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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CHRISTMAS FOCUS

© 2017 Bill Murphy

As I write, we’re in that mystical time between Thanksgiving and Christmas. I find this season of the year best for reflection – for mental and spiritual re-grouping. When I’m focusing on Him, the better I hear what He’s speaking to me.

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This past Sunday in church, something was voiced from the pulpit which caused my mind to wander briefly. It was as if God was saying, “Come ‘ere a moment. I wanna tell you something.”

In my mind’s eye, I saw God’s hands offering a gift. Immediately, I thought, Is this for me? What is it? Can I open it now?

That’s when He spoke to my heart, and His words put the eyes of my heart into focus. I was focusing on the gift.

The truth is, God gives us so very, very much. He gives us love, joy, hope, peace, salvation, strength, healing, and oh so much more! God is a GIVER. He gives, and gives, and gives. And then He gives us more.

Then I saw the word gives, in capital letters. G-I-V-E-S. And His finger erased the letters G, V, and E. All this happened in a very brief moment, and yet His message to my heart came through clearly. He was telling me that He appreciated that I understood that He gives – and that He wished more of this world realized this also. But – by removing those 3 letters from ‘gives,’ He was showing me that it was supremely important to recognize and remember that He IS!

In that brief moment I saw that the focus should not be on the gift, but on the GIVER. Not upon what He gives, but upon who He is! We’d not have the gifts, were it not for the GIVER. That should be our focus.

This Christmas season, when you’re tearing into (physical) Christmas presents, be mindful of who is the giver of that gift, and tell them THANK YOU! Our human friends and family appreciate being appreciated also! Appreciation goes a long, long way.

Something tells me you appreciate being appreciated yourself!

 

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THE CHRISTMAS THIEF

© 2017 Bill Murphy

It’s said that Christmas is for children. Not so! Christmas is for everyone. On the other hand, modern commercial X-mas IS for children – and for manufacturers and merchants everywhere. This story is my take on the difference between the two.

Manger

 

Joseph stood by Mary’s side, as she cradled the newborn child. He reflected on the past few months, and this astounding miracle which had befallen them. He thought too of their awesome responsibilities ahead – caring for, and raising – the son of God! Why them, he thought, and how would they do it?

And then he heard the sound of excited voices just outside the poor stall where they had taken lodging for the night – and where the Christ child was born. “Here, here he is!” Joseph heard one of the voices exclaim. Then several ragged shepherds entered the straw strewn room. Their faces where filled with awe and wonder – such joy Joseph had never before seen. Soon, all the rag-tag men were kneeling at the feet of Mary, all of their attention focused upon the sleeping infant.

Then one of the men turned and faced Joseph. “An angel appeared to us, yonder on the hills,” he began, “and told us where we’d find the new born king. And the a heavenly choir of angles filled the sky, praising God on high! We came as quickly as we could.”

Then a second man stood, and took Joseph by the hand, leading him off to the side. “I don’t want the child’s mother to hear this,” he began, “but I need to warn you. We met a most unusual fellow along the way. He was very fat, dressed in red, and had a long white beard. He stopped us, and tried to direct us in a different direction, away from here. We thanked him, and pretended to go the way he’d instructed us, but quickly returned to the right path. Who might he be?

“I have no idea,” replied Joseph. “Unless…”

Joseph was about to explain himself, when again he heard voices outside, and the sound of the hooves of large animals. Three stately men, each dressed in regal attire entered the stall. The tallest among them spoke, “We have seen his star in the East, and have come to worship the newborn king,” he said, as he bowed low at Joseph’s feet.

“Kind sir, please,” said Joseph. “I am but a humble carpenter, not due such respect from you. The child is there,” Joseph said, pointing to the far side of the stall, where Mary still held the baby in her arms. “Worship Him!”

The 3 men, in deep respect for this newborn king, approached him slowly, reverently, then knelt before him. Joseph gazed at the scene in wonder. The new visitors spoke among themselves in hushed tones, so not to disturb the sleeping child. And then, slowly, they each placed a jewel covered box on the straw at his feet.

“These gifts are for the child,” one of them said to Mary. “It is at best the very least we could offer him.”

And then, one by one they rose to their feet. One of the stately men pulled Joseph over to the side. Taking Joseph’s hands in his own, he spoke slowly. “Kind sir, I fear there’s a villain afoot. Just as we neared Bethlehem, we met a robber along the way. He was a quite bizarre character. Dressed all in red, he was rather chubby and had a long white beard. His looks were so deceiving and disarming, that I got down from my camel and approached him. That’s when he attacked us, trying for all he was worth to steal away the gifts we had for the child. It took the 3 of us to fend him off! See the scratches I received,” he said, pulling up his sleeve to show Joseph. “Please take care, for this scoundrel is out to steal from the newborn king!”

“Yes we will. And thank you ever so much,” said Joseph. “I wonder who this man in red might be.”

“I don’t believe he’s a man, not like you and me,” replied the wise man, “I believe he’s a spirit – a spirit come to do battle against the Christ child. I can see in my mind, years ahead, many years ahead, when this man in red will still be doing battle with the King of kings and Lord of lords. He’s like a wolf in sheep’s clothing, who is all smiles – with promises of joy and happiness. But he wants to overshadow the child, to take place of this newborn king. He wants to be to be more popular – more loved. And the sad thing is, children will be lead away from the true king born this day in Bethlehem, and will look instead to the thief in the red suit – and celebrate this day as the thief’s day! And their parents will support this. Oh how tragic, how sad!”

“But how can we stop him?” asked Joseph.

“The child who now sleeps in your wife’s arms is truly the newborn king,” replied the wise man. “He will rule someday with love beyond measure, and with mercy and grace. Every knee shall bow to him, and every tongue shall confess that he is Lord. He will prevail. He will!”

The wise man continued, “But until that day, many will ignore him, even revile and hate him. He will try to win them over to the very God of heaven, his true father, but they will not listen. Many will embrace others, just as they will embrace the man in red. And that’s sad indeed. But other’s, like you and me, and my traveling companions, and these deliriously happy shepherds, we will be by his side and at his feet, always – always and forever! Take heart in that my friend!”

Later that night, when all the visitors were gone, Joseph pondered everything that had happened, and all that he had seen and heard. And he resolved with renewed strength to be the very best earthly father he could be – to this son who would in truth, welcome him as a son – into his eternal kingdom!

 

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