Christmas Child Abuse

© 2019  Bill Murphy

It’s been said that truth is found somewhere between what you believe and what I believe.  Perhaps sometimes it is, but not always.  The following is about perceived Christmas child abuse inflicted upon me – and that which I inflicted upon my own children.  

My paternal grandparents lived in Carthage, MS, located just over fifty miles northeast of our home in Jackson.  We made that trip at least one a month.

That traumatic year I must have been around four, for at the time, I was still an only child.  It was Christmas time.  Dad had several reason to make that Christmas Eve trip:  He wanted to be with his parents;  It was his and mom’s wedding anniversary;  He had a couple of days off from work;  and did I say that he wanted to be with his parents for Christmas Eve AND Christmas Day.

I didn’t understand.  My four year old focus was not on Dad’s desires, but upon my NEEDS.  How would Santa KNOW where I was Christmas Eve Night?  Could anyone GUARANTEE that the great bearer of gifts would REALLY find me when I was so far from home?  My Christmas cheer was kaput, replaced with dread, fear, and worry.  Yes, I felt, well, abused

Not to leave you dangling, Santa DID find me that night far from home, so as they say, all was well because it ended well.  Now, let’s fast forward around thirty years, to when I was a father.

Our family was a member of a rather ‘fundamentalist’ church at the time.  It would seem that the emphasis was more on the ‘thou shalt nots’ than on the ‘thou shalts.’  Our family strived to get with and be with the program.  Our thinking, colored by what we were now learning, was strictly ‘accent the spiritual, eliminate the secular.’  And Christmas was rife with secular, carnal, humanistic influence.  Just to say “Put Christ back into Christmas,” was not enough… that year we strove to not only put Him first, but also make Him the ONLY persona representing Christmas.

Frosty was out, as well as the Grinch, Tiny Tim, Rudolph, and of course, the jolly ole usurper of the true Christmas… the jolly ole elf himself… Santa!

I remember that our only concession was a small tree, but it remained undecorated, and of course, unlighted… no snow, no tinsel, no popcorn… nothing.  But under the tree, we placed a large nativity set! 

Carol and I gave the kids presents of course, but it was understood that they were from us, not some fat guy in a red suit.  He didn’t visit our home that year. 

The kids had a difficult time understanding this, even though there was no open rebellion.  But I’m sure they were thinking, “What are you folks thinking?  We’re not Jewish, or Jehovah Witnesses… we’re supposed to be THE Christians in town, and y’all are locking a Merry Christmas out of our home!” 

Yes, I’m sure they felt, well, abused

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Oh Come, All Ye Faithful

© 2017 Bill Murphy

It’s said that experience is the best teacher. Yet have you noticed that we usually learn fastest through comparisons? Why is this?

We tend not to appreciated health until we’re sick. We don’t value wealth, until we’re broke. We don’t recognize the value of friends, until we’re friendless and alone. What were we thinking?

Years ago, a stark comparison-lesson taught me the meaning of that old familiar Christmas carol, “Oh Come, All Ye Faithful.”

This is a carol of praise and adoration. It welcomes the faithful to come worship and rejoice in His presence… to praise Him for His endless deeds of love and mercy. And who would come to this praise-fest? It would be those with thankful hearts, of course.

Thankfulness is the fertile soil on which faithfulness grows.

It was Christmas Eve during high school. This was in the 50s, when ‘commercial’ Christmas was not as out of control as it is today. Merchants closed their doors early on Christmas Eve, so that employees could go home and spend quality time with their families. How thoughtful. But that was the norm back then.

My main squeeze and I were driving toward my family home, for our large Christmas Eve meal, to be followed by the exchanging of gifts. We were traveling down Gallatin Street, within a few blocks of my home. This is a rather rugged neighborhood today. In the late 50s, it was just beginning to see the effects of ‘urban decay.’

As we drove past a large boarding house, I noticed a man sprawled in the gutter!

Drunk

I immediately stopped, as did the vehicle behind us. The man in the other car rushed with me to the man’s side. He was a sorry, smelly sight … passed out drunk.

We rolled him over, and he aroused, slightly. With a feeble hand, he pointed toward the boarding house. We lifted him to his feet. Each taking an arm, we walked him to the house. A man came to the door. “Joe. Joe. Joe. Not again Joe,” he said. Then the fellow at the door thanked us, and took control of Joe.

We returned to our vehicles, and were soon on our way again, to family, friends, food, and all the many joys of Christmas. I suppose Joe simply slept it off that Christmas Eve night, alone.

But that night, far from being alone, thanks to Joe I learned the true meaning of “Oh Come, All Ye Faithful.” I saw my life in a whole new light, as my life was vividly compared to that of poor Joe.

Before I saw Joe there in the gutter, I thought of myself as faithful, true to the words of the song. And I also thought of myself as thankful. But seeing Joe there, in the gutter, made me re-think my opinions of myself. It was a sobering lesson.

Looking back now across the years, I’d like to say, “Merry Christmas Joe, where ever you may be today. Thanks for showing me the path to faithfulness and thankfulness. As my teacher that Christmas Eve, I’m sorry that my lesson was so difficult for you. May God bless you!”

 

~~~

The Jewish Mary

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Merry Christmas Eve – always a very special day of celebration in the Murphy family. This year, 95% of our Christmas preparations are complete – so today there’s none of the harried rush. Oh happy day!

Today, Christmas Eve, was my mother and father’s wedding anniversary! They were wed December 24, 1935 in Carthage, MS. Just why they chose Christmas Eve, I never heard. But ‘their day‘ never interfered with ‘our day‘ for my sister Mary Lily and me. Mom and Dad celebrated their abiding love 365 days of the year. And that was the best Christmas gift they ever gave us.

But you’re probably wondering about The Jewish Mary.

During the 80s my sister Mary and her husband Wayne lived just off base near Fort Campbell, where Wayne was stationed. Always the entrepreneurs, they also operated a stained glass studio in their garage. Vandals threw a rock through a stained glass window of a local Catholic Church, shattering the head of Mary. Wayne and my sister got the job of restoration.

They picked up the shattered pieces, and painstakingly taped them back together to use as a pattern. Then they called me to come help with the project. Now Mary is an accomplished artists herself, yet she called me to do the painting of Mary.

Working in painted stained glass is not like working with paint on paper. It’s a involved process. The ‘paint‘ was more like mud than paint. Then it took over a day to fire (bake) and fuse the paint with the glass. It had to cool down slowly. This was NOT an overnight process!

But finally, Mother Mary was finished! She was delivered to the church elders for approval and payment. NOT. My tedious work was rejected! It was rejected on the grounds that Mary looked TOO JEWISH!

My extended family was/is protestant. I remember hearing as a child that there was such a thing as a ‘Catholic Bible,’ which was, supposedly, somewhat different from ours. I never learned the truth of this tale from childhood. But maybe…