By Marc Kelley
Even though I am a very spiritual person and I communicate with the Lord everyday, I have not gone to Church on a regular basis for many years. This Christmas Season, I was asked to attend the Christmas Eve service at a local neighborhood church. I was told the children of the church were putting on a program that I might enjoy, if I would only come to the service. Now, I love children, and I take every opportunity I can find to spoil them. For many years, I believed Christmas was a time for children, and as an adult, I was there simply to observe the magic, and smile at their excitement.
When we arrived at the Church, we found the sanctuary, beautifully adorned with the decorations of the season, a soft, warm candlelight bathed the entire space, and I felt at peace. Many of the children were already dressed in their costumes for their program. Baby Jesus was there, Mary and Joseph were present, as were many angels. The three Magi, adorned in beautiful, colorful robes and bearing their gifts for the child, were surrounded by shepherds dressed in simple, gray robes. The children were running about, laughing, just too excited by all the happenings, while at the same time, their parents did their best to keep some sense of decorum.
The sanctuary was filled with warmth, and love, and laughter. Before long, the Pastor of the Church made her way to the altar and service began. Much like any other Christmas service you may have attended, the service started off with the congregation singing O’Come All Ye Faithful. I too, stood and joined in the singing. Now to be honest here, I must tell you, I can be a very imposing figure. I am six four, 375#, with a long, gray goatee, and a totally bald head. I was wearing cargo pants, black military style boots and a gray fleece vest. Trust me, I was not an overly inviting figure. However, I was not there to socialize, but rather simply to observe, enjoy the service, watch the children’s program, and return home, where my coffee and single malt bourbon were waiting for me.
What happened next was nothing short of a “Christmas Blessing.” As I stood singing, I noticed a small, female child, dressed as a shepherd for the program. This child walked directly over to me and hugged me, as if she too, was tending to her flock. She was a beautiful child with long dark hair, pale skin and she stood right beside me singing about the birth of Baby Jesus. I had never seen this child before, I had no idea who she was or where her parents were; and most of all, why she chose me, out of a church filled with people, I am sure she knew well. She stood beside me singing, and when the last chorus was over, she again hugged me, then walked away as if to say, “no big deal, he just looked like he needed a hug.” As I sat down, my eyes welled up with tears and I could not help but think, this child has a much better understanding of the meaning of Christmas, than do most of us adults.
What she gave to me is something I will never forget, and something which I will cherish for the rest of my days here on earth. In just a few minutes, this child captured the true meaning of Christmas. She gave me a gift, money could not buy, indifference could not destroy and hate could not permeate. Kindness was the lesson taught here. Kindness to all, regardless of how they look, what they do for a living or even if they have a home. This child understood, Jesus offers everyone his love.
I never saw this beautiful child again, and I have no idea who she is. I never got to say thank you to her, or her parents; and yet, I am struck with the idea, she would be ok with this. We can all learn a lesson from this shepherd. We should not be asking what’s in it for me; but rather, what is it that others need. How can we help to make the world a better place for all of us, who inhabit the earth?