” cried Scrub, “bring me a golden one.”

And Spare, looking up from the green leaf on which he gazed as though it were a crown-jewel, said: –

“Be sure to bring me one from the merry tree.”

And away flew the cuckoo.

“This is the feast of All Fools, and it ought to be your birthday,” said Scrub. “Did ever man fling away such an opportunity of getting rich? Much good your merry leaves will do in the midst of rags and poverty!”

But Spare laughed at him, and answered with quaint old proverbs concerning the cares that come with gold, till Scrub, at length getting angry, vowed his brother was not fit to live with a respectable man; and taking his lasts, his awls, and his golden leaf, he left the wattle hut, and went to tell the villagers.

They were astonished at the folly of Spare, and charmed with Scrub’s good sense, particularly when he showed them the golden leaf, and told that the cuckoo would bring him one every spring.

The new cobbler immediately took him into partnership; the greatest people sent him their shoes to mend. Fairfeather, a beautiful village maiden, smiled graciously upon him; and in the course of that summer they were married, with a grand wedding feast, at which the whole village danced except Spare, who was not invited, because the bride could not bear his low-mindedness, and his brother thought him a disgrace to the family.

As for Scrub he established himself with Fairfeather in a cottage close by that of the new cobbler, and quite as fine. There he mended shoes to everybody’s satisfaction, had a scarlet coat and a fat goose for dinner on holidays. Fairfeather, too, had a crimson gown, and fine blue ribbons; but neither she nor Scrub was content, for to buy this grandeur the golden leaf had to be broken and parted With piece by piece, so the last morsel was gone before the cuckoo came with another. Spare lived on in the old hut, and worked in the cabbage-garden. [Scrub had got the barley-field because he was the elder.] Every day his coat grew more ragged, and the hut more weather- beaten; but people remarked that he never looked sad or sour. And the wonder was that, from the time any one began to keep his company, he or she grew kinder, happier, and content.

Every first of April the cuckoo came tapping at their doors with the golden leaf for Scrub, and the green for Spare. Fairfeather would have entertained it nobly with wheaten bread and honey, for she had some notion of persuading it to bring two golden leaves instead of one; but the cuckoo flew away to eat barley bread with Spare, saying it was not fit company for fine people, and liked the old hut where it slept so snugly from Christmas till spring.

Scrub spent the golden leaves, and remained always discontented; and Spare kept the merry ones.

I do not know how many years passed in this manner, when a certain great lord, who owned that village, came to the neighborhood. His castle stood on the moor. It was ancient and strong, with high towers and a deep moat. All the country as far as one could see from the highest turret belonged to its lord; but he had not been there for twenty years, and would not have come then only he was melancholy. And there he lived in a very bad temper. The servants said nothing would please him, and the villagers put on their worst clothes lest he should raise their rents. But one day in the harvest-time His Lordship chanced to meet Spare gathering water-cresses at a meadow stream, and fell into talk with the cobbler. How it was nobody could tell, but from that hour the great lord cast away his melancholy. He forgot all his woes, and went about with a noble train, hunting, fishing, and making merry in his hall, where all travelers were entertained, and all the poor were welcome.

This strange story spread through the North Country, and great company came to the cobbler’s hut, — rich men who had lost their money, poor men who had lost their friends, beauties who had grown old, wits who had gone out of fashion, — all came to talk with Spare, and, whatever their troubles had been, all went home merry.

The rich gave him presents, the poor gave him thanks. Spare’s coat ceased to be ragged, he had bacon with his cabbage, and the villagers began to think there was some sense in him.

By this time his fame had reached the capital city, and even the court. There were a great many discontented people there; and the king had lately fallen into ill humor because a neighboring princess, with seven islands for her dowry, would not marry his eldest son.

So a royal messenger was sent to Spare, with a velvet mantle, a diamond ring, and a command that he should repair to court immediately.

“To-morrow is the first of April,” said Spare, “and I will go with you two hours after sunrise.”

The messenger lodged all night at the castle, and the cuckoo came at sunrise with the merry leaf.

“Court is a fine place,” it said, when the cobbler told it he was going, “but I cannot come there; they would lay snares and catch me; so be careful of the leaves I have brought you, and give me a farewell slice of barley bread.”

Spare was sorry to part with the cuckoo, little as he had of its company, but he gave it a slice which would have broken Scrub’s heart in former times, it was so thick and large. And having sewed up the leaves in the lining of his leather doublet, he set out with the messenger on his way to court.

His coming caused great surprise there. Everybody wondered what the king could see in such a common-looking man; but scarcely had His Majesty conversed with him half an hour, when the princess and her seven islands were forgotten and orders given that a feast for all comers should be spread in the banquet hall. The princes of the blood, the great lords and ladies, the ministers of state, after that discoursed with Spare, and the more they talked the lighter grew their hearts, so that such changes had never been seen at court.

The lords forgot their spites and the ladies their envies, the princes and ministers made friends among themselves, and the judges showed no favor.

As for Spare, he had a chamber assigned him in the palace, and a seat at the king’s table. One sent him rich robes, and another costly jewels; but in the midst of all his grandeur he still wore the leathern doublet, and continued to live at the king’s court, happy and honored, and making all others merry and content.

- by Frances Browne

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The Golden Christmas Slippers – A Short Inspirational Christmas Story

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It was only five days before Christmas. The spirit of the season hadn’t yet caught up with me, even though cars packed the parking lot of our Houston area Target Shopping Center. Inside the store, it was worse. Shopping carts and last minute shoppers jammed the aisles. Why did I come today? I wondered. My feet ached almost as much as my head.

My list contained names of several people who claimed they wanted nothing but I knew their feelings would be hurt if I didn’t buy them anything. Buying for someone who had everything and deploring the high cost of items, I considered gift-buying anything but fun. Hurriedly, I filled my shopping cart with last minute items and proceeded to the long checkout lines. I picked the shortest but it looked as if it would mean at least a 20 minute wait.

In front of me were two small children – a boy of about 10 and a younger girl about 5. The boy wore a ragged coat. Enormously large, tattered tennis shoes jutted far out in front of his much too short jeans. He clutched several crumpled dollar bills in his grimy hands. The girl’s clothing resembled her brother’s. Her head was a matted mass of curly hair. Reminders of an evening meal showed on her small face. She carried a beautiful pair of shiny, gold house slippers. As the Christmas music sounded in the store’s stereo system, the girl hummed along off-key but happily.

When we finally approached the checkout register, the girl carefully placed the shoes on the counter. She treated them as though they were a treasure. The clerk rang up the bill. “That will be $6.09,” she said.

The boy laid his crumpled dollars atop the stand while he searched his pockets. He finally came up with $3.12. “I guess we will have to put them back, ” he bravely said. “We will come back some other time, maybe tomorrow.”

With that statement, a soft sob broke from the little girl. “But Jesus would have loved these shoes, ” she cried.

“Well, we’ll go home and work some more. Don’t cry. We’ll come back,” he said.

Quickly I handed $3.00 to the cashier. These children had waited in line for a long time. And, after all, it was Christmas. Suddenly a pair of arms came around me and a small voice said, “Thank you Sir.”

“What did you mean when you said Jesus would like the shoes?” I asked. The small boy answered, “Our mommy is sick and going to heaven. Daddy said she might go before Christmas to be with Jesus.”

The girl spoke, “My Sunday school teacher said the streets in heaven are shiny gold, just like these shoes. Won’t mommy be beautiful walking on those streets to match these shoes?”

My eyes flooded as I looked into her tear streaked face. “Yes” I answered, “I am sure she will.”

Silently I thanked God for using these children to remind me of the true spirit of giving.”

- Terry Hudson
presumed public domain

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The Bethlehem Keeper – A Short Inspirational Christmas Story

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What could be done? The Inn was full of folk: His Honor Marcus Lucius, and his scribes who made the census; honorable men from farthest Galilee came hitherward to be enrolled. High ladies and their lords; the rich, the rabbis, such a noble thing as Bethlehem had not seen before, and may not see again. And there they were, close herded with their ser- vants, till the inn was like a hive at swarming time, and I was fairly crazed among them.

That they were so important–just the two–no servants, just a workman sort of man, leading a donkey, and his wife thereon, drooping and pale. I saw them not myself. My servants must have driven them away. But had I seen them, how was I to know’.’ Were inns to welcome stragglers, up and down in all our towns from Beersheba to Dan, till He should come? And how were men to know? ‘There was a sign, they say, a heavenly light resplendent; but I had no time for stars. And there were songs of angels in the air out on the hills. But how was I to hear amid the thousand clamors of an inn? Of course, had I known then who they were, and who was He that should be born that night–for now I learn that they will make Him King, a second David who will ransom us from these Philistine Romans. Who but He that feeds an army with a loaf of bread, and if the soldier falls He touches him, and up he leaps uninjured! Had I known, I would have turned the whole inn upside down–His Honor Marcus Lucius, and the rest, and sent them all
to stables–had I known.

So you have seen Him, stranger, and perhaps again will see Him. Please say for me I did not know; and if He comes again, as He will surely come, with retinue and banners, and an army, tell my Lord that all my inn is His, to make amends.

Alas, alas! to miss a chance like that! This inn that might be chief among them all, this birthplace of Messiah-had I known !

- Amos K. Wells

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Christmas Orange – A Short Inspirational Christmas Story

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Sometimes it is easy to forget the true meaning of Christmas. The busy traditions of the season and the appealing advertisements for material goods can leave the pure and simple truths far, far behind.

Jake was nine years old with tousled brown hair with blue eyes as bright as a heavenly angel. For as long as Jake could remember he had lived within the walls of a poor orphanage. He was just one of ten children supported by what meager contributions the orphan home could obtain in a continuous struggle seeking donations from townsfolk.

There was very little to eat, but at Christmas time there always seemed to be a little more than usual to eat, the orphanage seemed a little warmer, and it was time for a little holiday enjoyment. But more than this, there was the Christmas orange!

Christmas was the only time of year that such a rare treat was provided and it was treasured by each child like no other food admiring it, feeling it, prizing it and slowly enjoying each juicy section. Truly, it was the light of each orphan’s Christmas and their best gift of the season. How joyful would be the moment when Jake received his orange!

Unknown to him, Jake had somehow managed to track a small amount of mud on his shoes through the front door of the orphanage, muddying the new carpet. He hadn’t even noticed. Now it was too late and there was nothing he could do to avoid punishment. The punishment was swift and unrelenting. Jake would not be allowed his Christmas orange! It was the only gift he would receive from the harsh world he lived in, yet after a year of waiting for his Christmas orange, is was to be denied him.

Tearfully, Jake pleaded that he be forgiven and promised never to track mud into the orphanage again, but to no avail. He felt hopeless and totally rejected. Jake cried into his pillow all that night and spent Christmas Day feeling empty and alone. He felt that the other children didn’t want to be with a boy who had been punished with such a cruel punishment. Perhaps they feared he would ruin their only day of happiness. Maybe, he reasoned, the gulf between him and his friends existed because they feared he would ask for a little of their oranges. Jake spent the day upstairs, alone, in the unheated dormitory. Huddled under his only blanket, he read about a family marooned on an island. Jake wouldn’t mind spending the rest of his life on an isolated island, if he could only have a real family that cared about him.

Bedtime came, and worst of all, Jake couldn’t sleep. How could he say his prayers? How could there be a God in Heaven that would allow a little soul such as his, to suffer so much all by himself? Silently, he sobbed for the future of mankind that God might end the suffering in the world, both for himself and all others like him.

As he climbed back into bed from the cold, hard floor, a soft hand touched Jake’s shoulder, startling him momentarily and an object was silently placed in his hands. The giver disappeared into the darkness, leaving Jake with what, he did not immediately know!

Looking closely at it in the dim light, he saw that it looked like an orange! Not a regular orange, smooth and shiny, but a special orange, very special. Inside a patched together peal were the segments of nine other oranges, making one whole orange for Jake! The nine other children in the orphanage had each donated one segment of their own precious oranges to make a whole orange as a gift for Jake.

Sharing what we truly value is the true spirit of Christmas. Our Heavenly Father gave us His beloved Son. May we, like the children in the orphanage, find ways to share His love with others less blessed.

- Rewritten from an anonymous source by Laura Martin-Buhler

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Why I know there is a Santa Claus – A Short Inspirational Christmas Story

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About 20 years ago, I was chosen to be one of Santa’s helpers in a small and rural southern town. I was only about 23 at the time and quite slim. But, with the help of some padding I filled out the costume worn by the big man quite nicely. The day of the Christmas parade arrived and I took up my perch atop the fire truck, with a basket of candy to throw to all Santa’s children lining the street. The parade circled the town and arrived back at the court house where his elves escorted him into his little hut where the towns children could come and pass on their lists of Christmas wishes and I in turn would pass them on to Santa himself in time for his Christmas Eve delivery.

On about the 3rd or 4th day before Christmas, two young ladies came in to the hut with a young man no more than 4 years old. I invited the gentleman to sit with me and proceeded to ask him what he would like to have that year. “Nothing” came his reply and it really set me back! Everybody wanted something. For two weeks I had everyone in town from 2 years old to 22 providing me with lists so long that the total logistics of UPS, the post office and The National Guard would be hard pressed to fill them, let alone one friendly old man pulled in a sleigh by a handful of reindeer!

“Are you sure”, I asked. “There must be something I could get for a fine gentleman like yourself, I pressed.

“No. I just wanted to come and thank you for my new mommy.”

I was stunned! I said you’re welcome, gave him an extra bag of candy and a coloring book and he climbed down from my lap.

He walked outside with one of the ladies and the other stayed behind to explain.

“We are just baby-sitting today. His mother was killed in a car wreck about a year and a half ago. Last Christmas he came here and asked Santa for a new mommy a few months ago his father remarried. As we drove by he saw your little house here by the road and started crying and screaming until we came back, just so he could thank you. Good-bye, Santa.”

I talked to 3 or 4 more children, then closed and locked the door from the inside and fell to my knees, thanking both God and the true Spirit of Santa for giving me this opportunity to see love in a childs eyes. I have never forgotten this experience and tell the story nearly every year. I am now 46 years old and I believe in Santa more now than ever, thanks to that boy. Son, I hope that wherever you are, you have never given up your belief in Santa. I haven’t.

- by Robert Fitzgerald

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The Cobbler and the Christmas Guest – A Short Inspirational Christmas Story

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There once lived in the city of Marseilles an old shoemaker, loved and honored by his neighbors, who affectionately called him “Father Martin”

One Christmas Eve, as he sat alone in his little shop reading of the visit of the Wise Men to the infant Jesus, and of the gifts they brought, he said to himself. “If tomorrow were the first Christmas, and if Jesus were to be born in Marseilles this night, I know what I would give Him!” He rose from his stool and took from a shelf overhead two tiny shoes of softest snow- white leather, with bright silver buckles. “I would give Him those, my finest work.”

Replacing the shoes, he blew out the candle and retired to rest. Hardly had he closed his eyes, it seemed, when he heard a voice call his name…”Martin! Martin!”

Intuitively he felt a presence. Then the voice spoke again…”Martin, you have wished to see Me. Tomorrow I shall pass by your window. If you see Me, and bid Me enter, I shall be your guest at your table.”

Father Martin did not sleep that night for joy. And before it was yet dawn he rose and swept and tidied up his little shop. He spread fresh sand upon the floor, and wreathed green boughs of fir along the rafters. On the spotless linen-covered table he placed a loaf of white bread, a jar of honey, and a pitcher of milk, and over the fire he hung a pot of tea Then he took up his patient vigil at the window.

Presently he saw an old street-sweeper pass by, blowing upon his thin, gnarled hands to warm them. “Poor fellow, he must be half frozen,” thought Martin. Opening the door he called out to him, “Come in, my friend, and warm, and drink a cup of hot tea.” And the man gratefully accepted the invitation.

An hour passed, and Martin saw a young, miserably clothed women carrying a baby. She paused wearily to rest in the shelter of his doorway. The heart of the old cobbler was touched. Quickly he flung open the door.

“Come in and warm while you rest,” he said to her. “You do not look well,” he remarked.

“I am going to the hospital. I hope they will take me in, and my baby boy,” she explained. “My husband is at sea, and I am ill, without a soul.”

“Poor child!” cried Father Martin. “You must eat something while you are getting warm. No, Then let me give a cup of milk to the little one. Ah! What a bright, pretty fellow he is! Why, you have put no shoes on him!”

“I have no shoes for him,” sighed the mother sadly. “Then he shall have this lovely pair I finished yesterday.” And Father Martin took down from the shelf the soft little snow-white shoes he had admired the evening before. He slipped them on the child’s feet…they fit perfectly. And shortly the poor young mother left, two shoes in her hand and tearful with gratitude.

And Father Martin resumed his post at the window. Hour after hour went by, and although many people passed his window, and many needy souls shared his hospitality, the expected Guest did not appear.

“It was only a dream,” he sighed, with a heavy heart. “I did not believe; but he has not come.”

Suddenly, so it seemed to his weary eyes, the room was flooded with a strange light. And to the cobbler’s astonished vision there appeared before him, one by one, the poor street-sweeper, the sick mother and her child, and all the people whom he had aided during the day. And each smiled at him and said. “Have you not seen me? Did I not sit at your table?” Then they vanished.

At last, out of the silence, Father Martin heard again the gentle voice repeating the old familiar words. “Whosoever shall receive one such in My name, receiveth Me…for I was an hungered, and ye gave Me meat; I was athirst, and ye gave Me drink; I was a stranger, and ye took Me in…verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these, ye have done it unto Me.”

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The Tradition – A Short Inspirational Christmas Story

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It’s just a small, white envelope stuck among the branches of our Christmas tree. No name, no identification, no inscription. It has peeked through the branches of our tree for the past 10 years or so.

It all began because my husband Mike hated Christmas—oh, not the true meaning of Christmas, but the commercial aspects of it- overspending… the frantic running around at the last minute to get a tie for Uncle Harry and the dusting powder for Grandma—the gifts given in desperation because you couldn’t think of anything else. Knowing he felt this way, I decided one year to bypass the usual shirts, sweaters, ties and so forth. I reached for something special just for Mike. The inspiration came in an unusual way.

Our son Kevin, who was 12 that year, was wrestling at the junior level at the school he attended; and shortly before Christmas, there was a non-league match against a team sponsored by an inner-city church, mostly black. These youngsters, dressed in sneakers so ragged that shoestrings seemed to be the only thing holding them together, presented a sharp contrast to our boys in their spiffy blue and gold uniforms and sparkling new wrestling shoes. As the match began, I was alarmed to see that the other team was wrestling without headgear, a kind of light helmet designed to protect a wrestler?ears. It was a luxury the ragtag team obviously could not afford.

Well, we ended up walloping them. We took every weight class. And as each of their boys got up from the mat, he swaggered around in his tatters with false bravado, a kind of street pride that couldn’t acknowledge defeat.

Mike, seated beside me, shook his head sadly, “I wish just one of them could have won,” he said. “They have a lot of potential, but losing like this could take the heart right out of them.” Mike loved kids-all kids-and he knew them, having coached little league football, baseball and lacrosse.

That’s when the idea for his present came. That afternoon, I went to a local sporting goods store and bought an assortment of wrestling headgear and shoes and sent them anonymously to the inner-city church. On Christmas Eve, I placed the envelope on the tree, the note inside telling Mike what I had done and that this was his gift from me. His smile was the brightest thing about Christmas that year and in succeeding years. For each Christmas, I followed the tradition; one year sending a group of mentally handicapped youngsters to a hockey game, another year a check to a pair of elderly brothers whose home had burned to the ground the week before Christmas, and on and on.

The envelope became the highlight of our Christmas. It was always the last thing opened on Christmas morning and our children, ignoring their new toys, would stand with wide-eyed anticipation as their dad lifted the envelope from the tree to reveal its contents. As the children grew, the toys gave way to more practical presents, but the envelope never lost its allure.

The story doesn’t end there.

You see, we lost Mike last year due to dreaded cancer. When Christmas rolled around, I was still so wrapped in grief that I barely got the tree up. But Christmas Eve found me placing an envelope on the tree, and in the morning, it was joined by three more. Each of our children, unbeknownst to the others, had placed an envelope on the tree for their dad. The tradition has grown and someday will expand even further with our grandchildren standing around the tree with wide-eyed anticipation watching as their fathers take down the envelope.

Mike’s spirit, like the Christmas spirit, will always be with us.

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The Christmas Letter – An Inspirational Christmas Story

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Ruth went to her mail box on Christmas Eve, and there was only one letter. She picked it up and looked at it before opening, but then she looked at the envelope again. There was no stamp, no postmark, only her name and address. She read the letter:
Dear Ruth:

I’m going to be in your neighborhood this Christmas and I’d like to stop by for a visit.

Love Always,
Jesus

Ruth’s hands were shaking as she placed the letter on the table. “Why would the Lord want to visit me? I’m nobody special. I don’t have anything to offer.” With that thought, Ruth remembered her empty kitchen cabinets.

“Oh my goodness, I really don’t have anything to offer. It’s already Christmas Eve and the stores will be closing. I’ll have to run down out and buy something for dinner right away.” She reached for her purse and counted out its contents. Five dollars and forty cents.

“Well, I can get some bread and cold cuts, at least.” She threw on her coat and hurried out the door. A loaf of French bread, a half-pound of sliced turkey, and a carton of milk…leaving Ruth with grand total of twelve cents to last her until next week. Nonetheless, she felt good as she headed home, her meager offerings of a Christmas dinner tucked under her arm.

“Hey lady, can you help us, lady?” Ruth had been so absorbed in her dinner plans, she hadn’t even noticed two figures huddled in the alleyway. A man and a woman, both of them dressed in little more than rags.

“Look lady, I ain’t got a job, ya know, and my wife and I have been living here on the street, and, well, now it’s getting cold and we’re getting kinda hungry and, well, it’s Christmas Eve, if you could help us, lady, we’d really appreciate it.”

Ruth looked at them both. They were dirty, they smelled bad and, frankly, she was certain that they could get some kind of work if they really wanted to.

“Sir, I’d like to help you, but I’m a poor woman myself. All I have is a few cold cuts and some bread, and I’m having an important guest for Christmas and I was planning on serving that to Him.”

“Yeah, well, okay lady, I understand. Thanks anyway”. The man put his arm around the woman’s shoulders, turned and headed back into the alley as a gentle snow began to fall. As she watched them leave, Ruth felt a familiar twinge in her heart.

“Sir, wait!” The couple stopped and turned as she ran down the alley after them. Look, why don’t you take this food. I’ll figure out something else to serve my guest.” She handed the man her grocery bag.

“Thank you lady. Thank you very much!” “Yes, thank you!”

Ruth could see now that the woman was shivering.

“You know, I’ve got another coat at home. Here, why don’t you take this one.” Ruth unbuttoned her jacket and slipped it over the woman’s shoulders. Then smiling, she turned and walked back to the street …. without her coat and with nothing to serve her guest.

“Thank you lady! Thank you very much! …. and Merry Christmas!”

Ruth was chilled by the time she reached her front door, and worried too. The Lord was coming to visit and she didn’t have anything to offer Him. She fumbled through her purse for the door key. But as she did, she noticed another envelope in her mailbox.

“That’s odd. The mailman doesn’t usually deliver on Christmas Eve.”

She took the envelope out of the box and opened it.

Dear Ruth:

It was so good to see you again. Thank you for the lovely Christmas dinner. And thank you, too, for the beautiful coat.

Love Always,
Jesus

The air was still cold, and the snow was falling even harder, but even without her coat, Ruth no longer noticed.

- Author Unknown

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