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…