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The Heart of ChristmasPosted Wednesday, December 12, 2007, at 11:16 AM
As I walked into the room, I was greeted with scents of peppermint and gingerbread. The fire was crackling, and the flame flickered, casting a shadow that danced about the room.
Tucked into a corner of the room, a robust evergreen stood to attention bedecked with angels and ribbon. As I approached the tree, its scent began to fill my nostrils. I breathed in deeper in order to partake as heavily as I could of the Christmas scent. Looking beneath the tree, I noticed that there was but one present, a heart-shaped gift. Since the house that I was visiting belonged to a rather well-off family, the absence of other gifts puzzled me.
Feeling a chill working its way up my spine, I turned toward the fireplace, wishing only to warm myself by the fire. However, it was at this point that I felt not only my body beginning to warm a little, but I also felt a deep sensation of warmth in my heart. I noticed that no Christmas stockings hung above the fireplace, but rather several heart- shaped stockings instead. Although I knew that I shouldn't invade the privacy of my host, I could not help myself. I had to peak inside the hearts. Carefully pulling each heart open, I was surprised to find one single item hidden inside each heart. There was no variance, each heart contained a small porcelain baby Jesus.
I replaced the last heart upon the mantle just seconds before my host entered the room.
"You look puzzled," he said to me.
"Well,. . ." I stammered, not really knowing how to approach the questions that now swirled through my mind. "I . . . was wondering s -- something," I finally managed.
"I thought you might have something on your mind," he answered nonchalantly.
"Well, Sir, I couldn't help but notice that you have only one gift under your tree," I mentioned hesitantly. Deciding that I just needed to get my thoughts out in the open, I began to talk more quickly. " I know that it is none of my business, but I guess I am wondering why you only have one. At first, I thought that maybe you did not have any family with which to celebrate Christmas, but then I noticed the stockings by the fireplace. Each one is labeled with a name; therefore I must assume you have loved ones that visit this time of year," I finished, now out of breath.
Though I was a little worried that my host had become annoyed with my nosiness, I was quickly reassured. He let out a loud chuckle and looked at me with amusement. "Well, Kid, I must say, you are indeed very observant," he said as he patted me on the back and lead me to a high backed chair which sat near the fireplace.
"Christmas is not about buying gifts at the store," he said. "Sure, if my loved ones were in need of clothing or necessities, I would gladly make the purchases for them, but that is not the case. They are all very well off, and they can take care of all their needs," he said.
Leaning back in his chair, he began to rub his chin as he concentrated on the next words he would say.
"As I began to think about what to get my family this year, I began to realize that the only thing they do not already have is probably the most important gift that anyone could ever receive. I have placed the baby Jesus into each one of the stockings hung by my fireplace. The stockings are heart-shaped because I want my family to realize that the most important gift that they can choose to accept this year is Jesus into their hearts," he said with tears beginning to trickle down his face.
"There is only one gift under my tree this year," he continued, "and it is not for any of my earthly family members," he said.
As I sat listening intently to what my host was passionately trying to tell me, I began to understand that he had tapped into something magical.
"The gift under my tree belongs to my Heavenly Father," he said still choked up. "I have always believed in God, but I have never fully given my heart to him. That is why the gift is a heart. It is meant to signify to God that I am giving Him my heart this year. It is God's, and I trust that He will make something wonderful out of my gift to Him," he finished now with tears streaming down his face.
My host and I continued to talk for several hours. When I left his house, I left with an understanding that Christmas cannot be found in a store or in the material items we receive, but rather it is found in the heart.
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